The therapeutic employment of Yoga entails the application of Yogic practices, but for a different purpose – the purpose of curing illnesses. When disorder arises in a system of the body, it should undergo treatment. Specific Yogic practices can be instrumental in treating some such inefficiencies in the functioning of the body, and overcoming the illnesses caused by them. The mode in which Yogic processes are made to function for the treatment of a patient is called Yogic Therapy.
A number of -pathies have come into existence for the remedy of diseases. They include Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Magnetic Therapies, and so on. But the basic difference between these -pathies and Yoga is that all the other -pathies were born for the remedial purpose, whereas that was never the aim of the science of Yoga.
The ultimate goal of Yoga is the union of the human being with the Almighty. The practice of Yoga aims to lead the human to spiritual manifestation and ultimately Absolute Liberation. Many procedures were designed for this purpose. But, while observing the practice of Yoga, it was observed that some ailments can be cured with the practice of certain processes.
Disease or ailment is the first obstacle in long term practice for the journey towards Self discovery. Maharshi Patanjali said this in his Yoga Sutras (Pada-I, Sutra No.30). Therefore, there must be a way in the Yogic practices themselves to overcome any obstacles on this very path. However, when Yogic practices are used for overcoming ailments, the ultimate goal is at risk of being forgotten. Yoga could become merely a -pathy to cure diseases. Therefore, we are going to view the remedial perspective of Yoga while always keeping in mind its ultimate goal. Teaching and learning yoga therapy may seem to compromise the divine aim of Yoga. However, we will never forget that it is not in itself a ‘-pathy’, but a guide to the normalization that will allow our body to be a true vehicle to our soul’s liberation.
A number of references in the modern Yogic literature can be found where the remedial effects of Yogic processes are cited. ‘Yogic practices for curing a (particular) disease’ has been the topic of a number of books in modern times. But treating a disease has not been given any significance in the ancient Yogic literature. In the fifth ‘Advice’ of Hatha Pradeepika, some breathing practices for treating the troubles caused due to wrong practice of breathing exercises are mentioned. Moreover, in the books of Hatha Yoga, the effects of Postures and Cleansing Processes are explained vaguely as ‘Cure to all diseases’. Often, the effects are exaggerated to state ‘cure all diseases’. It is thus clear that Yoga was never proposed to be a therapy, and the remedial effects of Yogic practices were only pointed at.
The credit of bringing forth through scientific experiments the fact that Yogic processes are significant in curing many diseases goes to none but the founder of Kaivalyadham, Lonavala – Beloved Swami Kuvalayananda! Swamiji carried out a number of experiments and studied Yoga from the remedial point of view. He noted his conclusions in the book ‘Yogic Therapy’, which is the Bhagavad Geeta (or Bible, as we can say) for students studying Yoga from the therapeutic perspective.
For some illnesses, for instance; Spondilitis, Psychosomatic illnesses, or those in which diagnosis has not been possible, Yoga is the only and the best alternative. Treatments for such illnesses with other therapies are short-term, or work superficially by curing only symptoms. The medication in other treatments is not free of drawbacks. It brings along with it some negative side-effects which in their turn require treatment. Yoga is the best remedy in such cases. Yoga not only treats the illness but also gives an overall affirmative experience towards normal health.
In some diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension and Asthma, Yoga acts in parallel to medicinal treatment. Although medicines play a prime role in treating these diseases, they are not sufficient. The patient can experience a quicker recovery if Yogic practices are started alongside the medicines. The disease comes under control and gradually the need for medicines is reduced by the practice of Yoga. In these cases, Yoga alone (without any medical treatment) is not enough in the initial stages, but as the dose of medicine is reduced or nullified, Yoga plays a vital role in maintaining the reduced need of medicinal treatment.
In other illnesses, Yoga acts as a supportive agent to the other medical treatments. Here, the role of Yoga is not vital. Yet, a practice of certain Yogic processes boosts the effect of medication. Diseases generated from germs are a good example in this case. The practice of certain Yogic processes will certainly help the medical treatment and will hasten the day that the medicine can be gradually reduced.