How do yoga, meditation, breathing practices, and relaxation help us heal? The topic is a big one, which we will examine from many points of view as we move through this multipart series: Yoga as a Healing Art. Healing is a core element of both yoga philosophy and yoga practice. In fact, healing is something we all aspire to, even if we do not always realize it—we all want to be healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, and many of us also aspire to what we might call healing on the spiritual level as well.
As we begin our quest for health and healing, I’d like to invite you to ask yourself the following question: “What is it that brought me to yoga and keeps me here—keeps me involved, seeking, studying, and doing my practice?” Most people come to yoga because of some kind of discomfort, ailment, or pain. Often it’s a physical ailment, such as arthritis or a stiff lower back. It could be that our muscles are tight due to stress or a sedentary lifestyle and we want to increase our range of motion and become more flexible. Or it could be pain of a deeper nature—chronic stress, past trauma, a failed relationship, or the realization of the undeniable fact that we are aging. I vividly remember one seminar participant, a middle-aged gentleman, stating that he came to his first yoga class because his wife “dragged me by my ears,” and that he kept coming to class “because it feels good.” And isn’t that the truth? It does feel good, on many levels. The point is, many of us come to yoga because of something physical, because we are seeking relief—and we stay for much more than that.
To gain some more insight on yoga as a path of healing, let’s turn to the Bhagavad Gita. This text was written some 2,500 or 3,000 years ago and has lasted such a long time because of its beauty and profound, universal wisdom. In the Bhagavad Gita the divine teacher Krishna gives four main reasons that people come to him (that is, come to yoga), and healing is the first. Here’s what Krishna says: “Of good people, four types offer their love to me.” It’s interesting that he starts off by saying “good people”—it’s understood that all of these seekers are automatically good people. As you read the four main reasons people come to yoga, according to the Bhagavad Gita, consider which first drew you to yoga.