Yoga: A Vehicle for Global Healing

by Bikram Choudhury and Emmy S. Cleaves

As we are nearing the end of the 20th century we find humanity suffering from many ills: stress, substance abuse, overweight, chronic illness and AIDS. Many of these problems have their roots in the separation of body from mind. This fragmentation of the human being sends many on a futile search for health, peace of mind and spirituality.

Yoga science is a proven way to help overcome most of these ills. Often, when medical science has given up on a person yoga will help them. Ideally one should start yoga practice before the body's systems break down. The spine is the greatest nerve center in the body and yoga starts with correcting any imbalances in this important part of the body. A healthy nervous system will carry impulses to all other organs of the body making them function correctly and in the process making your immune system incredibly strong.

Doctors treat the sick body with all sorts of drugs which paralyze your immune system, maybe curing one thing but destroying another. Yoga has no side effects. It treats the whole body beneficially.

I am a teacher of yoga and over the last 30 years have observed the effects of this thousands of years old heatlh maintenance system on thousands of western people that I have instructed. Yoga means union -- first connecting between body and mind, and ultimately between God and Human Being. This is what we call Self-Realization. On the road to this ultimate self-realization we have to first put our "physical house" in order.

Mind cannot exist without a body and body is not very useful without a healthy mind. Yoga postures re-establish the body's essential balance through neuromuscular integration and strengthening of the body/mind connection. They enhance health in a natural way, acting therapeutically on chronic disease, achieving and maintaining normal body weight and increasing the body's energy. The regular practice of yoga challenges all the weak areas and systems of the body until radiant health is achieved.

Developing the mastery of the subtle qualities of the mind and emotion depends on the same evolutionary law governing the improvement of physical health. In hatha yoga both physical and mental powers are developed simultaneously and assist each other in the process. In my experience hatha yoga has helped many people transform their ignorance, pain and suffering into self knowledge, love and meaningful action in life. Hidden forces and latent powers lay within every human being. It is up to you to  bring out that latent power in you so that you may become your real self.

It does not matter whether you are a pauper or a prince, natural laws govern all our lives. I have taught famous athletes and movie stars, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and housewives -- everybody's life demands the same thing -- good health. Quincy Jones had a double brain aneurysm -- yoga gave him his health back and helped him achieve some of his greatest successes. Kareem abdul Jabhar prolonged his athletic career long past the normal age for basketball players. John McEnroe's tennis career was seriously interrupted by an injury--Yoga restored his playing ability.

Some people come to my class suffering from heart disease, cancer and other serious diseases. They all have been helped. Thousands of perfectly healthy people have maintained that vibrant health through faithful yoga practice. My students Shirley MacLaine, Candice Bergen, and Rachel Welch maintain their youthful bodies well into middle age. Yoga is for all ages. Some of my best students are people past 50 years of age and look years younger.

My guru, Bishnu Ghosh, one of the greatest yoga masters of the 20th century and the brother of Yogananda, told me to go into the world and sow the seeds of yoga into the hearts of western people so that the seeds of yoga may grow into a big tree full of beauty and blossoms affording health, happiness, peace, and God into this troubled existence. However, in order for such a tree to grow the seed must be real and not fake. In this country yoga is often not promoted by the right people. Almost nobody knows yoga therapy. The problem is that a lot of wrong people came from India and proclaimed themselves masters and gurus. Actually they are not. So yoga was introduced by the wrong people in the wrong way.

The unqualified teachers mix yoga with many other things. They are ignorant of the real principles of yoga and misunderstand the philosophy. They destroy the yoga technique and nobody knows the medical part of yoga. They tune into peoples' weaknesses and hunger for enlightenment and search for spiritual peace and they exploit this hunger. After a while a lot of people become disillusioned and come to regard yoga as something promoted by charlatans and fast buck artists. Or at best someone is teaching a "monkey see -- monkey do" system without any real understanding of the transformational power of yoga. I like to say that it is like possessing a beautiful Rolls Royce car but not having a key to start it with. You can only dream of the utilization of its hidden power.

We are living in a time when the world seems to be losing all of its humanity. Society is in a free-fall of self destruction. Violent crime, environmental destruction, political corruption, selfishness and greed are the order of the day.

In the frenzied pursuit of pleasure, sex, money and more and more  material possessions, children are warehoused in day care centers and the elderly in nursing homes. No lasting family ties are created. Divorce becomes a means of desperately trying to make some connection with another human being, not realizing that first you have to become a fully realized human being yourself before you can hope to connect emotionally with another soul.

The family is the place where people would learn caring, morality, spirituality and things like conflict resolution. Unfortunately in western society the family can no longer be regarded as a meaningful entity. Young people have no place to learn nurturing and loving behavior or the skills to cope with everyday stresses and frustrations which exist everywhere. Their response is with fists and guns. The fashionable term of the day is "dysfunctional family." It is really the absence of family that ails this society.

The world could be a beautiful place to live in. if we human beings could only get our self-confidence back. If you can know yourself as a human being and as a reflection of God, then you will understand the exact reason why you are living or what you want to die for. Not for money but for the intrinsic humanity that is our birthright but which we have somehow lost. The place to start correcting the world is with yourself.

Yoga is the perfect vehicle for change of yourself. First by creating a strong and powerful body and mind. It is a starting point which you can then being to realize your human spirit. Only then can we hope to effect a global healing of the planet.


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