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Are Yoga and Western Medicine Incompatible?

in Featured, YD News, Yogitorials

prescription-mortar-pestleby Charlotte Bell

In the past few days, an article by a yoga teacher named Hemalayaa has been making the Facebook rounds. The author of the article expresses shock and disappointment at the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications by yoga teachers who, she opines, are just taking a “happy pill” rather than doing the hard work of dealing with their issues. She then offers suggestions as to how to get yourself over the hump of depression, such as practicing yoga, taking baths, dancing around your space, and going outside and breathing in the light.

As you might expect, Hemalayaa’s blog has been met with all kinds of vitriol. While I don’t believe mean-spirited comments are at all helpful, I do agree that the blogger oversteps her authority in dangerous ways. I don’t know Hemalayaa’s experience level as a yoga teacher, but I suspect she has not been trained in psychotherapy. Otherwise she would be aware that chemical depression is a life-threatening illness. Breathing in the light does little for someone who’s struggling just to get out of bed. While I tend to agree that antidepressants are overprescribed, there are many people—including people I respect and care about—whose lives have been saved or at the very least, made bearable by them. I respect their choices and am glad that these tools are available.

But the point of this blog is not to join the chorus of critics. It is, instead, to point to a larger issue in Western yoga culture. It is the idea that Western medicine has no place in the life of a true yogi or yogini. If your diet and your yoga practice are good enough, you won’t need to resort to pharmaceuticals, right?

My Judgmental Past

I’ll begin by admitting that I’ve been guilty of this misguided philosophy in the past. In addition to practicing yoga since 1982, I worked in the supplements department of New Frontiers Natural Market for five years when they operated stores in Salt Lake City. As a vegetarian since 1978, I’ve been interested in maintaining vitality through eating healthy foods and using natural means to deal with illnesses when they arise. I’ve read everything I could about natural nutrition—and still do. I’ve experimented with lots of foods and supplements in order to keep my system healthy and vital, and it has paid off. I’m comforted to know that I have the knowledge to take care of most imbalances that arise.

In the past I looked askance at people who resorted to pharmaceuticals to deal with physical imbalances. When someone told me they were starting some sort of Western treatment for a condition of imbalance, I offered what I felt to be helpful alternatives.

Then about five years ago, I found out, almost by accident, that my blood pressure was off the charts. My mother took blood pressure meds from her early 40s until she died. My dad passed from a heart attack at age 63 due to his unusually small arteries (which I may have inherited).

Despite my genetic predisposition, I proclaimed to my partner that I would not go on Western blood pressure meds to fix it. I doubled down on acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbs and supplements. Nothing helped. I went to a naturopathic doctor who is also trained in Western methods. After a few visits he said, “You already do all the things I’d suggest first: You don’t smoke or drink alcohol; you practice yoga and meditation; you eat healthy, organic food; you exercise. You need medication.”

By then I was alarmed enough by my elevated blood pressure that I took his advice. With a minimum amount of daily medication, my blood pressure has been stable since then.

Think of the Pills as Magic

Still, there was the shame. My own belief, and that of the larger yoga culture, was that my practice must not be strong enough or committed enough. I wrote to my friend and teacher Judith Hanson Lasater because I always appreciate her perspective. Her words were perfect: “Think of the pills as magic, because they are.” She was right.

The average human life span in the past was much shorter than it is now, and part of the reason is we didn’t have access to these minimally invasive medications to help control common issues. My dad’s father died of a heart attack in his mid-50s, probably because he didn’t have access to medications and procedures that could have given him a longer life. I never got to meet him.

During the course of trying to balance my blood pressure, many well-meaning friends gave me helpful advice, hoping to help me stay off the dreaded pharmaceuticals. While I appreciate their caring and generosity, and know they intended only to be helpful, their advice fueled my shame and embarrassment at having “failed” to take care of the problem with natural means. I had tried everything else; I truly needed pharmaceutical assistance. I remembered all the times I had given similar advice to others. I no longer offer unsolicited suggestions, but when asked, I do refer people to the many capable therapists and providers I know. And I feel comfortable answering questions about yoga and meditation practice.

I now believe that yoga and Western medicine do not have to be at odds. The intention is the same for both: wellness. The methods are different, but both aim to balance what is out of balance in our bodies and minds. I still keep up on the latest information on natural remedies, and I always use natural means as my first defense against common conditions. But there are some things that need Western intervention, and we are fortunate to live in a time when these methods are available.

