No, it can’t. But, it just might.
Many times I’m approached with questions like, “I have back pain, will yoga heal me? or “I have knee issues, will yoga make them go away?” or “I’m suffering from anxiety. Will yoga help?” and so on. Yoga is not magic, but it could be. It’s not medicine, but it might replace it at times. It’s not a cure, it’s a way, a lifestyle. If you’ve had similar questions before, you’re not alone. Instead of telling you what yoga could potentially do for you, I’ll tell you some of what it did for me.
Yoga helped me understand the pain. I’ve always had lower back pain from time to time. I never knew why. I blamed it on working too much, on standing for too long, and other reasons. Through movement in my practice, where I felt completely pain-free, and through my teacher’s inquisitive guidance, we discovered that I simply have Lumbar Hyperlordosis, which is an excessive curve in the lower back. Once it became clear why I get these pains, I was able to allow my body to move in ways that wouldn’t cause that pain anymore as well as focus on some exercises that would relief this pain if and when it comes.
Yoga helped me process the pain. Often, we’re afraid to look within, to dig deeper, to peel the layers to get to the bottom of an issue. Just like when for so long I thought that my knee pain was because I have weak knees and it turns out it’s actually because I have tight hips, it can equally be true that today, my back pain isn’t because of the lordosis, it’s because I’m stressed and anxious. It’s easy to blame the pain on a valid external excuse. It’s harder and braver to know when it’s something else that needs to be addressed. The more awareness you harness through yoga practice, the easier it gets to tell the difference between the pain.
Yoga helped me find the answers within. They say that everything we need is inside of us. The idea of pursuing happiness is one of the biggest lies we’ve been told. We don’t need to pursue happiness. We just need to allow ourselves to feel it. It’s always been there, within. Just like who we are, what we’re meant to be, what our purpose is. The simple act of breathing in yoga opens up channels within us that we’ve shied away from. Just like breathing allows our chest, abdomen, and back to expand, it also allows our perspective to widen and the big picture to clear up, helping us understand ourselves and things around us better. When I went to India for my teacher training, I thought I was going to “find all the answer”. Instead, I asked more and more questions. Yoga gave me the tools to dig deep and find them within.
Yoga helped me heal what matters. Yoga might not have physically fixed my spine back in its right position or cured my anemia, but through the breath, the movements, the meditation, the frustration, the highs, the lows, the philosophy, the spirituality, the unrolled mats and the worn-out ones, it’s helped align my thoughts, my feelings and my actions bit by bit. It clarified to me what I care about, what my passions are, what my lingering unresolved issues were. It helped me work through them and work on myself to become a better version of me, one breath at a time. It healed my heart and once that’s healed, most other things fall right into place. Most importantly, I keep practicing, on and off the mat, to keep that process going.