Can Yoga help my sister?

“A mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction. Onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood, with around 0.4–0.6% of the population affected. Diagnosis is based on the patient’s self-reported experiences and observed behavior. No laboratory test for schizophrenia currently exists”.
The above paragraph is a description of Schizophrenia taken from Wikipedia.
Yes…the words in bold aptly describe my sister’s “weird” behaviours. She has had schizophrenia for close to 20 years. It’s really hard to describe the challenge of having to live with people who are mentally unwell. It’s more than just painful and stressful. I would have gone into depression if not for my regular yoga practice for the past 8 years. My sister talks to herself, yells in the public, is awake when others are asleep (thus affecting our sleep), always suspects that there are people out there who want to harm her….etc. I had fought with her before….especially when she “abused me verbally” (she is very good at that). I remembered hitting her with a broom many years ago during the lunar new year. I slapped her whenever she “bullied” my parents. But there was a sense of guilt whenever I got physical with her. I have to admit that there were times I wish she is dead. End of agony for her and the family. Period.
Most people said schizophrenia is an incurable medical condition (Question: Isn’t it worst than any terminal illness? At least there is a closure for terminally ill patients.). My sister will have to take medicine for the rest of her life (that’s what the doctor said). She is young and intelligent but her life is worst off than my elder brother who has down’s syndrome. My brother is happy in his own ways and I love him very much. A cup of coffee or a piece of biscuit will bring smile to his face. That simple. Happiness is obtained by living a life of simplicity and freedom. I know my brother will not live very long and I will do anything that makes him the happiest person every day. 😀
Back to my sister…can Yoga help to alleviate the symptoms of Schizophrenia? 
I did a Google search on “Schizophrenia” and “Yoga”. Some interesting information:

  • Sufferers will often swing in mood from the extremes of rajasic, chaotic energy to the dull inertia of a tamasic state. They may feel apathetic, low in motivation and be affected in speech, movement and thinking.
  • Physiologically, it seems that there is an overreaction of the neurotransmitters in the brain at the synapes, highlighted by an imbalance of chemicals (mostly hormones in the blood – adrenalin, leucine, serotonin and catecholin are possibly four such chemicals).
  • On an energetic level, there appears to be an imbalance in the ida and pingala nadis, causing some of the bizarre reactions.
  • Schizophrenic will often feel low in self-esteem, confidence, motivation and energy. A yoga class needs to be well within their capabilities, energizing for the body, mind and emotions, and supportive and encouraging. The person’s competence can vary from week to week so the teacher needs to be adaptable and encouraging, no matter what happens.
  • During times of extra stress, sufferers can become extremely introverted, their thinking and movement become slow and erratic, and actions can be irrational. Students need to be encouraged to extrovert themselves but not to the extent where they withdraw completely. If a practice is too confronting, they may just walk away.
  • Visualizations, mental activity, practices beyond the students’ abilities and those of an introverting nature should be avoided. Meditation should only be attempted under experienced guidance.

What are the suitable yoga practices for schizophrenic? Some suggestions from the web:

  • Asanas that are excellent in the beginning stages are the pawan muktasana (wind relieving pose) series, relaxation poses, simple standing asanas, marjariasana (cat pose), and shashankasana (hare pose). With some experience, the student could move on to more challenging asanas such as the vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) series, and standing and bending asanas. The trikonasana series is particularly good for building confidence and a positive attitude. Doing surya namaskara in progressive stages can slowly build up one’s ability to practise the series.
  • Pranayama practices have an introverting effect. However, they can also be calming and centering. These practices should not be done for long periods of time, and the teacher needs to be very aware to balance them with something dynamic. Yogic breathing is a good practice for encouraging relaxed respiration. The breath is often short and shallow during states of dissipated energy and psychosis. Bhramari is useful for reducing anxiety, anger and tension. Kapalbhati allows the mind to rest from thoughts and visions. Ujjayi and the cooling practices encourage tranquility. Nadi shodhana is an excellent practice for calming chaotic emotions and is also useful to balance ida and pingala nadis.
  • Yoga nidra needs to be kept very solidly in the body sensations, inducing relaxation and awareness without stimulating visualizations or excessive mental activity.
  • Practices that are unsuitable for schizophrenic are those of a very introverting nature. Eye exercises, forward bending asanas without backward bending counterposes, pranayama, and prana vidya are examples of practices that are introverting. Visualizations should be avoided and also the students’ capabilities should not be exceeded.

The only problem I have now is….I really don’t know how to get her started. 🙁

One thought on “Can Yoga help my sister?