We all come into the world with different genetics. Every one of us will encounter illness in our lifetimes. It is up to each of us to decide the remedy that is best for us in each instance. Rather than using yoga as a bludgeon to shame those who need Western intervention, can we use yoga to be open and supportive of everyone’s path, even if it doesn’t look like ours?

~

Charlotte Bell is a yoga and meditation teacher, oboist and writer living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Hugger Mugger Yoga Products’s blog and Catalyst Magazine, and has published two books with Rodmell Press: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life and Yoga for Meditators.

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36 comments… add one

  • Northern Harrier

    Good analysis. One thought to add: I think one of the issues at play is that practitioners have this naive sense that once on the yoga path, if you are really on it, that life evolves in this ever perfecting way, and if it doesn’t you are then off the path. This has additionally been co-opted by the our Western obsession with the perfect body – if you can be photographed in a bikini, you are more on the path than someone who would be shamed off the internet for such a photo. Like the author, I draw from my experience that this just isn’t so. I stepped on the path in the 90s and after making a full commitment to my first guru who turned out to be a serial rapist, I went through a severe bought of PTSD. I used yoga as part of my tool box and I was forced to dig deeper into my soul than ever before. I also smoked weed everyday for 5 years to get over the PTSD until I had healed enough that I did not need it any longer. I struggled at first with guilt/shame about not being stronger but then I realized this was an external expectation that simply didn’t match my own trajectory. I went through an utterly life shattering experience and it took a long fucking time to put the pieces back together. I would not give this experience up for anything – the suffering I faced made me a much better, deeper, more thoughtful person and I have much more to offer my students now than I did when I had not faced the dark night of my soul. I also feel that marijuana expedited my healing because it gave me some good feeling back and turned the journey into digestible pieces. Judge away. I think these standards of perfection currently gripping our collective yoga mind have actually very little to do with the true perfection of the soul that awaits us if we dig into all parts of life.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story. I think there’s a “honeymoon phase” in yoga practice, as in so many other things. In that phase, as you say, we think “life evolves in this ever perfecting way” and to some extent it does for a while. My external situation was different from yours, but I also went through a difficult dark night after a very profound experience on a 30-day vipassana retreat. I was very fortunate to have a teacher/mentor that could help me negotiate the very dark days. Like you, I emerged with so much more humility and compassion than before. When someone is going through difficulties such as PTSD, I feel it’s important to employ whatever tools are necessary to help you move through it. If marijuana helps, I say more power to you. No judging necessary.

  • Ellen

    Thank you so much for sharing this – I never read blogs (although recently I’ve been thinking of starting my own), but I stumbled upon this today and it helped me so much, just wanted to let you know :) I have been in therapy for months dealing with several very difficult issues, one being a very stubborn marijuana addiction and the guilt/shame surrounding it – I’ve had the expectation that drugs are a bad mark on my character and a hindrance to my spiritual practice – a “sin”, perhaps, left-over from my fundamentalist Christian phase in high school before I found yoga. Every time I try and quit, I end up so miserable that I eventually give up and “relapse”, and endure the subsequent guilt/shame cycle. For months now, my emotional state has been drastically interfering with my health, my work, and my relationships. Despite several kind, non-judgemental suggestions from people like my therapist, my husband, and my family (my father, mother and grandmother, by the way, are all on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication of some kind), I stubbornly resisted, feeling that there just HAD to be a better, more natural way that was more in line with my spiritual practice. I’ve tried acupuncture, several kinds of bodywork, yoga in all forms, mantras, meditation classes, affirmations, herbs, etc and even going to Marijuana Anonymous meetings (which I had to overcome a whole different set of judgments and expectations about before I’d set foot there). On Friday, I finally accepted defeat and dragged my sorry self to the doctor’s office (after finding an MD specializing in integrative health and wellness, of course), where I tearfully explained my situation. He gently suggested I stop trying to go cold-turkey off of weed (which my therapist also has suggested before) and perhaps just try and taper, and try an anti-depressant in the mean-time. The anti-depressant is already working wonders. Today, after “giving in” and smoking after a particularly hard day, I do a little yoga practice, focusing on surrender and letting go of expectations. Right after that, I stumble upon this article and your comment. It got me thinking: if I’m being honest, weed really does help me process my feelings in manageable bits, and helps me function in day-to-day living as I continue to deal with some painful family/health circumstances It’s nice to give myself permission to just let that be the truth. Surrender, for me, and that ever-elusive self-acceptance I’ve always struggled with, just might mean accepting the support of both anti-depressants and marijuana for the present. Anyway, thank you so much for helping me come around to this!

