Holistic Healing: The Psycho- Biology Of Yoga

Some four decades ago my professor of physiological psychology was trying to explain the psychosomatic origin of certain ailments. He mentioned that the three reasons for the formation of ulcers in the stomach were hurry, worry, and curry. Those were the times when the medical fraternity, though aware of the effect of the mind on the body was only beginning to talk about the idea of integrative medicine. Today, the impact of psychology on physiology is more than established.

In the run-up to the UN International Day of Yoga, it would be good to know a bit about why ancient systems of knowledge like yoga are crucial to our understanding of holistic health and lifestyles.

Mind-body connect

To understand yoga one must understand the somato-psychic perspective of health, the relationship between two seemingly incompatible substances — the corporeal and the spiritual. Researches in the immune system, cognitive behavior therapy, and neuro-plasticity suggest that the mind-body connection works both ways. Mind by re-gearing attention and emotion can effectively rewire the brain and substantially affect mental and physical health. It has been now found that practices that integrate mind and body like yoga and meditation can reverse many conditions that are thought to be irreversible.

Boosting benefits

Comprehensive lifestyle changes may turn on the beneficial parts of the genome and turn off more harmful parts. Integrative medicine or holistic healing is all about understanding the mind-body compatibility. Mind and emotions play a critical role in our health and well-being. In fact, the endocrine system is largely influenced by mental dispositions and secretions like catecholamine have a significant bearing on physiological health.

Yoga helps in arriving at a balance between mind and body by influencing the secretions of ductless glands. With training, even some involuntary responses like blood pressure may be controlled. Not only this, it is now found that brain behavior and immune functions are related and this is the reason why psychoneuro-immunology is emerging as an important field of research in health studies. The health of our body and the health of our mind are inextricably correlated and lead ultimately to the transformation of the spirit which is the final aim of yoga.

The tendency in the present age is to find quick-fix solutions for everything problematic including health issues and in the process, we have come to outsource our health. We tend to rush to the doctor or the chemist under the slightest pretext.

The practice of yoga lends robustness to the mind and the body helps in resisting diseases and creating a healthy mind and a healthy body. Yoga is not just an exercise. It is a practice that helps the individual in reinventing himself and realizing his potential.

Yoga as panacea

In modern times when stress and anxiety are driving humanity to the brink, yoga can be a panacea. Behavioral and medical scientists have demonstrated quite convincingly that people have a far greater capacity to tolerate psychological and somatic stress than was earlier believed. And the reactions thereof can also be controlled. Thus, yoga is an easy way to attain mental and physical well-being with relatively less effort and some discipline. It is an old answer to New Age problems. Let yoga become a lifestyle. (Ask your newspaper vendor for the special yoga issue of The Speaking Tree on Sunday, issue dated June 21, 2015).

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