Ashtanga Yoga & Modern Medicine

The modern version of Hippocratic oath says ,I will remember that there is art to Medicine as well as science & that warmth, sympathy & understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drugs.So as to follow this principle in our clinical practice we need to understand the patient as a whole individual & not by its part or organ which is diseased.More than that the surrounding conditions in which he or she is living should also be considered.

This approach has a lead to the branch of Mind Body Medicine.As we all know emotions affect body structure & function & vice a versa,we need to learn management of emotions & thought process as early as possible in our life.

Science of Ashtanga Yoga, our ancient wisdom provides us a methodical pathway to avoid the sufferings of future as described by Mahamuni Patanjali,”Heyam Dukhham Anagatam”Homeostasis is the final aim of all our systems to live well,so is Samatva the aim of Yogic science,both being complimentary to each other.So to say that Samatva helps Homeostasis.

Improper lifestyle & psychological stress are the major contributors to the diseases of modern civilisation.Ashtanga Yoga provides a new way of looking at life,so everything remaining the same the person starts feeling better.A method based not on changing the circumstances but on changing our attitude to circumstances is potentially infallible.

Psychoneuroimmunology has provided a solid scientific foundation for mind – body relationship.While stress,anger and hostility or relaxation,peace,love & intimacy may be difficult to measure their effects on cytokines levels or NK cell activity can be quantified.So PNI has acted as a bridge between ancient wisdom & modern science.

Ashtanga Yoga as the name suggests guides us at eight limbs to be remembered & followed for 365 days,24 by 7 hours.First & second are called Yama & Niyama being social & personal disciplinary code which helps at our healthy behaviour.Third is Asana popularly known as Yogic postures which disciplines us at skeletal level but slowly reaching our mind. Fourth limb is Pranayam which teaches us the place,duration,number,depth & subtleness Of our breathing.It constantly reminds us to control our emotions & energy metabolism.It offers us a pathway to reach autonomic responses of our body.Fifth is called Pratyahar which takes the discipline at sensory inputs.Every sensory input reaches the respective area in cerebral cortex with information relayed to limbic system.Parts Of limbic system generate emotions which have an impact on our body functions.Pratyahar practice constantly maintains our awareness to optimise our sensory inputs & to observe their effects.This changes our perspective & attitude to face the circumstances.Sixth limb is Dharana ,called as concentration meditation.This is the practice we observe when we are doing something with keen interest,passion & dedication.This enhances our ability in performance.Seventh is Dhyana,the Meditation state which is to be experienced by an individual with practice.The EEG in meditation shows unaltered alpha rhythm in spite of stimulations by vibration,sound or heat/cold. Eighth is Samadhi state which enlightens us for our existence at energy level.

Ashtanga Yoga offers a potent instrument to deal with commonly observed ailments in life.To name a few….1) degenerative disorders like Osteoarthritis of knee joint,Spondylosis can be best prevented & palliated with restoration to near normalcy. 2) Acid peptic disorder , habitual constipation & irritable bowel syndrome has good prognosis.3) Anxiety – depression states can have a support for long term care 4)Type II Diabetes mellitus receives a good support by Yogic Postures ,breathing techniques & Pratyahar for glycemic control,5) HPO axis controlling the female life is helped by Yogic approach from perimenarchal to post menopausal phases.5) Coronary artery disease does have an emotional aspect to its presentation which can be attended by Yogic approach.

How much role Ashtanga Yoga has in health and disease depends on what one understands by Yoga and what one expects.If Yoga is viewed comprehensively as a foundation of peace & joy,it has extensive & potentially all pervasive application S in medicine ranging from primary prevention to care of terminally ill.