Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Impact of Mind on our Health



It is a well known fact that the majority of diseases are due to the adverse impact of the mind on our health. The modern man is surrounded by end number of tensions in his mind like the work tensions, financial tensions, family tensions, social tensions, political tensions, geographical tensions and all other sorts of tensions. All these factors have an adverse impact on the human mind which in turn hampers his health and wealth as well. I recently happened to read an interview of Buddhist Monk Sri Dalai Lama where he replied to a question of the reporter asking him, what surprises him the most about a man in today’s life. “I am really surprised to see a modern man running after money all through his life sacrificing the health and again sacrificing the hard earned money in gaining the lost health. He is living in hope of the future as if he is never going to die; forgetting the fact that present is the only reality. Present was there yesterday, it is there today and will be there tomorrow. But the modern man is missing the real essence of life which is present.”

Today it has become a common scenario in every household that a man shouting at his wife, wife shouting at her husband, mother yelling on her kids. It has become a rare to find a household free from anger, irritation and quarrels. The scenario is no different in the streets where you find neighbors arguing, quarrelling and fighting for unnecessary things. You see the bosses shouting at their subordinates in the office, politicians and religious leaders are busy in arguing, quarrelling and fighting against each other. The entire society is in a mess these days. The anguish, frustration, irritation, anger etc have become the qualities of a modern man. People are using the weapon called anger to get their work done. People usually are scared with angry men and therefore if a boss shouts at the subordinates, they finish the task out of fear. Since the desired work is being fulfilled they are never bothered to control their anger. Anger might give you certain short term benefits but it results in adversities in the long run. Anger not only scares the other person, hurts the other person but it also leads to a tremendous amount of personal loss. Angry people never gain complete love and affection of others, cannot lead a happy and joyful life with others.

Now let us try to understand physiologically what kind of changes and reactions occur in a human mind and body when a man undergoes through emotional outburst like anger, frustration, irritation, fear and anguish in the words of Dr. Manthena Satyanarayana Raju. If any of these reactions appear in human mind, the cells in our brain undergo certain kind of pressure. The moment the mind experiences such pressure, the oxygen supplies to the brain cells is reduced. In reaction to this the body immediately releases the hormone called Adrenaline into the blood stream. As a result of this hormone the heart beat rises as it pumps more blood to meet the required oxygen levels. The lungs too function more in unison with the heart to provide more oxygen to the body. In this way the heart, lungs and nerves work together to fulfill the shortage of oxygen requirement in the brain. The horse rider whips the back of a horse with a hunter when he wants to make his journey quicker. Similarly the body whips the heart, lungs and nerves to function faster with a hunter called adrenaline hormone. This hormone is immediately released into the blood stream by the body anytime your mind undergoes an emotional outburst.

Let us now analyze what kind of chemical changes and harms that causes to our body when these hormones are released frequently.

1. The blood pressure levels rise immediately when the heart functions at a faster rate. Whenever you find a person shouting in anger, you say that his BP might have increased. That is why he is shouting louder. Is it not?

2. The lungs start functioning faster in order to provide the required oxygen. You feel short of breath and perspire with buzzing exhalations and quicker inhalations.

3. The face and eyes turn red immediately after getting angry. It happens due to excess blood flow in the arteries and veins passing through face to the brains.

4. The head, forehead and rest of the body become hot as if the blood is boiling inside. It is therefore, many people feel headache in times of stress, anger, frustration and sadness.

5. The nerves in the body gets contracted due to the release of Adrenaline hormone into the blood stream which results in the pain in neck region for many people.

6. Whenever the mental outburst occurs you don’t feel like eating anymore. The hunger dies for long hours. More hydrochloric acid is released in the stomach; the production of starchy substance is reduced which in turn leads to abdominal inflammation and ulcers. There are people who eat more during stress, anger and frustration. They are more at risk of these abdominal disorders and ulcers.

7. Adrenaline hormone induces the liver to release more glucose into the blood stream. It is therefore, the sugar levels rise the very moment diabetic people get angry or stressed.

8. A man loses his discriminative intelligence the moment he succumbs to mental outburst like stress, anger and frustration.

9. The body and mind goes through so many reactions and chemical changes during this period, the body expends lot of energy in order to bring balance and poise. It is this reason; one feels tired and fatigued after mental outburst.

10. The hormone system in our body is interlinked and inter connected. If any gland that secrets hormone undergoes stress it pass on to other hormone secreting glands successively. This makes the whole system a mess.

Apart from these many more chemical reactions occur in the body and mind. A few seconds are enough to undergo these many changes in the body. But the body needs great effort and time in resuming normalcy.

