The commands of nature are silent. None can disobey them without being punished. Nature doesn't warn the transgressor; the punishment is as silent as the command. However, to those who obey her commands faithfully, she grants their prayer for a joyful, complete life.
May we see through a hundred autumns. May we live through a hundred autumns. May we know through a hundred autumns. May we rise through a hundred autumns. May we prosper through a hundred autumns. May we remain established through a hundred autumns. May we grow through a hundred autumns. Even more than a hundred autumns.
Atharvaveda XIX. 67
Yoga is a comprehensive technique for living a long, healthy, happy, purposeful life at the optimum physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual level for the fulfilment of the ultimate goal of life through complete self-actualization.
Since the knowledge of yoga is verifiable and systematic, it is a science. And since living is subjective, it is an art. Yoga may therefore be briefly defined as the science and art of optimum living.
The aim of yoga has always been lofty. It has never been one of therapy. It may, however, be used for therapeutic purposes in just the same way as the knowledge of a university professor in atomic physics is used by his son for solving his difficulties in eighth grade arithmetic. But the aim and purpose of the professor's knowledge is much higher.
It often happens that conventional therapeutic measures fail to save an erring man from the verdict of nature's silent punishment, but knowledge of yoga and its application either reduce the intensity of the punishment or even completely free him. That is the value of yoga in therapy.
In western countries, the improved health measures of modern times have been able to wipe out completely microbial and parasitic infectious diseases like smallpox, cholera, plague, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery, anthrax, diphtheria, filariasis and so on, and dietary deficiency diseases like scurvy, rickets, beriberi, pellagra and pernicious anaemia. Moderately developed and developing countries are following suit; expectancy of life in all countries is increasing.
With removal of infectious and parasitic diseases together with deficiency diseases, the number of chronic stress diseases, psychosomatic disorders, degenerative diseases, cancer and old-age problems have started to appear more prominently on the disease map of every country. In addition, atmospheric pollution, industrial hazards, accidents, drug addiction, alcoholism and abnormal behaviour are assuming frightful forms in the health problems of a country.
Yoga can play an important role in reducing stress, treating stress diseases and psychosomatic disorders, in preventing drug and alcohol addiction and in eliminating abnormal behaviour.
As a result of increasing tension of the highly competitive, individualistic, neo-industrial civilization, a large number of diseases like asthma, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, neuro-dermatitis, migraine, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary insufficiency, diabetes and obesity have come to be recognized as diseases having a bearing on conflicts of the mind. Since the cause of these diseases is subtle, treatment with medicines and surgical operations alone, even at the hands of the best specialists, is often not obtainable. Help of a psychotherapist generally improves the condition without bringing about a cure, since the subtle cause is not completely removed. For cure to occur, the conflicts have to be resolved and harmony established within by the patient himself. Unless this is done, all measures remain temporary.
Yoga, through its different disciplines of asanas (postures), pranayamas (breathing exercises), bandhas (locks), mudras (gestures), kriyas (cleansing techniques), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (one-pointed concentration) and dhyana (meditation), assisted by japa and kirtan (repetition and singing of God's name) is capable of providing perfect harmony and equanimity in the layers of mind. Practice of these yogic disciplines prepares the mind for detached self-analysis. In moments of meditation one can observe himself as a bundle of instincts, and his mind as a battlefield for different forces. By this practice, one can resolve all his inner conflicts. With the disappearance of the agitations of the mind, and the conflicts therein, all diseases caused by them disappear too. Regular and sincere practice of yoga, during the very early course of which therapeutic assets arise as a by-product, ultimately leads to the evolution of the mind, the ascent of the spirit and the dawn of true self-knowledge.