Q: You have been describing Yoga as a spiritual practice. How do you see its role in therapy ?
Krishnan Kartha: Yoga , as you know as a trainer in your place, is propagated globally as a means to fitness.
It has also become very popular as such.
But much before the Yoga Sutras were written, around a score of Upanishads had directly or indirectly spoken about yoga.
Some have titles also with such a reference like, Yoga Choodamani, Yoga Kundali, Yoga Thathwa, etc.
They were aiming at spiritual achievements of human beings only.
The elements of medicare is more connected with Hatha Yoga, which is also mentioned in the Upanishads.
It is believed that Lord Siva initiated his wife Parvathi to Hatha Yoga and it is being documented in the text Siva Samhitha.
Shiva Samhitha has been dated by some scholars between 1300 and 1500 Christian Era.
Siva Samhitha can be regarded as the first text on Hatha Yoga though more detailed treatise came as Hatha Yoga Pradeepika in 15th Century. Another source is Gheranda Samhita which specifies 7 steps instead of 8 steps in Ashtanga Yoga. It says about 32 asanas and 25 mudras which you might have learnt.
Now coming to the therapy side, we should understand the basic Indian concept on health.
We have swaasthya vriththa and aathura vriththa.
Swasthya vriththa deals with leading an unperturbed life while the aathura vriththa is concerned with the ailments and treatments.
I have found many modern scholars translate Swasthya vriththa as preventive medicine. It is wrong.
The Swasthya vriththa is spiritual, connected to the spirit or purpose, of Ayurveda.
The spirit behind is Purusharthas. They are the prime purposes of human life according to Indian texts. They are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. You might have learnt them already.
But the approach is slightly different from what you have studied.
You might have understood Dharma as moral values, Artha as economic values, Kama as desire or psychological values and Moksha as liberation or spiritual values.
But the Samhithas of Ayurveda deal with Purusharthas in a different way. It is more truthful way rather...I can say.
Dharma according to Samhithas, is the remembrance about oneself. The awareness that I am. It is described that when you swerve from this remembrance, you are moved by the vishayas, like sound, taste, sight, touch and smell. These diversions lead to thought, word and deed which are collectively known as Karma.
You know, the Ayurveda believes that the cause of disease is past karma. Poorva janma kritham paapam vyaadhiroopena jayathe.
So governance of karma is given importance, and hence, Dharma is regarded as the remembrance of oneself. That remembrance will divert karma.
Next is Artha. Artha here is the support for dharma. It is not the financial resource but karmic balance. If the karmic deposit is good, one can stick on to Dharma and vice versa. So here Artha is the karmic balance.
Kama is anxiety for maintaining the dharma and desiring to accumulate good karma.
Moksha is liberations from natural limitations. With Moksha, you enjoy freedom of life on earth.
These are the statements in Samhithas.
So coming back to Swasthya Vriththa, it says that one has to follow dharma to be mentally and physically fit.
It is avoidance of ten types of demerits.
They are broadly grouped into bodily sins, oral sins and mental sins.
Bodily sins are Himsa, Stheyam and Anyadhaa Kaamam.
Himsa is violence to other beings.
Stheyam is stealing others possessions.
Anyadhaa Kamam is adultery.
Then there are sins by speech. Vaachikam.
Paishunam is jealous speech
Parusham is harsh speech
Anrutham is speech which creates disorder like rumours and scandals.
Sambhinnalapam is speech which separates loved ones.It creates rivalry.
After these sins come, the mental sins.
They are VYAAPADAM, ABHIDTHA, and DRIK VIPARYAYAM.
Vyapadam is desire to see another ruined.
Abhidtha is Wrong desires.
Drik Viparyayam is fault finding.
So Ayurveda believes that one indulges in such sinful acts when he deviates from his remembrance of himself.
So now you might have seen the ways and means by which the ashtanga yoga results in Swasthya or wellness.
Ahimsa, Sathya , Astheya , Aparigraha and Brahmacharya address almost all actions mentioned now. Pranayama and Pratyahara regulates mind and hence control the bodily sins. So Swasthya or wellness is totally addressed.
Next is therapy. It is connected with Athura Vriththa
Upanishads say that Pranayama aggravates and regulates Jataragni, the fire within our body. Specifically in the stomach which digests our food. Once this fire is regulated, all the other types of fire in the body are also regulated.
There are 12 other agnis. 5 bhoothagnis and 7 dhathwaagnis.
Bthoothagnis are the fire within five elements in the body…earth, water, fire, wind and space
Dhathwagnis are fire in the tissues such as
Thwak, the epidermal tissue
Mamsa, the muscular tissue
Medas, the adipose tissue
Asthi, the skeletal tissue
Raktha, the blood
Majja, the marrow
Shukla, the semen
A person is said to be in disease when these fires become irregular or affected.
So when Jataragni is regulated by pranayama all other elementary fires in the body are also regulated. This eventually cures diseases.
In addition to Ashtangayoga, the hathayoga elements like asanas have direct influence on internal organs. This you might have studied as part of your profession. I need not add more.
Now comes my reply for the question.
Curing of diseases is secondary even in Ayurveda. Among six types of treatment of a patient, Ayurveda speaks about direct curative methods in the last two of them, Samana and Prasamana. Prior to those steps, there are other four preliminary steps, which are strongly recommended by the texts.
They are Prakrithi Sthapana,
Prakriti Sthapana is treatment for establishment of normalcy as it reverse pathology and restores Prakriti or human constitution.
Prayaschitha is atonement or repentance
Nidana varjana is also another primary step.
Only after these four steps, Samana and Prasamana, the curative steps are inititated.
This is the ideal followed in Ayurveda.
So yoga cannot be used as a direct tool for instant cure of a disease. That is against the Indian principles.
But unfortunately, we find such treatments announced.
It will only destabilize the system.