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ראיון עם ד"ר גאנש מוהן - סווסטה יוגה תרפיה

ראיון עם ד"ר גאנש מוהן - סווסטה יוגה תרפיה

1. You come from a yoga family and you practically grow up with yoga. Mr A. G. Mohan is your father. Do you like yoga in the beginning? How do you view yoga? Did you choose to become a yoga teacher or is it some what pressure coming from your family?

It's hard for me to say what I felt about yoga as a child, because it was such a large part of my life. Many people are introduced to yoga as a standalone activity that they consciously decide to make a part of their life. They go to a yoga class, practice asanas perhaps. Or they do meditation, and later begin to practice the physical aspects of yoga. They experience the benefits of yoga on their body, mind, their relationships. Gradually, they become more involved and committed to practicing yoga. Finally, some of them feel drawn to teaching yoga.

In my case, I can't remember a time when my parents were not practicing or teaching yoga everyday. It was a deep part of their everyday life and their vocation, some years before I was even born. Therefore, I was introduced to yoga as being intrinsic to daily life, not as a separate activity! My father notes that Krishnamacharya used say, "If you wish to make a donation, involve your child. Give it to your child and make her give it with her own hands, but with humility. It will build the habit of giving." Children learn by imitation and example, following their parents and elders. Now my small nephew looks at his mother (my sister) and imitates her doing asanas or chanting!

In my home, as a child, it seemed normal to practice asanas, and later, pranayama, meditation, or chanting. I did not question it; it was just natural. Of course, following a discipline is always a problem every now and then for any child! But my parents were always patient and understanding, so the practices of yoga was a positive experience.

It was always my interest since a young age to enter the field of medicine, and finally, I did, first studying ayurveda for some years, and then modern medicine. As many of my father's students will attest, he rarely suggests that anyone take up teaching yoga as a career. Often, he notes, it is easier to practice yoga if there is no pressure to make a living out of it. My parents would have been unhappy if I had given up practicing yoga, because it is deeply important to a calm and healthy mind and body. However, they were not bothered whether I would teach yoga or not. That was my choice, evolving over the years.

 

2. I know that your teaching focuses on yoga as a form of therapy and you are a trained as a western doctor as well as an ayurvedic doctor. How has your training in both system help you in using yoga as a form of therapy. What exactly do you do when someone seek help from you?

When someone comes to me with a health problem, I start with a completely blank slate. I do not bring any assumptions with me. I try to simply answer the question, "What can I do for this person?" For some people, yoga is the mainstay of what I suggest. Even within that, in some problems it is asana, in some it maybe pranayama, in some, meditation with a mantra, chanting, rituals and so on. Yoga has many tools to offer.

Another person's problem might be better addressed through ayurvedic herbs, with yoga playing only a supporting role. Sometimes, modern medicine is the best solution -- for instance, when conservative measures have been tried and are not yielding adequate results, surgery may be a necessity. I refer such people. Overall, I try to provide clear, rational guidance on the different modalities that may benefit them most, with an unbiased mind.

 

3. Do you believe that yoga can help in any kind of illness? How effective is it really? Let us know how does yoga therapy works?

Yoga can help in virtually any illness. Sometimes it can address the factors responsible and alter the course of the disease. For example, if done correctly, yoga can restore function and reduce pain in back pain. Yoga can increase breathing capacity and reduce the frequency and severity of acute attacks in bronchial asthma. Yoga can help achieve better control over blood sugar levels in diabetes.

Sometimes, however, we cannot change the disease through yoga, like in advanced stages of cancer. But even in such situations, yoga can improve quality of life -- reduce the symptoms and make the person feel better in both body and mind.

 

4. What is important if someone wants to become a yoga therapist? What kind of training is required?

I spoke about this in some detail in an article I authored for the 2009 issue of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, published by the Internal Association of Yoga Therapists in the USA (www.iayt.org).

Apart from a foundational Yoga training that emphasizes a sensible, personalized approach, I would say that the following would probably be most useful to a Yoga therapist or a Yoga teacher dealing with unwell clients:
Functional anatomy and movement sciences, specifically as applied to the practice of asanas. This should be broad-based and scientific, reflecting current perspective and research to the extent possible and relevant. It should be applicable to most forms of Yoga, regardless of style.
Modern medical perspective on most major disorders, as relevant to a Yoga teacher. The Yoga teacher should be confident of interacting on a ground of common understanding with other healthcare professionals. Training should address what a Yoga teacher can be expected to know about the causes and course of a disease, broad principles of treatment, the role of surgery, what answers the teacher should be giving the client, what dangers to avoid, when to definitely refer a client, and so forth.

Sound understanding of Yoga psychology, and its relation to spirituality and philosophy.
Ayurvedic principles, diet, and most common/effective herbs for a condition. As a traditional companion to Yoga, Ayurveda can play a very useful role in supporting therapeutic Yoga.
A Yoga therapist training should, to the extent possible, layout for the participants the methods most important to address each disorder (say, the four top of them) and why and how to apply them effectively and pragmatically.

For instance, in back pain we need to know these first:

  1. The most common causes of back pain and the usual course of the disease.
  2. How to design a graded, progressive asana program with effective movement and breathing to address back pain due to each of these causes.
  3. Techniques and knowledge required for integrating the principles of back care from asana practice into everyday activities and common occupations.
  4. Herbs useful to address the pain.

Other measures may be important, but they will depend more on that particular person than the specific nature of the problem. Once you know the above, you can decide on other details, as you see best. For instance, you can teach meditation or pranayama if the person wants it, or if they are significantly psychologically affected by the disability or pain, or you can make diet changes if they are overweight and that is a problem. These subsidiary measures will help, but without the knowledge in the list above, we cannot expect to address back pain effectively and reliably.
In diabetes, the list might read like this:

  1. Herbs that can influence the course of the disease.
  2. Useful breathing and asanas that were recommended traditionally.
  3. Suggestions for diet and lifestyle changes.
  4. Information about the disease and ideas to motivate or help the person to adhere to diet and lifestyle changes.

Bear in mind that it is not wise to recommend a dozen measures to a patient. They cannot implement numerous changes at once. We always have to start with the most important interventions if we want the best results.

An effective Yoga therapy training program should balance traditional knowledge and modern medical information with a rational outlook, tempered overall by clear-thinking pragmatism. An effective program will emphasize a clearly reasoned, prioritized approach and not just volume of information or number of hours. As a trainer, this is one measure of personal integrity and professional excellence—the trainer must always continue to try to offer students more value for each unit of time, money, and effort they spend. For that, the trainer must keep looking to upgrade his knowledge, skills, and presentation.

 

5. Your father, Mr A. G. Mohan, founded Svastha Yoga. Tell us what Svastha Yoga means?

Literally, from its Sanskrit root, the word “svastha” means “to stay as one’s self.” In ayurveda, the word refers to the state of complete health and balance. Because “svastha” expresses the ideals of yoga and ayurveda so well, we decided to offer our teachings under the banner of Svastha yoga and ayurveda.


BIO

Ganesh Mohan is a physician with training in both conventional medicine and ayurveda. He is the son of A.G. Mohan who was a personal student of Krishnamacharya for 18 years from 1971 to 1989, and Indra Mohan who has been teaching yoga for thirty five years. Ganesh started practicing yoga in the tradition of Krishnamacharya under his parents’ guidance as a child. He is well-versed in related traditional studies such as yoga philosophy and Vedic chanting.