Human beings are not merely physical bodies. We are breathing and thinking beings also––living with complex thoughts, desires and emotions. Yoga Science (including meditation) views the body as a covering outside the mind, and the mind as a covering outside the center of consciousness (the soul). To experience health and well-being, we must properly care for and feed the body, regulate our breath, coordinate the functions of our mind and base all our actions on the inner intuitive wisdom of our spirit, as reflected by the conscience (buddhi).
Our individual achievement of optimal health does not begin with a lower health insurance premium. First and foremost, human wellness requires a reliable blueprint for mind/body self-care. With active and discriminating participation in our own health management, we can form a healing partnership with our physicians––and stop working against our own best interests.
The basis of every effective mind/body self-care program is meditation. The word meditation is derived from the Latin mederi, meaning to heal. The words medicine, medical and medicate come from the same root word. Mederi implies a sense of attending to or paying attention to something in order to facilitate well being. In meditation, you sit quietly and ask the mind to let go of its everyday tendencies to think, analyze, remember, solve problems, and focus on past events or on expectations of the future. Meditation increases theta waves (the electrical waves that appear in the brain just before one falls asleep) while the meditating person remains alert and focused. This experience creates a sense of calm awareness that allows a meditator to overcome the body’s natural “fight, flight or freeze” stress response to perceived external danger or irritation. This, in turn, slows down the mind’s rapid series of thoughts and feelings, and replaces that mental activity with a calm, inner awareness and attention. As a consequence of this quiet, effortless, one-pointed focus of attention, the body and mind both become rejuvenated. By maintaining a daily meditation practice, symptoms of stress, fear, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure and addictions can be diminished and the body can become free to function to its healthy potential.
Mind/body medicine is an approach to healing that uses the power of thoughts and emotions to positively influence physical health. As Hippocrates wrote, “The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” Yoga Science, the world’s oldest holistic mind/body medicine, presents a comprehensive and time-honored program for well-being.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia report that the key factors influencing an individual’s state of health have not changed significantly over the past twenty years. Quality of medical care accounts for only 10%. Heredity accounts for 18% and environment 19%. But everyday lifestyle choices contribute an impressive 53%. The decisions people routinely make about their daily lives are by far the greatest factor in determining their wellness. The meaning of these statistics is crystal clear. If people could be introduced to some essential, basic information and be motivated to make more skillful choices, they’d experience better health and, as a consequence, lower health-care costs.
Mind/body techniques such as meditation, diaphragmatic breathing and yoga postures are helpful for many conditions because they promote relaxation, improve coping skills, reduce tension and pain, and lessen the need for medication. For example, many mind/body techniques are used successfully (along with medication) to treat acute pain. Symptoms of anxiety and depression also respond well to mind/body techniques.
Because they improve coping skills and give a feeling of control over symptoms, Yoga Science mind/body techniques are being used to help treat many diseases beyond those already mentioned. These include: asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer (and the pain and nausea/vomiting related to chemotherapy), insomnia, diabetes, stomach and intestinal disorders (including indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, heartburn and Crohn’s disease), fibromyalgia and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, depression and irritability.
For over 6,000 years Yoga Science has provided tools to help human beings learn the art of healthy living. Much of this knowledge came to the United States through the research and teachings of mind/body medicine pioneer Swami Rama of the Himalayas––the Yoga scientist who revolutionized our understanding of human physiology. In 1969, under the supervision of Dr. Elmer Green of the Menninger Foundation, Swami Rama demonstrated the ability to stop his heart from pumping blood for 16.2 seconds and to produce an eleven degree difference in temperature between different parts of the palm of his hand. Through these studies at Menninger Swami Rama repeatedly demonstrated full mastery of his autonomic nervous system, which until then most Western doctors had assumed was impossible. Years later, Swami Rama commented that the real value of his experiments at Menninger was not to prove he could stop his heartbeat or regulate the temperature in individual cells in his body, but rather to demonstrate the potentially therapeutic power of the mind/body connection.
Meditation and the entire science of Yoga represents an holistic mind/body medicine that can provide the skills and the motivation to change old, debilitating habits into new healthy habits that enhance well-being and reduce health-care costs. Regardless of your age, if you practice meditation and the principles of Yoga Science as mind/body medicine you can cut health costs dramatically by boosting the immune system, facilitating clarity of thought, helping focus attention, increasing energy and productivity, enhancing problem solving capabilities and strengthening and healing relationships. As part of a complete daily wellness program, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing and an easy-gentle yoga practice can improve mental, emotional and physical well being and give you the necessary skills to become an active partner with your physicians in maintaining health and vitality.
You can live in an optimal state of balance and healthfulness––if you simply learn to make living in that state a priority and unite the intuitive wisdom of the spirit with the healing power of your mind.