Solution to this Problem:

Now let us try to find out the ways to get rid of this critical modern day problem of mental outburst. The great master Osho says, “The solution lies in the problem itself. If you observe the problem carefully, you get the solution.”

We can get rid of this problem only when we can keep our body fragile and mind in poise. One can maintain a fragile and healthy body by following good diet and physical exercises but bringing poise of mind is little difficult. It needs lot of disciple, dedication and hard work. According to Guruji BKS Iyengar “diseases are not just a physical phenomenon. Anything that disturbs your spiritual life and practice is a disease and will manifest eventually in illness. Health begins with firmness in body, deepens to emotional stability and then leads to intellectual clarity, wisdom and finally the unveiling of the soul. You are not completely healthy as long as you have not attained physical health, physiological health, psychological health, intellectual health, health of the consciousness and conscience and the spiritual or divine health. One must not forget that the health begins with body. Body and mind are the two children of the soul. You must nourish and train your child. There is no better way than Yoga to nourish and train them. Physical health is not a commodity to bargain for. Nor it can be swallowed in the form of drugs and pills. It has to be earned through sweat. It is something that we must build up. You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation and infinity. This is health.” 

Guruji is a living example of a person with complete health. Even at this age of 95 he practices yoga for about 3 hours a day. It is a treat to watch him practice his asanas. He reaches the divine in his asanas. Only few fortunate one's have got the opportunity to see this amazing sight.

You need to conquer your body first with the regular practice of asanas. Only a healthy body possesses a sound and poised mind. Once the body is conquered and made healthy you then need to conquer your mind with Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) to conquer the mind.

Since we are discussing on the impact of mind on our health and now let us try to understand the impact of yoga on our mind and see how yoga helps in relieving us from this problem from the very roots.

Impact of Yoga on Mind:

There was a time in my life where I was going through lot of depression due to financial issues, relationship issues, work issues etc. Nothing was going right for me. Every decision I made used to fire back at me giving another head ache. Anger was on the tip of my nose ready to explode. My behavior with my wife and other family members during that period was still unbelievable to many of them. Anger and frustration made me cruel and violent. I hurt my loved ones a lot under the influence of mental outburst. I used to realize my mistake after some time and by the time I realize, enough damage was done. My health was deteriorating at a great pace. I was looking out for a savior and Guruji BKS Iyengar came to my salvage with his book “Illustrated light on Yoga”. I practiced yoga by reading his book for about one year and then joined my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan for further studies in Yoga. It’s been 2 years I am nurturing my yoga skills under the experienced hands of my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan. Things began to change gradually and I am going through lots of transformation ever since I began to practice yoga. Slowly I began to fall in love with Yoga and my love for yoga increases every time I meet Guruji or listen to him or watch him on TV, internet etc. He is such an inspiration for millions of people like me.

Yoga has changed my life completely. Now I realized that Yoga can only relieve you from all sorts of mental and physical problems. There are many misconceptions about yoga. Majority of people think Yoga is just another physical exercise; which is so wrong. Some other think yoga involves religious practices belonging Hindus; which is also wrong.

“Yoga is not a religion – remember that. Yoga is not Hindu, It is not Mohammedan. Yoga is a pure science just like mathematics, physics or chemistry. It is the science that leads to inner awakening. Inner awakening is possible only if you explore your body and mind and go beyond the mind. It has nothing to do with a particular religion or sect. Physics is not Christian, physics is not Buddhist. If Christians have discovered the laws of physics, even then physics is not Christian. It is just accidental that Christians have come to discover the laws of physics. But physics remains just a science. Yoga is a science – it is just an accident that Hindus discovered it. It is not Hindu. It is a pure mathematics of the inner being. So a Mohammedan can be a Yogi, a Christian can be a Yogi, a Jain; a Bauddha can be a Yogi. Sage Patanjali in his yogasutras mentioned that Yoga is above time, space and caste” – (Osho Alpha and Omega of Yoga Vol.1)

To make you understand more about the study of mind, I am quoting few words of wisdom on mind by “Osho in his book Alpha and Omega of Yoga Vol.1”:

Mind can be either the source of bondage or source of freedom. Mind becomes the gate for this world, the entry; it can also become the exit. Mind leads you to the hell; mind can lead you also to the heaven. So it depends how the mind is used. Right use of mind becomes meditation; wrong use of the mind becomes madness.

Mind is there with everyone. The possibility of darkness and light both are implied in it. Mind itself is neither the enemy nor the friend. You can make it a friend you can make it an enemy. It depends on you – on you who is hidden behind the mind. If you can make the mind your instrument, your slave, the mind becomes the passage through which you can reach the ultimate. If you become the slave and the mind is allowed to be the master, then this mind which has become master will lead you to the ultimate anguish and darkness. All the techniques, all the methods, all the paths of yoga, are really concerned deeply only with one problem: how to use the mind. Rightly used, mind comes to a point where it becomes no-mind. Wrongly used, mind comes to a point where it is just a chaos, many voices antagonistic to each other – contradictory, confusing, insane.

