That is why in Yoga the word for earning confidence is ‘Atha’……

atha

Question from Paul Harvey

Would you say that this response is true for the West, because I know in India the role of relationship, especially with the teacher, is much more pronounced, much more prominent, much more an accepted part of society, whereas in the West we tend to live in a more remote way and therefore using books, using videos is much more acceptable for us in terms of relationships.

Do you feel that your words, which have come out of another culture in our society, can have the same impact for us in the West where we are much more used to going to the bookshop, much more used to being able to do it ourselves.

Also, it is almost for us in the West to be seen as a failure if I have to go to somebody. Sometimes when people go into therapy they regard it as a failure that they have to go to a therapist and talk to someone because I am not able to do it myself.

Response from TKV Desikachar

You know Paul I am not just of India, I am also of South India and there people like you come to see me in India. Once there is some confidence I do not see much difference between East and West, it is a question earning the confidence.

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A positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system……

desikachar_ph

Question to TKV Desikachar:
So we can consider then that the effect of Yoga is not seen to be directly on the symptom as in modern medicine, it appears from what you are saying it is more to do with the relationship with that problem.

At what level is the human system changing? Because there must be some change in order for that change to reach to the level of the symptom or to my relationship with the symptom. At what level of the human system do you think these changes are occurring at?

Response from TKV Desikachar:
I have asked this question to experts because one of my jobs is also to write about these things. I have asked people how does it happen. Positive attitudes they say produce positive things in your immune system. There are a lot of technical terms for that. Negative attitudes produces negative immune system. Attitudes influence how the immune system functions.

Somebody who is asthmatic who is so miserable who thinks she cannot do anything, when she starts she can do something, she is not so unfit, she can raise the arms, she can breath a little more than she thinks she can. When she gets confidence in herself she becomes more positive about herself, even the medicine she takes has a more positive effect as we have seen sometimes when people do Yoga with this affection, with this love, the need for medicine is reduced.

So I think from the scientific point of view a positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system and the rest is a question of time.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

If I love my body my body will heal……

If I love my body my body will heal

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.

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The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean……

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean

Question from Paul Harvey

On the question of clinical conditions, the Western way treats disease in terms of the use of drugs and has a consistent response to disease and this is seen as something that is of great interest to people in the West.

In terms of Yoga research could you talk more about what exists in terms of research into Yoga in India from a medical viewpoint.

Response from TKV Desikachar

We have a lot of data to say that somebody had a problem, they went to some Yoga courses and then they got better. We have enormous data back in India. This is because India has many Yoga teachers, reputable teachers and not so reputable teachers. When I look at the journals and newspapers many Institutions are doing a lot of good work where people feel better after going to Yoga.

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean. Because science is exact, science expects that we know what was given and what were the conditions in which it was given and what are the effects and science expects this to be repeated again and again. A particular medicine is given for a particular condition again and again and again and when it was not given it does not work and when it is given it works, this is why they have this double blind test.

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When somebody comes to us they are not coming with one problem……

they are not coming with one problem

Question by Paul Harvey

So from what you are saying it appears that it is not really possible to evaluate Yoga in the terms that would satisfy Western science, in terms of having several study groups, one group practising Yoga, one group practising some placebo, one group not practising; measuring the different groups and trying to determine the effect over the same period of time.

Response from TKV Desikachar

It is a challenge. Now I am not saying that people have not done this type of study, I always want to call it study, I do not call it a conclusion, study is being done by scientific people interested in Yoga, studies are being done but there is a tendency to make a hasty conclusion. There are many Institutions in India that say we have done these studies

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We do not have a specific solution for a specific problem……

Question by Paul Harvey

“And yet in many places around the world there are attempts being made to link Yoga to specific diseases, can you talk more about this and what is happening in your own Institute in this area.”

Response from TKV Desikachar

“Even if you take a particular illness, which is known as an illness according to medical parlance like asthma or blood pressure, what we offer to these people is not the same thing. We do not have a specific solution for a specific problem.

For example, somebody may have blood pressure because of some family history, somebody else may have blood pressure because of some stress, somebody may have blood pressure because of anxiety, somebody may have blood pressure because of that period in their life, somebody may have blood pressure, high blood pressure suddenly because of a broken relationship.

We need to take into account all these factors to exactly form a programme of Yoga. It could be relaxation for somebody, it could be some breathing exercises for somebody, it could be some Āsana for somebody, it could be some meditation for somebody, and for somebody it could be just talking to the person, just to establish a friendly relationship and console them.

The condition is the same and these are all Yoga. As far as the doctor is concerned it is blood pressure. For somebody else maybe none of these things work but maybe we have to talk to them about their diet or their lifestyle.”

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

The spirit of viniyoga is starting from where one finds oneself……

viniyoga

“The spirit of viniyoga is starting from where one finds oneself.
As everybody is different and changes from time to time,
there can be no common starting point,
and ready-made answers are useless.
The present situation must be examined
and the habitually established status must be re-examined.”
– TKV Desikachar

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Interview with TKV Desikachar

By Paul Harvey in 2000 whilst studying with TKV Desikachar in Chennai

Paul thanks Desikachar for agreeing to give time for this interview and Desikachar replies with thanks.

Question from Paul Harvey

It is a very broad area that we want to look at around science and medical conditions, as there is a tremendous interest in Yoga as a therapy in the world today.

