Doctor Yogi: The Clinical Applications of Yoga
The Art of Yoga in Chiropractic Practice: Happy, Healthy and Holy
By Hari S. S. Khalsa, DC
The techniques of yoga (and chiropractic) have powerful effects on health and wellness; however, they are only techniques. A teacher (physician) is necessary to direct the practice (adjustment) to achieve the goals of removing the blocks (subluxation) from the chakras (nerve plexus), so the kundalini (pure innate) can flow naturally through the shusmana (major central nerve of the spine).
A teacher or chiropractic physician who has walked the path of awareness (and removed many subluxations) can direct his or her students and patients through the stages of development. The art of detection and safe removal of subluxation results in an experience of the true self, free from interference between the individual human and the infinite nature. The yoga practitioner and the adjusted patient both experience a similar consciousness whereby the infinite self (innate self) and the individual self are one and the same. All is free and natural, functional and healthy. In the kundalini yoga lineage, this holistic and reverent state of equilibrium is expressed as happy, healthy and holy. (See www.3HO.org for more information.)
The Science of Yoga in Chiropractic Practice
Science has quantified and qualified the effects of chiropractic and yoga in countless ways. Scientific studies show how the chiropractic adjustment affects every system of the body, including the immune system, the endocrine system and especially the nervous system. Yoga has been shown to have a positive effect on more than a few conditions, ranging from diabetes and asthma to schizophrenia, headaches, and digestive disorders. A flood of information can be found regarding the health benefits of a regular yoga practice. Those wishing to examine these studies might start with a Pub Med search on kundalini(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=&DB =PubMed).
The Mental-Emotional Connection
The mind-body connection is no longer a mystery, thanks to the work of Candace B. Pert, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and other modern pioneers in this field. Meditation is being shown to produce lasting, beneficial changes in immune function and brain electrical activity, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study by Richard Davidson, PhD. Davidson found 5 percent to 25 percent higher levels of flu shot antibodies in meditators as opposed to nonmeditators. Researchers found roughly 50 percent more electrical activity in the left frontal regions of the brains of meditators. The level of antibodies increased in direct relation to the level of increased brain-wave activity.
Mental-emotional aspects clearly affect physical function, as is illustrated in over 500 transcendental meditation (TM) studies performed by the Transcendental Meditation Association, among others. A 1989 study shows a sustained 10-point reduction in blood pressure after meditation instruction (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1989;57(6):950-964).
Stress is a major contributing factor (if not the root cause) of the vast majority of modern health issues. The overstimu-lation of the sympathetic nervous system and subsequent glandular secretions, age us, degenerate us and kill us. Hans Selyes' classic text, The Stress of Life, illustrates the mechanism of what he calls the "relaxation response." Herbert Benson later quantified the physiology of meditation by measuring reduced cortisol levels during the "relaxation response" (Benson, Herbert. Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief; New York, Scribner, 1996). This deep relaxation, which yoga practice can facilitate, is essential to the healing and regenerating process.
Applied Yoga Techniques
Although practicing kundalini yoga may provide tremendous health benefits and improvements, it is important to note the following:
Yoga techniques are not used for curing specific conditions, illnesses or diseases.
"Kundalini Yoga as a system was never illness based. It wasn't started as a system to cure anything. As a system, it is not inherently a therapeutic model, even though it has enormous therapeutic benefits. Rather, it was based in excellence and exaltation. It is the science of how to excel and fulfill oneself in the experience of being human. We do not teach Kundalini Yoga to heal a disease. We teach yoga to the person who has the disease. Kundalini Yoga is a sacred science. Through it, the sacredness of the student is awakened. It is designed to give us the experience of connection; to respond to the command of the soul and the Infinite."
- From the Kundalini Research Institute's
Yoga has many limbs, some of which are briefly described below. The clinical application is specific to the individual patient. An experienced, qualified, certified and compassionate teacher will supervise every therapeutic regimen. Kundalini yoga uses all limbs and facets of yoga, so the certified kundalini yoga teacher is knowledgeable and experienced in each therapy.
