Sickness, Disease, and Death

by David Life |
March, 2013
Sickness, Disease, and Death

Much of what we think of as “me” are actually organisms that we normally would consider “not me.” The human body contains billions of microorganisms. Non-human cells in the human gut are estimated to outnumber human cells by ten-to-one in healthy adults. More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are outnumbered and surrounded by the “others.” These microorganisms interact directly with our immune systems to produce overall health or lack thereof.

We have been led to believe that sickness, disease and death are individual experiences brought upon us from outside conditions combined with vulnerability. In fact, however, it is actually a state of disharmony in the inner biosphere and its relationship to the larger world around us that creates a feeling of “ill at ease,” or “lack of ease,” that we call sickness, disease and death. A new approach to healing must first address the confusion of “self” and “other” and our role and responsibility in the interconnected web of existence. This approach would correlate sickness, disease and death of the human body as a condition reflective of the general state of the entire population of microorganisms that we call our body and their interaction with the environment surrounding us. You could call it the Green Medicine Movement, or you could call it Yoga.

When our immune system gets confused about who is self and who is other, it can turn on the few human cells that we have as if they were the invaders. Whether we are the invaders or they are is not really the question. Autoimmune disorders are one of the plagues of our time and the question is how to create health.

There is no way to stop autoimmunity. It is known that stress can tend to exacerbate symptoms. Most treatment of autoimmune diseases is aimed at lessening the severity of symptoms and replacing the missing hormones when a gland is destroyed. If the immune system becomes hyperactive, immunosuppressive drugs are administered. Approximately half of all persons afflicted with autoimmune diseases do experience periods of spontaneous remission. The remissions are not due to treatment, but to a shift in the underlying conditions.

We are all confused about who is self and who is other—whether we are talking about a bacteria or a god, in relation to me. Yoga addresses this confusion directly and practically. This approach is practical in that you can experience sitting in the driver’s seat of the bus called “you.” Yoga practice re-integrates and harmonizes all aspects of our body/mind vehicle. Vegan conscious diet promotes a healthy, sustainable interaction with the world that nourishes us. Without the confusion of self/not self, the need to eliminate all others disappears. When we let go of a struggle to eliminate or kill all those seen as other because they threaten our existence, and we accept all as Self, then sickness, disease and death are conquered. Those “others” are you. Ask yourself, “Who gets sick?” “Who gets diseased?” “Who dies?” “Who am I?” The simple answer is, “I AM”, and that is the starting point of true healing that comes from the experience of the universal community of existence that is beyond body and mind while in a body and mind.

Teaching Tips

Some sources:

  • I Am That Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Ramana Maharshi
  • Tat twam asi, Upanishads
  • Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying by Stephen Levine
  • Anandamayi Ma (author of Death Must Die)
  • How can we create peace in the world if we can’t make peace in our own little biosphere? Perhaps the first step is to meet our neighbors, that is, become familiar with the inhabitants of our bodies. We have been taught our whole lives to control the bodily environment with antibiotics and other medications. All these substances create a fence between us and them, and in this case “good fences” do not make good neighbors.
  • In general, a yoga practice will tend to stabilize immune function. Of course, when we say “yoga practice” we mean a holistic approach including proper sleep, vegan diet, good company, nada yoga, yama, niyama, meditation, and scriptural study, pranayama and asana practice.
  • Health is actually a community enterprise (our community of micro-organisms, etc.) and the condition of health is a condition of harmony within this community. Chanting is harmonious (so is the harmonium!). When we vibrate our community of organisms to the sacred sounds, it’s like having a big community dance. Everybody is happy together.
  • Meditation practice also creates a condition of harmony in our bodily communities.
  • Contemplation and discussion on the question “Who Am I?” is very relevant to this topic.
  • The condition of our immunity is a function of the endocrine system. Normally the endocrine system works on a “feast and famine” cycle that ranges hormonal secretions from very low to very high. During the very low stages we may exhibit a lack of immunity. When we stimulate the endocrine system with yoga asana, bandha, and kriya, on a daily basis, we create a consistent level of secretions in the blood stream. The importance of a consistent daily practice of yoga asana to stimulate secretions of the endocrine glands is essential to creating a stable internal environment.

The asana that most directly affects the immune system is Salamba Sarvangasana. This is a perfect opportunity to devote extra time to the Shoulderstand, plow sequence. Let’s review some basics. The stimulation to the endocrine system in Shoulderstand happens in these ways:

  1. Inversion: The entire system (along with nervous system, circulatory system, all the supporting structures of muscle and bone) is stimulated in the inverted position by the reversal of gravitational pull.
  2. Chin lock: Stimulates Thyroid, Parathyroid and Thymus Glands. (Equally important is Matsayasana in reversing the pressurization of the same area.)
  3. Skull position: Stimulates hypothalamus that controls secretions of the Pituitary Gland (Master gland of the whole endocrine system). (Equally important is Matsayasana in reversing the pressurization of the same area.)
  4. Hands at the back: Stimulates Adrenals and Pancreas.
  5. Mulabandha: Pressurizes Ovaries and Testes.