  • We have been given many gifts, choices and opportunities in this wonderful life. All are tools given to us to enhance ourselves as we so choose. Western Medicine has many gifts…would you go to an acupuncture practitioner if you were hit by car? An acupuncture practitioner many be your choice to deal with posy injury pain. Both have their place, Our wisdom lies in our choices to maintain and improve your life and health.

  • I agree. In less than two weeks I will be getting a new left hip joint, due to hip dysplasia from shallow hip sockets. I’ve been quelling the discomfort for years with body work, but no amount of body work is going to eliminate the bone spurs and regrown cartilage in my joint. I’m grateful that this option is available!

  • Asananine

    Many in the yoga world view physicians and the pharmaceutical industry with skepticism. Conversely, any kind of alternative therapy is viewed in the highest esteem. I think it was her tone that hit a nerve. If she had merely suggested that crystal chakra clearing is a more effective treatment for depression, no one would have objected.

  • I also view the pharmaceutical industry with skepticism, and I’m not thrilled with the cozy relationship they seem to have with the FDA, the entity that is supposed to regulate them. Still, as you say, there are many conditions that will only respond to Western methods. That said, on your advice next time I feel a little down, I’ll find someone who knows about crystals.

  • Asananine

    I was being sarcastic in suggesting the crystals, but do as you please. My point was that people trust anything alternative but shun the conventional, and you helped to make my point.

  • Thanks for the perspective Charlotte! I love that you pointed to a bigger problem. I think another big problem is the unfortunate stigma around mental health. Love this HuffPo article that asks “What if people treated physical illness like mental illness” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/13/mental-illness-physical-i_n_6145156.html

  • Thanks for your comment and for the link. I read the HuffPo post and agree wholeheartedly. It’s unfortunate that there’s still so much confusion about mental illness. Posts such as Hemalayaa’s point to the fact that the confusion exists everywhere, not just in the mainstream, but also in the yoga world.

  • Thanks! My hope is that bringing this up will spark a constructive, compassionate discussion about the issue. Thanks for participating!

  • Steph

    Thank you for sharing your story, very important

  • Steph, I don’t know how I managed to mess this up, but the comment above yours was meant for you!

  • Great response, Charlotte. And while the pills certainly seem magical — my DVT and pulmonary embolism is clear after 6 months of warfarin, which was originally developed as rat poison — they’ve actually emerged precisely in rebellion to earlier forms of magic. The distinction that yoga culture consistently fails to make is between primal intuition and the methods that have followed it, and that, for the most part, regulate the most basic movements of our lives.

  • Thanks for your comment, Matthew. It seems that especially in the “honeymoon stage” of yoga practice, people develop all-or-nothing ideas about what yoga can or can’t do, and that all other modalities are wrong. I did this too, until I couldn’t. I’m glad you were able to control your DVT and pulmonary embolism. Sometimes Western meds really do work.

  • Thank you for such a thorough, honest response! Heaping shame on each other for the way we choose to approach illness—any kind of illness!—helps no one, and certainly isn’t ahimsa.

  • So true. I’ve found that for all the talk about not judging, there’s a whole lot of judgment around people’s choices when they don’t involve using yoga as therapy. Thanks for adding this to the discussion.

  • Asananine

    Western medicine has actual standards to uphold. Physicians are subject to malpractice and drug companies are subject to testing and liability. There are actual consequences for actions. Yoga teachers are subject to no such liability.

  • So I was one of those shocked by Hemaylaa’s article regarding yoga teachers and anti-depressants. While I think Charlotte Bell’s article is an interesting one I feel it does little to address the judgement and stigma of Hemaylaa’a original post. I’m “outing” myself here on Yogadork because I feel that both the original post and the follow up apology post were untenable. The follow up post was more about protection of her “Brand” and calling those of us who are on medication as “users” as if it was some recreational mood enhancement drug )”Happy Pills”) rather than what these medications truly due which is to allow those of us with Depression (Not a few weeks of feeling blue but months and years of a lack of vitality) to survive. This is my original post regarding Hemalayaa’s blog post “I’m shocked at how many yoga teachers take anti-depressants”. I feel strongly about the advocacy of helping those with mental health issues. I know that yoga teachers are human, subject to all the pitfalls, trauma’s and genetic issues as much as the rest of the population. I’ve often said “No one comes to the mat whole, we come to the mat to heal.” No one teacher or student should be shamed on their journey to wholeness.

