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What are the causes of disease?
There is only one real cause which combines every cause, and that is imbalance. Whether it is ecological or pertaining to our lifestyle, diet, mind, thinking pattern; the main thing is imbalance.
Physical imbalance is the cause of postural defects, stooping shoulders and other kinds of physiological ailments or diseases. Stomach problems come from dietary imbalance. Mental imbalance arises from conflict and emotional tension. For example, in a family where the husband desires something and the wife wants something else there is conflict, which may result in diseases like hypertension and diabetes, cardiac problems. When there is suppressed desire or ambition it may lead to asthma.
Then there is spiritual imbalance, when the mind is too extrovert and seeks pleasure and satisfaction and peace outside. This leads to mental dissipation, Ashanti, loss of mental faculties and inner balance. So the one word to define diseases is “ imbalance”. We can even see the result of ecological imbalance which gives birth to many kinds of illnesses and diseases.
Yoga says that first of all you have to correct the imbalances of the body. This will increase the body’s resistance and you will eventually be able to control the influx of other factors which create imbalance within us. The imbalance of the mind can be removed by the practices of pratyahara and dharana, such as mantra, antar mouna, ajapa japa, tratak and yoga nidra. In this process of removing the mental imbalance you will first attain peace and tranquility. The second attainment will be balance of our emotions, thoughts and desires. The third attainment is the balance of the energies that control the performance and functions of the body, mind and prana. This leads us to the fourth attainment of, optimum health.
Yoga has never viewed any illness or disease as something purely physiological or psychological. It has always viewed an illness in the context of the whole human personality, and mind you, it works. Depression can be eliminated by the simple practice of pawanmuktasana, moving the toes forward and backward ten times, if it is due to a physical, pranic or psychological imbalance. You do not need to practice the headstand or other techniques.
However, we also have to identify the strata of our personality which may have been affected due to an imbalance, be it physical, internal or external. Yoga has classifieds these into five:
1-Annamaya kosha: the gross external body of bones, muscles, marrow, blood vessels and so forth.
2- Pranamaya kosha: the field of energy, or the pranic fild.
3- Manomaya kosha: the mind, feelings that we get, thoughts that affect us, desires which are generated within, ambitions that inhibit our progress, the vrittis, tendencies, the gunas and different natures which dominate our personality.
4- Vigyanmaya kosha: our intelligence which is based on buddhi but which is transcendental as well as being in the form of viveka, discrimination.
5- Anandamaya kosha: the nature of oneness of the spirit. All these strata of our personality can be affected and they have to be dealt with.
One illness can seriously damage one particular level of our personality. A heart problem can seriously damage our pranamaya and annamaya koshas, but the effect on the other koshas may not be so serious. It may damage the manomaya kosha to an extent tthat we will be constantly thinking, “Oh, I am sick, I have had a heart attack, I can’t do this or that”, and in this way further deteriorate our condition. So an illness like that has to be treated on these three levels by creating a balance first in the subtle aspect, which is difficult.
Yoga does not believe in getting rid of the gross aspect first, or the symptoms that we see externally, although there are different systems of therapy which do it that way. When our blood pressure suddenly shoots up we take a pill, but rising of blood pressure is a symptom of a mental state. By simple taking the pill we do not remove the tension or the anxiety from the mental state; we are only subduing the symptom. It is the same with asthma. When an attack comes the sufferer reaches for the in haler, the bronchial tubes dilate and they feel better. That is a symptom of some tension that has triggered off a physical reaction. We have treated the symptom but not the cause, which triggered off the actual asthmatic fit.
Yoga takes all these into consideration, and that is why therapy in Yoga takes a long time. But if one is true to the path and follows it despite every kind of mental ups and downs, simply keeping on with the practices, then first the subtle and then the gross imbalances will be removed. Those who are sick must remember that they have to pin-point the imbalances within themselves before they can hope for a permanent cure.

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