The scientific aspect of Yoga is very important because it provides us with the means to understand the actual yogic process of how the different techniques of asana, pranayama, concentration and relaxation can influence and transform one's personality, behaviour, rationality and intellect. Not only with regard to grown-ups, but to children also.
In North France, disciples of Swami Satyananda Saraswati have founded an institution called 'Research on Yoga in Education', (RYE). The RYE yoga teachers train teachers from various higher secondary schools, middle schools, colleges and universities. After completing the training they go and teach their respective students.
The practice of yoga in the classroom has been accepted by the various educational systems in Europe because they have found that with the practice of specific asana and pranayama, the student can develop his intellect, his memory, his ability to retain information which is being constantly fed into the brain, and the ability to express what he knows. In every class, the students are given a set of asana and pranayama practices. If there are, say eight classes scheduled during the day, then they will do two asanas and a pranayama eight times during the day. They have found that these practices help to develop the creative nature in every student. The inspectors, professors headmasters and principals of colleges and universities, are all very happy with the result brought about by the practices of yoga.
In another part of the world, South America, yoga is taught to the priests, nuns and monks of various Christian denominations in their monasteries, convents and schools. In fact, they were the first people who invited our Guru to South America, and later they sponsored the establishment of the ashram there, run by the swamis from Munger.
If you talk to them they will only tell you one thing: they believe that, through the practice of yoga, they are able to understand their own religion better, and it is to develop a deeper understanding of their religion and philosophy that they practice yoga. If you ask them whether there is any conflict between Christianity and Yoga, they will say, 'No'. So this is another aspect of Yoga, that it is not bound to any particular faith, country or religion but belongs to, and is the heritage of humanity.
Yogic training has picked up a lot of force in the United States of America, in Australia, in Europe and in some parts of South America - Swamis go to various prisons and teach the long-term and short-term prisoners. Prisoners from the maximum security cells are also taught, and their behaviour, their thinking process, everything is monitored by the psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. They find that people who practice yoga improve the quality of their thinking and behaviour, and they become responsible members of society when they leave prison.
In 1968 when Paramahamsaji went to the United States, he was invited to a prison in Chicago to teach yoga. He went there the first day and was confronted by a completely unruly mob of about one hundred and fifty prisoners and convicts. Some were fighting with each other, some were smoking chillums, ganja and marijuana in one corner, some were creating a lot of disturbance while others were jeering and laughing. The wardens were unable to control the lot of them. In that condition Paramahamsaji spent about one hour, simply giving the instruction: 'Please try to be quiet and lie down'.
At the end of the session, if you call that a session, the head prisoner, the dadda, came to Paramahamsaji, and said 'What are you trying to teach us?' Paramahamsaji said. 'I'm not trying to teach you anything. I only want you to lie down quietly on the floor for five minutes'. The dadda said to him, 'We will do it if you fulfil one of our conditions'. 'What is it?' Paramahamsaji asked. One of them offered a cigarette to him and he said, 'All right, I will have a cigarette, but first lie down'. Somehow, the head man made the other prisoners lie down, and for five minutes they practiced yoga nidra. Paramahamsaji then left the room and told the warden, 'I'm not coming back again'. The warden said, ''Swamiji, I don't know what you have done, but since you left the room there has been absolute silence, everyone is quiet. You have to come back again!'
So Paramahamsaji went back again the next day and for one week he gave them instructions in the practice of Yoga Nidra, and at the end of the seminar Paramahamsaji told the head prisoner, 'You have fulfilled my condition, now I will fulfil yours. Give me your packet of cigarettes'. The prisoner said, 'Swamiji, I'm really sorry. How can I ask a swami to have a cigarette!' And after that same prisoner left the maximum security cell, he began to teach other prisoners across the United States in various prisons.
In Western countries (Europe, America and Australia) there are drug rehabilitation centres, and the half-way-house, for drug addicts, where yoga is taught. This training has started to take them away from their addiction and to give them a solid foundation in life. It has begun to create a positive change in their personality so that they can remove or overcome this habit. They have found that the practice of yoga works very well.
In many countries, the psychiatrists and psychologists utilise the techniques of yoga nidra, pratyahara and dharana in the course of their treatment. If you study psychology, you will find that it is divided into two parts. One is traditional Freudian psychology and the other is modern psychology. In Freudian psychology the method of treatment of the mental problem is either through hypnosis, electric shocks or medicines, (or all three) to overcome states of anxiety, neurosis, depression, frustration, fear, different types of phobia, inhibitions and complexes. In modern psychology they are utilising other techniques of communication, and verbalisation along with traditional methods.
Many practitioners of psychology experimented with peculiar techniques such as re-birthing and primal scream, where the patient is taken in a state of hypnosis back to the time of birth. However, they found that, after incorporating the process of relaxation and concentration practices, which help to stabilise the mental faculties, the patients improve much faster than those treated with the traditional or normal psychology techniques.
In India also, a lot of research has been done into the physical therapy aspect, as to how the practices of asana and pranayama can help the problem of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular and gastric problems etc. We have conducted many courses in our branch ashrams, in different medical institutions, colleges and hospitals, with the help of competent doctors, under medical supervision, under controlled conditions, under uncontrolled conditions, under controlled diet and medication, under many different circumstances, and we have found that the practices of asana and pranayama are very effective for managing the problems of asthma, diabetes, poor memory, hypertension, stress, anxiety, the heart, the digestive system, etc. Of course there are some conditions in which immediate medical treatment is necessary, conditions of surgery for example, but research has shown that about ninety percent of somo-psychic illness, (diseases which begin with the body and influence the mind) and psycho-somatic illness (which begin, with the mind and influence the body) can be helped through yoga.
Not only these, but also so-called 'incurable' ailments have been helped through yogic practices. There is the case of six cancer patients about who medical science had completely given up hope. They had tried every treatment under the sun - chemotherapy, radiation, diet etc., but nothing had worked. The doctors had given them only a couple of months to live. However, one doctor though, 'Why not try an experiment with yoga'. He took those six patients with him and simply gave them practices of relaxation and concentration and a few pranayama practices - nothing more. Three things; concentration to develop a positive mental condition, pranayama to develop vitality, the healing power within, and relaxation to overcome the fear psychosis, the nervousness, the depression, the tension.
With these three practices alone he was able to save those six patients. This investigation was mentioned in the Journal of The American Medical Association. His name was doctor Ainslie Myers. Another doctor in Australia did the same thing and got the same result. In Bombay, there was one doctor, head of the cardiology department in Bombay who used to teach yoga, specifically the practices of relaxation, to all the patients who would go to the hospital, and a lot of research has been done with his help on the effect of yogasanas, relaxation, shavasana, yoga, nidra and pranayama in overcoming different psychological imbalance. So even scientists and doctors now believe that such incurable cases can also be helped and controlled through the practices of yoga, if not completely cured. I have just presented you with a very few examples in order to show the vast possibilities of the great yogic science.