Yoga and Herbs

Combining yoga and herbs is effective for decreasing stress and natural remedies for healing or managing illnesses.


| November/December 2001



A combination of yoga and herbs helps to decrease stress in your life.

A combination of yoga and herbs helps to decrease stress in your life.

Photo By Fotolia/Maygutyak

Learn how a combination of yoga and herbs helps decrease stress and heals illness.

Yoga and Herbs

Both yoga and herbal medicine are spreading in popularity across the United States, attracting more and more adherents. And just as Ayurvedic physicians (Indian medical doctors) have prescribed both and have known for centuries that they complement one another, many in the United States are finding that combining yoga and herbs is effective for ameliorating stress and for healing or managing more serious illnesses. What form and shape does the intersection of these practices take?

Herbal medicine is the main focus of Mead’s practice, but she says, “I see [herbs] as a way to get somebody over the hump while they’re making lifestyle changes. If your body’s having to work really hard just to rid itself of toxins and a stressful life, then what you do on an herbal level won’t be as effective. If you address other issues as well, they won’t have as great a need for the herbs, and the herbs will be able to work better if they are making good lifestyle choices.”

Like an Ayurvedic practitioner, Mead evaluates the needs of each individual who consults her and recommends a holistic approach to treatment. When treating a woman in a nursing home who was aggravated and anxious, she focused on teaching the woman deep breathing exercises and giving her herbs for anxiety. If it had been possible, Mead says, she would have recommended some dietary changes. For people suffering from fibromyalgia, she recommends yoga. “The last thing fibromyalgia patients want to do is move their bodies, but that’s what they need to do more than anything, because movement actually helps to break down the acids trapped in their muscles and tendons that creates some of the pain and discomfort.”

Most fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms are connected to lifestyle and excess stress, notes Mead, and yoga is a critical tool in healing these illnesses. People suffering from them learn to move gently and to explore how far they can go without feeling pain. They also benefit from drinking two to three quarts of water a day, taking herbal formulas, making dietary changes, and using meditation and relaxation techniques, she says.

This comprehensive approach to healing has long been emphasized in Ayurveda, and it remains important among American practitioners of this ancient medicine. “When we look at it from a traditional perspective,” says Sarasvati Buhrman, an Ayurvedic practitioner and academic director of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda in Boulder, Colorado, “the things we want to know about are, are the doshas [operating principles] in balance, and is the digestion working properly? Are all the channels of the body open? How is the consciousness? Is the mind in peace?” Ayurvedic practitioners want to know patients’ emotional and physical states, problems they have, and how long they have had them, she notes.

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