I studied for a while at a naturopathic college, and I recall most vividly an informal debate between students (organic chemistry requires a little stimulation sometimes) regarding vaccination. A naturopathic approach can be polarizing in itself, but the vaccination issue is even more contentious. I’m a bit of a skeptic. I like study and proof, and I tend to believe that the scientific method and statistical constraints are essential fail-safes. I appreciate the value of other forms of “knowing,” but when it comes to violent illness, for example, I’d prefer for my “knowing” to be backed up by long-term, incontrovertible evidence.
There’s such value in finding balance between intuitive, anecdotal, personal forms of knowing and large-scale, double-blind, scientific research. Human progress in many pursuits is most endangered when ideas become so entrenched that they become inviolable.
And all of this is why I wholeheartedly support modern research into what proponents of yoga have known full-well for millennia. After five-thousand years of existence, yoga has no need of lab-coats. A practice that has helped millions, and continues to do so, provides its own legitimacy, but I do believe that there are worlds of potential available for growth when all approaches to knowledge are accommodated. Scholarly research into yoga, at least by Western sources, is currently scarce, but what is available convincingly demonstrates the efficacy – from a randomized, controlled, and objective point of view – of yoga for the improvement of a variety of conditions.
Of course, medical research tends to concentrate on already diseased states and the treatments devised to mitigate them. Publishing methods of maintaining already good health doesn’t, unfortunately, make for groundbreaking news, though I have hope that we will one day shift away from “reactionary health-care” and move toward a more preventative model. In the meantime, much of the research available concerns the use of yoga for the management of a number of psychological and physical conditions. It becomes quickly apparent that yoga is, according to legitimate scientific study, an effective and viable response to many complaints.
There’s an interesting collection of abstracts here: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/April/Yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
As I continue to learn about, and grow, in yoga, I recognize the usefulness of both traditional and modern approaches. The most pleasant discovery that I have made is the uniformity of recent findings. These confirm the salutary effect of yoga on health and recovery. It’s beautiful to come across something so uncomplicated as universal agreement – yoga does a body (and mind) good.