Yoga Therapy

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, talk at the First International Yoga Convention, Bihar School of Yoga, November 4, 1964, originally printed in YOGA, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1965

For most people yoga stands for miracles, for superhuman feats of endurance and so forth. If that were yoga, then it would be of no use to humanity. Yoga is a science and like all other sciences it has a benevolent role to play for the well-being of mankind. This benevolent role is yoga therapy. The average person is far from perfect and his faults make life miserable for him as well as for others near and dear to him. Moralists and religious teachers have tried to improve human beings without success. Moral precepts reach the intellect, but they cannot penetrate the subconscious, the regions where the samskaras of past and present lives lie buried. Therefore, leave aside your books of morals and try a different method, the method of self-cure by yoga. Yoga is a definite means of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development, as it improves, strengthens and develops both the physical and mental personality. Everybody wants a fit and efficient body and mind. Remember that the mind and body act and react on each other. Mental ailments cause physical ailments and vice versa. We allow our senses to run hither and thither, to chase physical satisfaction. We identify too much with the body and this results in neurosis and frustration.

Yoga offers a remedy for the reconstruction of our personality. Withdraw the senses from their objective and go within to the middle chamber, the subconscious of psychology. When you contact your subconscious through regular meditation, your deep-rooted samskaras come to the surface one by one and slowly depart.

This process is entirely in accord with modern psychiatry with one main difference - here you are your own psychiatrist. Can you imagine the benefits of this therapy for students with their outbursts of indiscipline and misbehaviour from time to time? You cannot blame their behaviour on the atmosphere or the society. You give them physical and intellectual training and neglect their mind. Religion cannot give mental training. I am not against religious training, but as you all know, regardless of moral precepts, children continue to steal, to tell lies, etc., and in the course of time their personality becomes stunted.

Thus yoga is more for people living in the world who need to improve their personality, who have to face challenges in life and have tensions to overcome. Yoga provides psychosomatic treatment for present day ills. Depth meditation, depth psychology, is going deep within and contacting your subconscious. Remember the prayer, "Lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom." It is the inner light which when contacted removes the outer sorrows.

Scientific experiments should be conducted on various yoga kriyas so that they are adapted to our present day needs. Yoga nidra is beneficial for various neuroses. Trataka is good for insomnia. Ajapa japa reduces hypertension. In ujjayi the blood pressure gradually comes down. Kapalbhati removes impurities from the system, jalandhara bandha improves heart disorders, shankhaprakshalana improves the pancreatic function and tones up the entire system. I am a visionary and these hatha yoga kriyas which are now practised by sadhus should have an honoured place in every home.

The science of psychotherapy was known to yogis in India centuries ago before it became a cult in the west. Our yogis paid great attention to the mind. They know that lust, anger, avarice etc. are nothing but chitta vrittis, mental modifications. This is my concept of psychosomatic yoga. I am a sadhu and you are of the world. If I need the practices of yoga, you need them all the more with your worldly tensions. Teach your children these yoga practices and their maladjustments will go. Yoga is a priceless heritage. If efforts are not made to preserve this heritage, it will be lost forever. The present civilisation has made man abnormal. He is mentally and physically sick. He hugs pain and broods over melancholic thoughts. If this is so now, what will happen to the coming generation? Medicines offer no cure. Only through yoga and meditation can we overcome mental, physical and emotional tensions and rid the world of its maladies.