Health Healing and Yoga

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The source of your health and happiness lies within you. Outside agents like physicians, therapists, or remedies can help you through major crises, but you yourself are primarily responsible for your own health and happiness. The following sections show you how Yoga helps you mobilize the inner strength to live responsibly and wisely.

What is health? Most people answer this question by saying that health is the opposite of illness, but health is more than the absence of disease — it's a positive state of being. Health is wholeness. To be healthy means not only to possess a well-functioning body and a sane mind but also to vibrate with life, to be vitally connected with your social and physical environment. To be healthy also means to be happy.

Something for nothing?

You get out of Yoga what you put into it. One computer term particularly relevant to Yoga practice is gigo, which means "garbage in, garbage out." It captures a simple truth: The quality of a cause determines the quality of the effect — what you get out of any endeavor is only as good as what you put in. In other words,

✓ Don't expect health from junk food.

✓ Don't expect happiness from miserable attitudes.

✓ Don't expect good results from shoddy Yoga practice.

✓ Don't expect something from nothing.

Yoga is a powerful tool, but you must learn to use it properly. You can buy the latest superduper computer, but if you only know how to use it as a typewriter, that's all it is.

Because life is constant movement, you shouldn't expect health to be static. Today health is increasingly difficult to achieve because the environment has become highly toxic. Perfect health is a mirage. In the course of your life, you can expect inevitable fluctuations in your state of health; even cutting your finger with a knife temporarily upsets the balance. Your body reacts to the cut by mobilizing all the necessary biochemical forces to heal itself. Regular Yoga practice can create optimal conditions for self-healing. You achieve a baseline of health, with an improved immune system that enables you to stay healthy longer and heal faster.

Yoga is about healing rather than curing. Like a really good physician, Yoga takes deeper causes into account instead of slapping a bandage on surface symptoms. These causes are more often than not found in the mind — in the way you live and how you think. That's why Yoga masters recommend self-understanding. Most people tend to be passive in health matters. They wait until something goes wrong and then rely on a pill or a physician to fix the problem. Yoga encourages you to take the initiative in preventing illness and restoring or maintaining your health. Taking control of your health has nothing to do with self-doctoring (which can be dangerous); it's simply a matter of taking responsibility for your health. A good physician can tell you that a patient's active participation in the process greatly facilitates healing. For example, you may take various kinds of medication to deal with a gastric ulcer, but unless you learn to eat well, sleep adequately, avoid stress, and take life more easily, you're bound to have a recurrence before long. You must change your lifestyle to realize any deep-seated healing.

Yoga points the way to happiness, health, and life-embracing meaning by suggesting that the best possible meaning you can find for yourself springs from the well of joy deep within you. That joy or bliss is the very nature of the spirit, or transcendental Self (refer to "Yoga as a spiritual discipline" earlier in this chapter). Joy is like a 3-D lens that captures life's bright colors and motivates you to embrace life in all its countless forms.

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