The madman in the madhouse and Buddha under his bodhi tree – both have used the mind; both have passed through the mind. Buddha has come to a point where mind disappears. Rightly used it goes on disappearing; a moment comes when it is not. The madman has also used the mind. Wrongly used, mind becomes divided; wrongly used, mind becomes many; wrongly used it becomes a multitude. And, finally, the mad mind is there, you are absolutely absent.

Buddha’s mind has disappeared, and Buddha is present in his totality. A madman’s mind has become total, and he himself disappeared completely. These are the two poles. You and your mind, if they exist together, then you will be in misery. Either you will have to disappear or the mind will have to disappear. If the mind disappears, then you achieve truth; if you disappear, you achieve insanity. And this is the struggle: who is going to disappear! You are going to disappear or the mind? This is the conflict, the root of all struggles.

These sutras of Patanjali will lead you step by step towards this understanding of the mind – what it is, what types of modes it takes, what types of modifications come into it, how you can use it and go beyond it. And, remember, you have nothing else right now – only the mind. You have to use it.

Wrongly used, you will go on falling into more and more misery. You are in misery. That is because for many lives you have used your mind wrongly. And the mind has become the master; you are just a slave, a shadow following the mind. You cannot say to the mind,”Stop” You cannot order your own mind; your mind goes on ordering you and you have to follow it. Your being has become the shadow and the slave, an instrument. Mind is nothing but an instrument, just like your hands or your feet. You order your feet – your legs, they move. When you say”Stop” they stop. You are the master. If I want to move my hand, I move it. If I don’t want to move, I don’t move it. The hand cannot say to me,”Now I want to be moved.” The hand cannot say to me,”Now I will move whatsoever you do. I am not going to listen to you.” And if my hand starts moving in spite of me, then it will be a chaos in the body. The same has happened in the mind.

You don’t want to think, and the mind goes on thinking. You want to sleep. You are Lying down on your bed, changing your sides; you want to go to sleep, and the mind continues, the mind says,”No, I am going to think about something.” You go on saying”Stop” and it never listens to you. And you cannot do anything. Mind is also an instrument, but you have given it too much power. It has become dictatorial, and it will struggle hard if you try to put it in its right place.

Buddha also uses the mind, but his mind is just like your legs. People go on coming to me and they ask,”What happens to the mind of an enlightened one? Does it simply disappear? He cannot use it?” It disappears as a master, it remains as a slave. It remains as a passive instrument. A Buddha wants to use it, he can use it. When Buddha speaks to you he will have to use it, because there is no possibility of speech without the mind. The mind has to be used. If you go to Buddha and he recognizes you, that you have been before also, he has to use the mind. Without mind there can be no recognition; without mind there is no memory. But he uses the mind; remember this is the distinction – and you are being used by the mind. Whenever he wants to use it, he uses it. Whenever he doesn’t want to use it, he doesn’t use it. It is a passive instrument; it has no hold upon him. So Buddha remains like a mirror. If you come before the mirror, the mirror reflects you. When you have moved, the reflection has gone; the mirror is vacant. You are not like a mirror. You see somebody, the man has gone, but the thinking continues, the reflection continues. You go on thinking about him. And even if you want to stop, the mind won’t listen. Mastery of the mind is yoga. And when Patanjali says,”cessation of the mind”, this is meant: cessation as a master. Mind ceases as a master. Then it is not active. Then it is a passive instrument. You order, it works; you don’t order, it remains still. It is just waiting. It cannot assert by itself. The assertion is lost; the violence is lost. It will not try to control you. Now just the reverse is the case. How to become masters? And how to put mind to its place, where you can use it; where, if you don’t want to use it, you can put it aside and remain silent? So the whole mechanism of the mind will have to be understood. Now we should enter the sutra.”

I quoted this discourse of osho here because if you don’t understand the real essence of yoga practice, the entire practice becomes mechanical just like any other exercise. It takes a great discipline to learn the ancient art and science of yoga.

The West is now awakening. Yoga has become a rage in the west. Thanks to the efforts of Guruji in promoting yoga in the west. A recent survey showed that 1 out of every 10 Americans are practicing yoga and 7 out of 10 yoga practitioners are women. What a heartening fact. Though yoga is gaining popularity again in India but there is not much progress in case of women.

With a hope, this article inspires you to take up yoga practice to gain complete health as described by Yogacharya BKS Iyengar I am concluding this article here. Keep watching the space for more updates.
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