A friend of mine (who happens to be a priest), once shared with me the following insight: “Miracles may exist, but in the meantime, it is a miracle there are other solutions.”
While emotional and mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, burnout, and addiction can push an invidual to the brink or despair, and give rise to such thoughts as, “It would take a miracle to save me now”, there are in fact tried and tested tools out there that can assist in doing just that. It is the mind which is ultimately the source of problem, and if a person can become the master of their mind, and not the other way around, great healing becomes possible. A chronic urge or compulsion to resort to drug use often leads to addiction. Depression and anxiety take up residence in mind and heart and make life miserable for the individual. And burnout leaves a person depleted, often in body, but always in mind and spirit. So the benefits of being able, if not to control, at least to influence our states of mind, need no further explanation. Modern methods to this end include hypnosis, relaxation, and sophrology. But these and other tools for recovery have, in fact, their origins in yoga techniques that date back centuries or more. Sophrology for example is based on yoga, and hypnosis is simply using a deep state of relaxation or medition to assist in healing.
Yoga as therapy (and ultimately, the only yoga is one that is therapeutic on every level), offers three main tools which are of direct benefit in recovering from all the above dis-eases. If we take them in the order they might be practiced in each day, then we begin with pranayama. Pranayama, or the science of the breath, can be as simple as conscious breathing. It is usually practiced eyes closed, so it enables the practitioner to go within, and using various other more systematic breathing techniques, to still the mind, and take the momentum out of negative emotions or urges. Pranayama is arguably the most powerful tool yoga offers in treating mental and emotional unease, because even complete beginners can very soon experience a great improvement in their condition. Once the mind is stilled, (and the body energized, since pranayama also helps circulate prana, or the life force, in the system), then meditation becomes easier. In yoga as therapy, meditation does not involve complex visualisations or seeking higher states of consciousness, but simply the cultivation of present-moment awareness. The point of this exercise is to observe thoughts and emotions without getting involved, from a safe space of inner stillness.
After pranayama and meditation, we come to the practice of asana, or yoga postures. Asana help develop concentration and body awareness. They are also very effective in bringing us back to the tangible reality of the body, and in helping a person not be “up in their mind”. Furthermore, since asana are designed to work powerfully on the nervous system, they have a very calming effect, not to mention a healing influence on the body.
The great advantage of these three practices is that, with minimal instruction, it is possible to develop an effective automonous practice, and become independent. At Pranabali, these tools, as a part of yoga therapy as a whole, are the foundation of the holistic healing approach practised. But this “wholistic” perspective also involves complementary work with relevant and approproate qualified therapists, whose knowledge is entirely compatible with this ancient practical wisdom for renewed well-being.