    “So, I have PTSD. Repeated childhood trauma -I score an 8 on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience Test) in the past 2 years I have lost both of my parents, one of my 7 sisters, and been assaulted. I’ve practiced yoga and meditation daily since I was 25, I’m 47 now. I rode the “high road” for 44 years, suffering in silence, finding joy in the sunshine, and at the feet of many great teachers, including a Satguru. I’ve taught for 15 years, owned a studio for 14 years and trained teachers both here in the states and overseas. I’m not a Dr. nor do I tell people how to cope with adversity in their lives with the trite advice that you have advocated in this tone deaf and harmful article. I take anti depressants, though due to my own body’s intolerance to SSRI’s they are at “Sub-therapeutic” dose. I take sleep meds to help cope with horrific nightmares- that is on the nights that I can sleep. I take a beta blocker to cope with a constant level of anxiety and fear- neither of which can be dispersed by japa, silent meditation, by physical practice, healthy organic eating, or time in the sunshine. As to your description of “Happy Pills”, none of these have made me happy, but they have kept me alive. I found this article devoid of compassion, of love of others, full of judgement regarding lives that she has no understanding of and deeply disturbing regarding the Yama’s and Niyama’s. Hemalayaa– education regarding mental disturbances and illnesses is a must for you, certainly before you put forth such a dangerous, damaging and thoroughly thoughtless article. Self promotion is an ugly thing, though to create a pearl one piece of sand within an oyster is irritated over and over again.”

  • Thanks so much for sharing your reaction to Hemalayaa’s piece and for sharing your story. I had a similar reaction to Hema’s original blog post, but so many commentors—such as you—did such a great job of addressing the lack of compassion and understanding in the blog, I felt that I wanted to write instead about the larger issue of the general lack of compassion and understanding in the yoga community with regard to Western medicine. That is why I chose not to address the condescending tone and lack of understanding in the original blog. I also had a somewhat negative response to the apology. It is admirable that she admitted to a lack of knowledge and her condescending tone. But the part where she expressed regret that the original post “tainted my name and my brand” made me feel less comfortable.

  • sweetclafoutis

    I’m an ashtangi with a six-day-a-week practice and asthma. It’s relatively mild, but I do have less lung capacity than the average person. When we chant in class, I always run out of breath before everyone else. My five-breath count is generally shorter than the teacher’s count in a led class. In pranayama exercises, when the count goes inhale to six and then hold for four before exhaling for six, I just can’t sustain it and I have to take a breath sooner. I try not to rely on my inhaler, but sometimes I feel my lungs constricting–from cold air, from perfume, from a speck of dust, from whatever–and know that I need a puff or two. And exercise in pranayama will not improve the situation over time. I just do that best that I can, breathe when I need to, and thank Western medicine for bronchodilators. Yoga class should be a no-judgment zone.

  • sweetclafoutis, I’m glad you have your bronchodilator to use when you need to. I’d imagine that the pranayama and asana practice could help your asthma in the long term, but as I’m sure you know, asthma is a life-threatening condition. In those moments when you feel constriction, it’s great that you have a reliable source of oxygen. I hope you are not judged by your teachers and fellow students for using your inhaler. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using it. If it facilitates deep breathing, who can argue with that?

  • I read hemalayaa’s opinion post and was not in the least bit outraged by it. She evinced a typical Pitta reaction of “I can fix this by myself, and I will.” As a pitta-dominant individual myself, I knew she was talking about her personal approach (I used to talk that way myself — when I was in my 20s.) I eventually learned — through my partner who has issues with depression — that people do indeed get into deeply tamasic states that they need help getting out of. I still maintain that the will to solve one’s problems on one’s own (iccha shakti) is an extremely useful (and yogic!) attitude to have, as long as it arises from one’s deep nature and is not simply an ideological imposition on oneself and others as Ms. Bell has described.

    The outrage over this opinion piece by someone whose dvd output includes titles such as “The Bollywood Party Workout” is a sad indication of how far many if not most yoga teachers are from a deeper understanding of yoga, and how closely they identify with the opinion of a fitness instructor in LA only nominally associated with yoga.

