Question from Paul Harvey
So if we find that Yoga is difficult to evaluate in terms of Science and I appreciate that it does not work in the same way that Western medicine does in that Western medicine looks at the symptom then tries to tackle the particular symptom. How in your opinion does Yoga work, what is in Yoga that is so precious, so special?
Response from TKV Desikachar
I had an expert medical doctor, super expert doctor she had some problem with headaches. An extremely competent person but nothing could help, she is a surgeon also, a great writer and then somebody suggested why don’t you try Yoga, that is all. She came to us. I did not teach her, I asked one of my colleagues to teach her. After one month she just said, this is magic. I cannot explain it and the science to it, I have done research, I tried meditating, nothing happened, and this is magic, that is all I can say. She is very grateful for this. I asked her how do you explain some of simple things that we taught you. One thing I must say she said is that you seem to know more about the body than we do. You seem to know about the intricacies of the body but we do not know how the body moves, we do not know what is stiffness what is flexibility, we do not know how to make a body flexible.
We don’t have love and care in our work, we are experts in technology, we have the tools and we have the medicine but we do not know love, we don’t know care. When I come here with a teacher I feel I am so loved I feel I am so cared for I am so taken care of already I feel half-cured. I do get my headaches once in a while but I do not care. Before it was stopping my work now I don’t care. So my relationship with my headache is different today than before.
I thought I would mention this because here is somebody who is one of the best medical people in India.
Now I will give another example of another eminent doctor. This doctor, who was a very busy person and an expert in neuroscience, had at a very late age, past 70, a by-pass. After the by-pass this person lost his voice. He called me; he was always considered one of the best medical men in all of India. He said, “I am a public speaker and I have just lost my voice, can you do something”. So I did something and he got back his voice and he told me something, because I interviewed him for something. I said how do you sir, you are a religious person, he is a very religious person, you have been praying, you are a doctor, none of these things helped you. You came to us, we taught you some breathing exercises and all that and your voice has recovered, how do you explain all that.
He said, “when I learned my religious practice I was never taught how to pay attention, I did it mechanically. In medicine I was taught how to do things I was not taught how to be aware of what I am doing. You people taught me how to pay attention to what I am doing. So today the same religious practice that I was doing before has more effect because I am paying attention to this religious practice and my Yoga, when I am doing my Yoga, I know what I am doing when I am doing my Yoga. Because I am paying attention I think there is much more effect than when I do something without paying attention.”
I have given two examples of two eminent doctors, one lady and one gentleman, I think that there is a meaning in what they are saying. If I love my body my body will heal, if I abuse my body it will not heal. Attention is also to learn what we have been given, preciously, which we cannot buy. I think Yoga teaches us to love what has been given to us and the Yoga teacher perhaps helps us to understand this. The other thinks of techniques, this posture and that posture.
We have seen, for example, for the same condition, for the same background, we are taught different courses, they still work. The only thing we do is we will avoid anything that will complicate the problem. For example, if somebody has got a back pain we are not going to teach something that will increase the back pain.
Of course, one of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach, that is the first thing we do in our consultation and when we have seen this we can try a few things within that range as long there is this relationship within the human system of love and care is established the body is asking for that this is all I can tell.
– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000 on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.