Stripped down to its bare essentials, yoga is an unobtrusive exercise that can deliver an array of health benefits and preventative buffers against many types of ailments. This fact is heralded by pretty much every health professional you’ll meet. Yoga, as a primary treatment for medical conditions, is a more controversial topic that almost always depends on the individual context.
Yoga is a great complementary therapy with any number of other health treatments. Got anxiety, for example? Talk to a therapist AND sign up for a yoga class. Have gastro-intestinal distress? Start a probiotic regimen AND sign up for a yoga class. Just don’t expect two or three beginner level classes to cure your Crohn’s. It doesn’t *usually* work that way. Indeed, when yoga is prescribed as a primary treatment, it’s almost always because more widely used methods have failed, and yoga is all that’s left. Even then, it’s often more about managing the symptoms of a disease more than curing it.
The Complicated Place Yoga has in Our Culture
Yoga sometimes finds itself in a certain amount of conflict with people of faith who see yoga’s secular meditation as a threat to the power of prayer and communion with their Creator. There is a spiritual element that many people bring to yoga, but you can really bring any number of religious beliefs to the practice. There is nothing that says you can’t pray—either with a short mantra or an open dialogue—at the end of a yoga practice, for example.
There’s also a lingering tension within the yoga community itself between those who believe Americanized yoga is ruining the original art form and those who believe that these yoga purists are hoity-toity nincompoops. There are those who swear by a specific sequence of poses and those who prefer to dabble in as many different forms of yoga they can find.
There are those who find yoga to be a slightly more effective form of exercise than other types of weight resistance training, and there are those who see yoga as a crucial component to their overall health plan and ability to get through the day and week without losing it altogether.
Here’s the thing, though. No matter what place you belong to within the greater culture and general practice of yoga, there are few stories of people who practiced yoga for any real length of time without improving their health in some substantial measure.