    The point of authentic yoga is in fact freedom from dependency on external substances and forms of any kind — eventually — not just “wellness” as Ms. Bell suggests. There is no need to gloss over the fact that the goals and approaches of yoga and western medicine are very, very different. The problem is rigidity of thought, as exemplified by a friend of mine (on the TCM side, not yoga) with appendicitis who is going though all kinds of hell trying to solve the problem without surgery — and no one can convince her otherwise.

    I would assert that pharmaceutics are indeed a crutch, just like any other external support, to be discarded as soon as one finds an appropriate alternative, which may or may not be yoga, or which perhaps will never come. There has never been any issue of “incompatibility’ of western medicine and yoga; only a lack of common sense, or perhaps jnana shakti, in regard to choosing appropriate therapies.

  • Sam

    I find it sad that physicians, therapists and many in the field of mental health consider yoga an excellent adjunctive therapy. Imagine a depressed person who feels assisted by their medication and stepping into a yoga class to be given conflicting advice from someone operating far outside of their scope of practice. Would they be willing to tell that they offer this advice to the company who insures their studio or fitness center? If they are self employed would they be willing to lose their home and their livelihood in the name of this conflict? What is their “skin in the game?”. The person may be hanging on to life by a thread but this silent killer is often invisible to the untrained eye. The conflict between western and eastern medicine is not the responsibility of the student/patient to resolve. Their responsibility is to resolve their own mental health issues with support. Support is what yoga teachers should be doing.

  • Sam, I think you’ve hit on the crux of people’s frustration with the original post. When someone is seeking help for depression, there may be many modalities that can contribute to their physical, mental and emotional wellness. It is the responsibility of all therapists involved to support whatever tools are working for their patient/client/friend.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I want to clarify that as a yoga practitioner of all eight limbs for three decades, I do understand that yoga is about much more than wellness. I’m well aware that asana just one aspect. It is a physical technology designed to affect the human nervous system, to create a harmonious environment for the mind, making it easier to still the mind. Meditation has been far more integral than asana to my practice for more than 25 years. But I can see why you might think that’s my opinion by what I wrote in this piece. I used the terminology I did because of the context of the article and the fact that I was responding to a post that claimed that yoga could cure something as complicated as depression.

    I especially appreciate your last paragraph: “I would assert that pharmaceutics are indeed a crutch, just like any other external support, to be discarded as soon as one finds an appropriate alternative, which may or may not be yoga, or which perhaps will never come. There has never been any issue of “incompatibility’ of western medicine and yoga; only a lack of common sense, or perhaps jnana shakti, in regard to choosing appropriate therapies.” I completely agree that Western medicine and yoga have never been incompatible. But it seems that advocates on both sides like to dig in their heels and spout black-and-white solutions to an issue that is anything but black and white.

  • The above comment is for Bradd. My replies somehow got jumbled a bit!

  • paul

    heemalayaa’s post was ignorant, talking of yoga as a ‘real road’ (rather than a road to the real), and confuses clinical depression with feeling down, but this article makes me angry. depression / clinical depression is in another realm than having high blood pressure or other clearly physical issues, for though one can be genetically predisposed to depression, sometimes with obvious physical causes (like an underactive thyroid as with my family; i stopped taking my medication for this and now don’t have the issue, but i attribute this to drinking unfluoridated water, and more water generally), but also from a life event like heemalayaa’s mother’s divorce. we don’t know if heemalayaa’s friends have a genetic predisposition, or if they were told to start taking magic and be a productive, outgoing citizen who doesn’t kill themselves, because that’s what a lot of depression-prescription is about- not healing nor giving time for the body/emotion to heal, but to be a worker in a culture that conflates positivity with extroversion, and endeavors to make death and suffering invisible (except in make believe or when it serves an economic purpose), and hates nature generally; nature doesn’t often agree with any utopia. when there is no other option, take a pill, but most often these days it is all about pill first, cause later. pills are not magic, they don’t end suffering; the end of suffering is why people practice yoga.

  • Thank you for your insights. I do understand that clinical depression is something entirely different from high blood pressure. Both are potentially life threatening, and both sometimes need the aid of pharmaceuticals. My point in writing the post was not to conflate the two conditions, but to point to the larger issue of the prejudices in the yoga community toward any kind of Western interventions. We often criticize the Western medicine community for being closed to other kinds of therapies, but the closed-mindedness seems to cut both ways. I feel that the two don’t have to be at odds. So, I apologize if my writing seem to you to be conflating clinical depression with high blood pressure. That was not at all my intent. My post was really a call for compassion and respect for people’s individual choices.

