by Joseph Glaser
One aspect of my work, that I am fortunate enough to be involved in, is clinical research on Yoga and cancer. In different ways we are studying the efficacy of Yoga as a management tool for the side effects of cancer. This kind of research has become the standard in the scientific community and is necessary to create change in the mainstream view of what is possible and what should be included in the standard of care.
Long before modern scientists began their research, a different community of scientists was already conducting experiments. This group called themselves yogis. They didn’t have modern tools such as labs, or test tubes, or scales. Instead, the used their inner faculties of intuition, discernment, and awareness to conduct their experiments. The goal of these experiments, as is the goal of modern research, was to find the truth. The truth of who I am, why I am here, and what I am meant to do with this gift of life. Along the way these yogis realized that good physical and mental health were side effects of the path to discover these buried truths. This side effect of good health is what draws many of us to Yoga and is the aspect of Yoga being researched today.
The caution for Yogis living in a modern world is to not undermine the practice’s power by viewing it through the lens of what modern research calls evidence based practice. We must continue the ancient tradition of practice-based evidence. Practice-based evidence is a term that I recently read from the writings of Dr. Swami Yogapratap and immediately fell in love with. Practice-based evidence means that we take up the practice with consistency and intention and conduct our own experiments. When I practice these asanas how does my body feel? When I practice meditation what is my mental state? When I practice Yoga Nidra how does my perception change? Your own experiments are the best to conduct because you will gain the knowledge needed to cultivate a practice that supports you in how you want to feel and in realizing your truth. Modern research won’t be able to take these findings away. If you feel better it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.
The problem with modern research, through the lens of an individual taking up this practice, is that it tries to isolate mechanisms instead of looking at how the body, mind, and spirit act together as a living organism. It is based on the model of taking a drug which doesn’t fit well when we are talking about individuals with vastly different life experiences. This is why we need to practice and come to our own conclusions. Only we can know how each technique will affect someone with our individual experience.
Modern research will help the world catch up to the power of Yoga and make it part of the standard of care for people who are well and unwell everywhere. For that I am thankful. Personal research through our Yoga practice will change our lives completely giving us clarity, vibrancy, and peace. Every time we come to our practice we are scientists discovering new abilities, aspects, and truths. What a beautiful experiment!
A practice as simple as ten minutes of Sun Salutations in the morning when you wake up can be a great place to start. Make sure you use the restroom first. Sun Salutations will harmonize all the systems in your body and leave you energized for the rest of your day.
Om Namah Shivaya,