Is Yoga Medicine?

Is Yoga Medicine?

Yoga Therapy enters the Arena.

By Julie Deife

The battleground is the healthcare industry, an industry that represents nearly 20% of our gross national product and doesn’t pay cash on the barrelhead for talking to patients about spirit and ego and transcendence. But it does like cost-effective treatments for asthma, stress and lower back pain.

Fifteen years ago the new Indian Health Services hospital in Shiprock, New Mexico unveiled itself to the Navajo people of the Four Corners region. The new facility was designed to soar lightly into the cloudless blue sky uniting the four foundational directions of the Navajo belief system. Looking outward over endless mesa from a vantage point inside its 100 – foot tall windows, one notes the crawl of a distant pickup on the black snake highway of the rez. A winding journey it’s been, keeping both the tribe’s traditions and the government’s idea of good medicine intact.

The fact is, along with state of the art diagnostic technology and facilities for surgical procedures unimaginable in the Navajo past, smoke from a healer’s fire now rises through a rooftop portal as traditional healers set to work, nestled in a kiva deep inside the otherwise state of the medical art building. They are chanting and invoking spirit guides.

Medical doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, other caregivers in the employ of Indian Health Services have greeted this integration of new medicine and old with cautious optimism. These healthcare professionals who everyday treated an ongoing stream of accident victims, stood beaming over the high tech equipment in the emer- gency room. They also believed that the addition of the kiva for more chronic conditions, while it might not make a lot of scientif- ic sense, made a lot of cultural sense. Maybe it was the white man’s guilt that allowed it to steal into the building’s plans, but one sus- pects that even the academics in white lab coats had thoughts that maybe there was something to be gained by integrating a little ancient wisdom with modern science.

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