  • Julien, thanks for your comment. Because I haven’t taken antidepressant medication, I can’t speak with authority about what it does to the mind. I think that like everything, the choice of whether to take and continue to take antidepressants depends on the individual and their individual chemistry. I’m sure they alter the mind, but I guess that can be an object of mindfulness as well.

  • That’s a great article, Charlotte !
    I completely agree with you, and I think that this kind of question is the top of a very big iceberg : the ongoing merging of the western approach and the philosophy of yoga. I believe that a new yoga will emerge from all this (not thinking of the branding/money-frenzy yogas here:) ), wiser and healthier, thanks to the benefits of western science, and a better understanding of (for example) biomechanics.

    Yet, there are two things in these little pills that are a problem for anyone engaged in the path of meditation, and yoga in general : these pills are altering the mind (sometimes even, the personality) and the capacity to focus, and they do create a dependance.
    In that sense, I think that antidepressants are incompatible with yoga, in the long term of course. Obviously, they can help temporarily people in need, but as they say, the cure can become the poison, depending on the “how much” and the “how long”…

  • Sam Louise

    Julien, you write “there are two things in these little pills that are a problem for anyone engaged in the path of meditation, and yoga in general : these pills are altering the mind (sometimes even, the personality) and the capacity to focus, and they do create a dependance.”

    Depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses also alter the mind. I think you may want to consider educating yourself about these serious illnesses rather than issuing blanket statements on what medication does or doesn’t do to yoga practice. All of the illnesses I mentioned can be life-threatening. Taking depression as an example, it is not a “feeling blue” or “sad” due to a life event such as death of a loved one. I am 50, began exhibiting anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, and OCD as a child (10, 11 or 12 yrs old). After several years of psychotherapy, meditation, stress relieving exercises, etc, medication was needed as the methods mentioned above ceased to help very much. I have now been on an anti-depressant that works very well on anxiety since age 32. This has given me a life. This has given me hope I will not die young through means I don’t even want to discuss. So yes, long-term (for rest of my life) use is working for me. I’m afraid you do not have the expertise to comment on this.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why yoga practitioners are so ignorant and dogmatic about mental illness and western medication. Why not leave it to the experts such as medical doctors, psychotherapists, et al to provide wisdom and insight into the mind and various illnesses it can be subject to?

  • What a great point that mental illnesses alter the mind. Medication can help bring the mind back to balance.

  • Sam, it looks like my comment offended you, and I’m sorry for that.

    About my lack of expertise and the fact that I am “ignorant and dogmatic” (please don’t deny I was included in this), well… I don’t need any expertise at all to comment on this : the purpose of a blog, and a comment, is to express a personal opinion.
    As to the “leave it to the experts such as medical doctors”, well this is precisely why I saw some friends and family turning into zombies, without any real change of the why of it all, of their deeper issues that lead to this state.
    I believe in a world of educated patients, who discuss with their physicians, and don’t have to obey to a form of possibly abusive medical authority (there are countless examples, as they are also many examples of people helped by these pills).
    Yoga and meditation can be a part of this discussion.

    I never said that pills are to be banned, or that it is completely bad : I talked about the interaction with yoga, and above all meditation.

  • One of my teachers put it perfectly: If you break your arm, don’t waste time drinking a tea. Go to the emergency room. If you have a cold, then decide whether just drinking a tea will do or not. His point was that only a fool wouldn’t use both. Unfortunately, in the name of being “spiritual” many of us become fools.

    Looking back at my own experience with severe depression and now working through those same demons with my children, I realize that I definitely should have been on medication. I was able to kick depression, unintentionally, without meds through my current Yoga practice but the cost was 30 years of suffering that included multiple attempts to end my life. How much more ease would I have had over those years if I had the support of medication?

    You mention a key point that I would love to have seen you emphasize more: “With a minimum amount of daily medication, my blood pressure has been stable since then.” Without all that you were already doing to lower your blood pressure, that sentence would be more like “I’m now on the maximum dose and barely keeping it together.” The fact that you needed only a small daily dose is exactly proof of how East and West work together in harmony.

  • Ah I pressed enter too quickly. Charlotte, it’s wonderful to read from a fellow Utah Yogi. I live and teacher down in Pleasant Grove.

    Jai Bhagwan

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