  1. Nice article. More than an article. More like a life story. Awareness and consciousness of what is happening to your sis and bro is the first step to supreme understanding.
    There are solutions to all of life’s difficulties (lessons).
    Immediately, teach them this Gayatri (Sun) mantra.
    The Gayatri Mantra
    The vedic form of the famous Gayatri mantra:
    Aum bhur-bhuvah-swah tat savitur varenyam
    bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah Prachodayat.
    Summary of the Mantra:
    May we meditate on the Glory of the Lord, the Remover of pains and sorrows, the Bestower of happiness, Who has created the universe, and Who is the embodiment of knowledge and light. May the Lord, enlighten our intellect in the right direction by destroying all our sins and ignorance.
    Meaning of each letter in mantra:
    ———————————
    OM = Almighty God
    BHOOR = Embodiment of vital or spiritual energy
    BHUVAHA = Destroyer of suffering
    SWAHA = Embodiment of happiness
    TAT = That (indicating God)
    SAVITUR = Bright, luminous, like and sun
    VARENIYAM = Supreme, best
    BARGO = Destroyer of sins
    DEVASYA = Divine
    DHEEMAHI = May receive
    DHIYO = Intellect
    YO = Who
    NAHA = Our
    PRACHODAYAT = May inspire
    ———————————
    Gayatri is a Mantra(vedic hymn) which inspires righteous wisdom its meaning is that the Almighty God may illuminate our intellect which may lead us to righteous path. This is most important teaching. All the problems of a person are solved if he is endowed with the gift of righteous wisdom. Having endowed with far sighted wisdom, a man is neither entangled in calamity nor does he tread wrong path. Righteous wisdom stars emerging as soon as a methodical recitation of this Mantra is performed.
    “May we meditate on the Glory of the Lord, the Remover of pains and sorrows, the Bestower of happiness, Who has created the universe, and Who is the embodiment of knowledge and light. May the Lord, enlighten our intellect in the right direction by destroying all our sins and ignorance.”
    The Gayatri Mantra is the form of eternal truth. It is the heart of all beings and the eternal Ved Mantra. Gayatri destroys the sins of the world. All the four Vedas have originated from this mantra:
    This can be translated: Aum. Let us contemplate the spirit of the divine of the earth, the atmosphere and heaven. May that inspire our minds. Savitri is the Sun and this mantra is recited at the three junctions or twilight of the day. Here is described how the mantra Aum hums in the base or Muladhara chakra, and moves through seven stages to the chakra above the head Sahasrara.
    Maha Vishnu describes Aum as consisting of the following. Bhur is existence, Bhuvah is the elements, Svah is the Atma of everything, Maha is greatness and light, Tat is Brahman (the absolute). Tapah is all knowledge, Satyam is supremacy and internal wisdom. This tantra connects the three letters of Aum to the seven worlds.
    Tat, refers to the first cause of all substance, as fire in the circle of the sun and is supreme Brahman. Savituhu is the source of all living beings. Varenyam is the excellent one who receives adoration.
    Bharga destroys sin. Devasya means it is full of light, while Dheemahi refers to knowledge being golden and always within the sun. Dhiyo means Buddhi. Yo stands for energy (tejas).
    The mantra is divided into three sections of eight letters and four sections of six letters.
    A dhyana (meditation) – Gayatri as having four faces, which are white, yellow, red and black. Yet the tantrik tradition has different views of the Gayatri. For example, in the Matrikabhedatantra, there is a couplet, which says a person who knows the Brahman (the absolute) is a Brahmin.
    Gayatri is mother of Vedas. Sadhana of Gayatri mantra is the essence of all Vedas. Even God like Brahma mediates on and performs Jap of Gayatri at the time of twi-light.
    Gayatri Jap performed daily for three years realizes God and like air, acquires the power of going where the person wants to go. Merely by offering water to the Sun and performing Jap of three thousand Gayatri mantra at the time of twilight, a person becomes adorable by God.
    By Gayatri Sadhana the person may get salvation, wealth, victory in battle, and freedom from disease. A man may know all the four Vedas very well but all his labour goes waste if he does not know Gayatri mantra. A person who worships mantra other than Gayatri cannot get success even if he takes millions of birth.
    Rishis, Saints say that there is no other mantra like Gayatri mantra in all the Vedas. Ved, yagya, dan (donation, charity), tap are not equivalent even to a small fraction of Gayatri mantra. Whether a man is pure or impure, he is sitting or walking, in whatever condition a wise man may be, he should perform Gayatri Jap. A man gets rid of all sins by this Jap. Nothing is greater than GAYATRI MANTRA in this as well as other loks for the success of daily work; fulfilment of desires and for development of tapas.
    The following guidelines are provided for the Sadhaka:
    In Bhavanopanishad, one witness within oneself the effulgent figure of Divine Mother with the different phases of the waxing and waning Moon.
    The Devi is to be meditated upon as of a ruddy complexion, with eyes expansive, as an ocean overflowing with waves of grace, with noose, goad, arrows of flowers and a twig of sugar- cane in her hand, surrounded by Anima and other deities and ultimately as one´s own self.
    1. Complete faith unflinching loyalty backed by a clear heart towards the deity is required for Sadhana.
    2. Do not start Mantra Shakti under any pressure. Trust in God, kindness and patience should be the virtues of a Sadhaka.
    3. Avoid harsh speech, lust, anger, restless thoughts, evil company and egoism. Do not get emotional. Mantras on hearsay should be avoided, as they must be authentic.
    4. Sadhana done without any specific aim bears fruits early. In case you see any miracle, do not fear. Keep your WILL POWER strong and continue your Sadhana. All troubles will vanish.
    5. Brahmacharya or celibacy should be observed during Sadhana. In case of failure, do not lose heart. Try it again and again and you will be crowned with success.
    HOW MANTRAS ARE USEFUL:
    One´s subconscious mind can help to find the solution through meditation and recitation of Mantras.
    1.Purity of thoughts, words and deeds, sincerity and deep seated. Belief in repeating Mantras systematically and without any stress or strain on the brain or body is the keynotes for the efficacy of Mantras.
    2. Concentrate and Meditate without having any desires in mind. The Mantra should be recited softly so as to be audible only to be person concerned and not to others. Mantras should be recited in a pleasing musical tone, which will help in concentration.
    3.Continuous Sadhana will enable the Sadhaka to find solutions to the problems, attaining peace of mind, reducing mental strain.
    4.The Sadhaka should have a light meal, hot and well cooked and in small quantity, as over eating leads to the excitement of the sensory organs which aggravate passions. Onions, Garlic and Meat have stimulating effects on the sensory organs and will do harm to the body than good. Intoxicates and smoking of any kind should be avoided. Lack of control in the diet is a great obstacle to progress. Small quantities of wholesome food purify the mind and a pure mind retains the memory of God.

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