An Experience in Yoga

Carmen Santacruz, Chile

We have heard and read many times that the regular practice of yoga can improve our health, change our behaviour and the way we face our everyday problems. Now, I think it is important for people to know of the experience of such a person as myself who succeeded in recovering from an illness which all the doctors had described as incurable.

Ever since early childhood, I was a very weak person - too thin, too pale. If I was asked to compare myself to a plant I would say some kind of creeper or vine. I had anaemia: my blood pressure was too low and I always felt tired. All through my childhood I heard 'She is anaemic; it is a hereditary characteristic and nothing can be done about it'. Meat was made the basis of my diet and each day I received a supplement of concentrated meat juice and an almost raw piece of liver. In addition to this, I had to take many tonics and was subject to numerous infections.

All these problems, however, didn't prevent me from leading a normal life - studying, working, traveling etc. - but all physical exertion required an enormous effort of will as I always felt so tired. Everything was compounded when I become pregnant I began fainting all the time, was greatly anaemic .and my blood pressure was way too low. I had to spend, literally, months in bed.

When I was expecting my third child, the problem became so serious that I had to spend the entire pregnancy in bed, receiving three blood transfusions a week. I was very depressed and felt as if I was some kind of incubator running on human blood instead of electricity. After my daughter was born I had all kinds of tests ranging from inner ear examinations to electroencephalograms to try to discover the cause of my fainting, but there were no clear results.

One day a doctor was examining me and my blood pressure fell suddenly to a dangerously low level. I started taking all kinds of drugs to try and normalize it, but it remained consistently low, and my weakness and fainting spells became more pronounced.

Fortunately I never lost my courage and I had faith that I could and would recover. I had plenty of time to analyse my life and felt that I had a body from the 18th century and a mind from the 20th. I took a good look at myself and decided to live in accordance with my mind rather than be dominated by the condition of my body. I also decided not to accept things which I instinctively felt I shouldn't.

My real revolt began when a leading doctor prescribed tranquillizer drugs and I simply stood my ground and refused to take them, saying that I wanted to live a fully conscious life and not as a zombie. He asked me how I thought I was going to treat myself if I wasn't going to follow his instructions and to my surprise I heard myself answering 'Yoga'.

Up until this time, the only information I had about yoga was a book which I had forgotten, but as an eastern saying goes 'When the disciple is ready, the teacher will appear'. After some time I saw a report in a newspaper about a yoga teacher who had just arrived in Santiago, so I visited him and arranged an appointment for the next day. I told him all about my problems and limitations and he answered, 'Don't worry - I'm sure that if you practice seriously and with faith, you can recover and you will recover'. Little by little I started to practice pawanmuktasana series, pranayama and relaxation. I remember that when I was practicing pranayama' I told myself, 'I'm going to normalize my blood pressure and I will make myself better. I am receiving energy and eliminating all my toxins and negative thoughts'. Gradually I began to improve and even began to do without the medicines for both the anaemia and the blood pressure.

When the doctors saw the changes, they agreed that I was benefiting from yoga but were adamant that I would never recover from the anaemia, saying that there were irreversible changes in the spleen and bone marrow. I thought, 'Well, I'm asking a miracle of yoga'. My whole attitude to life had changed during this time and I was sure that if one was really determined to achieve something, it would happen.

One day I was discussing the benefits of yoga practice with a friend who was a doctor and I told him that the only thing I really couldn't expect to be cured of through yoga was the anaemia, He looked at me and recommended that I have some more tests taken because I didn't look at all anaemic to him. I did this and was amazed to find that the results were completely normal. I was cured. This story I am telling you is twenty years old. You can imagine what happened with my family as I began to eat less and less meat, finally stopping altogether, but when they saw I was suffering no ill effects, they let me go my own way. Since then I have never had a recurrence of either anaemia or fainting. It wasn't a miracle. It was the regular practice of yoga with faith and steadiness.