Breath (Pranayama) - Breath is essential to life. Breath contains vital force, which is known by yogis as prana - pure energy. The first manifestation of stress is in the breath. Breath analysis provides many insights into the posture, mental aspects and stress factors of a patient. By bringing awareness to the breath, we can access the "override" system of the mind. In the practice of pranayama, specific breath patterns help override or direct both the subconscious patterns of breathing and the unconscious patterns of living. This is partly because breathing patterns profoundly affect the glandular system. A yogi breathes every breath to its full capacity, with a total and complete inhale and what is often called an authentic or "honest" exhale (meaning no air is held in reserve). With proper breathing, every organ is massaged, every system revitalized, and the mind is fed.
Physical (Hatha) - The physical body is the first frontier of exploration as a human being. The purpose of the body is to act as a vehicle for happiness and provide a temporary home for the soul.
In the West, the physical postures of yoga have been strongly emphasized. The physical aspects of yoga provide a foundation for the journey. Specific yoga exercises allow strength and flexibility to be achieved physically. Through movement with synchronized breath, the patterns of the psyche that manifest in the body are released and health restored. The physical matrix of the yogi is comprised of various channels and nadis, organs and glands, which are activated to produce states of awareness. Balance in the body directly impacts capacity, stability and overall experience.
Meditation (Raja) - The mind is a very complex, sophisticated broadcaster and receiver of the electromagnetic waves that guide awareness and perception. As you think, so you are! The mind guides emotions and can sometimes distorts perceptions with preconceptions. Specific meditations are utilized to address blocks in the mind. Meditation has been shown to encourage the development and evolution of the prefrontal cortex and also has a positive effect on cardiac function.
Sound (Naad and Laya) - Sound affects us in many ways. It is the way humans manifest reality. You can hear in the voice how a person perceives reality. Sound is vibration. We are frequency generators and receivers, transmitting and receiving constantly. Yoga involves both the listening and the creation of specific sounds.
Diet and Lifestyle - Changing the chemistry of the brain affects the nervous system, which affects all other systems. The goal of yoga diet therapies is alkalization of the blood, which reduces the reactivity of excitatory neurons and synapses, lowering pain thresholds and inflammatory processes while facilitating meditative states. Specific dietary regimens are utilized to address specific organs and conditions.
Hydrotherapy (Ishnan) - Bathing techniques are utilized to sustain proper blood flow and to flush the capillary system. Hot water, cold water, special oils, iced sheets and massage are used in Ishnan treatments.
Massage Therapy - Massage is a very traditional therapy, originally applied in conjunction with yoga practice. There are many specific massage techniques that draw on a systematic relaxing of muscle, fascia and tissues. (See Healing Hands by Dr. Wahe Guru Khalsa for more information.)
Several areas of analysis will help pinpoint existing or potential restriction. The following is a guideline for some of the examination parameters:
Navel Point: Observe the position, rate and rhythmBreath: Observe depth and rhythm
Posture: Observe standing and walking; tone, tension and flexibility
8 Chakras: Observe tranquility, vitality, sensitivity and stability
Digestion: Observe assimilation and elimination
Treatment in Addition to Regular Chiropractic Adjustments
Kriyas - Specific movements, breathing techniques and eye focus are implemented in a specific sequence to achieve a desired effect. Kriyas are designed to strengthen and fortify the glands, organs, nervous system and tissues, not to treat specific conditions or diseases.
Meditations - Meditations involving breath, eye focus and sound are utilized to expand aspects of the mind.
Diet - Diet directly affects the chemistry of the body, the vitality and adaptability of the nervous system and brain functions. Dietary recommendations can be utilized to provide a supporting neurochemical environment.
Frequency of care
Ongoing lifestyle enhancements
Systematic progress reviews
Re-evaluation of patient
The Yogi as Chiropractor
The chiropractor of the future is a doctor of upliftment, inspiration and compassion. A doctor of chiropractic is a divine channel, guiding a patient's spirit and removing restrictions and contractions from his or her spine, heart and life.
It is apparent that the practice of kundalini yoga is quite complementary and supplementary to chiropractic health care. Yoga increases flexibility, strength, and stamina and develops a calm, tranquil mind. Yoga, applied clinically to patients under the guidance of a properly certified yoga teacher, fulfills the holistic vision of the chiropractic primary care paradigm, and perhaps even takes it to a new realm of consciousness.