I would like to start by maybe getting a historical perspective on Yoga and asking questions on your understanding of it. Where do you feel that this link started between Yoga and Science? Because Yoga originally was something that was not associated with science.

It was something that was done for personal development, spiritual development, or even perhaps physical development and somewhere we seem to have made this link with science, which was predominantly something that was growing up in the West whilst at the same time Yoga was growing or has grown in India, with less connection directly with science.

So I am wondering if you could help develop this question about the link between Yoga and Science.

Response from TKV Desikachar

If we look at the history of India, for centuries and centuries for different reasons India has always fascinated the West. More people have travelled to India from the West than from other parts because the Chinese could not come because of the mountains. There has been silk; there has been a lot of mix about India’s great history; also many conquerors came.

Through these travels people from the West, which is the source of modern science, heard about many things that are happening. Among the things that they came to know about were some of what we call the ‘feats’ of Yogis. In fact long, long ago Yoga was linked only to all these feats, levitation, flying, etc.

In the 18th and 19th Century, in the beginning of the 19th Century, there was an observation made during the time of the great King, Ranjit Singh in the Punjab, which fascinated some of the travellers of the West. There was a Yogi who was kept in a box and buried underground. He was there for a number of days and he did not die.

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Meditation also depends on the meditator.

dhyata

Meditation also depends on the meditator.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Dhyāna, the Saṃskṛta word for Meditation, means the link between “I” and……

dhyana

Dhyāna, the Saṃskṛta word for Meditation,
means the link between “I” and a particular question,
and the absence of links in other directions.
It pre-supposes that the “I” is equipped to be linked,
is conscious enough that a link is possible.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

What happens to the “I” in Dhyāna?

dhyana

“What happens to the “I” in Dhyāna?”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

I do not believe it is possible to teach meditation in a group situation……

dhyana

“I do not believe it is possible to teach meditation in a group situation,
but I hope I am wrong.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Does the object of meditation affect the ‘I’?

dhyeya

Question: Does the object of meditation affect the ‘I’?
“The characteristics of the object go into the meditator.
The Dhyeya (object or question) is very important,
it influences the meditator,
for whatever one is linked to,
its through the mind.”
– TKV Desikachar Madras 1988

I do not reject the concept of meditation without a question for inquiry……

dhyeya

“I do not reject the concept of meditation without a question for inquiry or an object for meditation,
but how, given the previous definition of meditation,
could we explain the absence of a question or an object in this scheme?
Certainly, if the ‘I’ is not there, there can be no meditation.
Many heads have rolled on this question of objectless meditation and I want to save my head.
It may be possible to meditate without an object but,
personally, I am skeptical that one can.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

When an object is invisible, it is not invisible because it is not there……

visaya

“When an object is invisible,
it is not invisible because it is not there,
but because something hides it.
What you seek may be next door,
but you won’t find it precisely because it is next door.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

According to Patañjali, comprehension is dependent opon two things……

apeksa

“According to Patañjali (Yoga Sūtra Chapter Four verse 17),
comprehension is dependent upon two things:
1. Your interest
and
2. The proximity of the object.
Apekṣā is the interest of the Puruṣa for the object.
The success of Dhyāna depends on the force (Śakti) of the Puruṣa
that pushes the mind to direct itself towards an object.
Without interest, there is no question and no answer.
If you have the interest, you will discover the proximity.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

How does the ‘I’ influence Dhyāna?

dhyana

Question: How does the ‘I’ influence Dhyāna?
“Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra, which describes every aspect of mental activity,
provides an answer to this question…….”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Once again, let me remind you that Dhyāna is……

dhyana

“Once again, let me remind you that Dhyāna is:
1. The ability to establish a contact with an object.
2. The ability to prolong this contact so as to create a link both ways.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Since Dhyāna cannot occur without an object of concentration……

dhyana

“Since Dhyāna cannot occur without an object of concentration,
there must be an area (Deśa) where you fix your mind.
So, first you have to fix or bind (Bandha) your mind on a particular place (Deśa), a chosen object; this is known as (Deśa Bandha as in YS C3 v1).
And second, the mind should establish a relationship with this object which should last, at least, for a moment.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Perhaps the best explanation of Dhyāna is given by Patañjali in……

dhyana

“Perhaps the best explanation of Dhyāna is given by Patañjali in the Yoga Sūtra Chapter Three verses One and Two, where he states that one must first fix the question (Dhāraṇā) and then link to it (Dhyāna).
One who is not able to fix the question is not able to succeed in Dhyāna.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

We need to begin with a definition of Dhyāna……

dhyana

“We need to begin with a definition of Dhyāna.
Dhyāna involves an individual and a question or object.
On a simplest level, what happens between the individual and that question or object is the beginning of Dhyāna.
It can be any question, but it must be one question.
There must only be one channel between the “I” and the question, not multi-channels.
The “I” must temporarily drop the other interests and there must be a question.
There is no Dhyāna if there is no question or object.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

In the Vedic tradition, meditation – the need to reflect on something in……

dhyana

“In the Vedic tradition, meditation
– the need to reflect on something in order to understand it better
– is necessary for happiness.”
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988

Dhyāna means ‘to look for something new on a specific subject’.

dhyana

Dhyāna means ‘to look for something new on a specific subject’.
TKV Desikachar Madras December 19th 1988