A Doctor’s View on YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine

With the growing interest in yoga and meditation over the last few decades, there has been an explosion of popular literature on these subjects, and a resurgence of classic yoga texts updated for a contemporary audience. At the same time, biomedical research has started delving into the scientific basis for the benefits of yoga and meditation, in order to explain the physiological underpinnings. Undoubtedly, these will form a body of knowledge that will further our understanding.

But most uniquely, in Parvati Devi’s YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, you will find the marriage of ancient wisdom and advances in science. This work draws upon Parvati’s extensive experience as a yogini, healer and teacher to explore the role of breath and prana, deep relaxation and the wave body.

As a neurologist and yoga practitioner, I am particularly intrigued by this body-based wisdom when applied to modern concepts and scientific principles. For example, it has been recognized for some time in the scientific and medical literature that the breath alters cardiac rhythm and autonomic nervous system activation. More recently, it has been discovered that the cardiac cycle and vascular dynamics may also affect the rhythmic motion of the brain and spinal cord, as well as the flow of cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the nervous tissue. Perhaps through these mechanisms, one may effect subtle change on the state and activity of our vital systems via the breath. This may explain the beneficial effects of breathwork and meditative practice on blood pressure regulation and the stress response.

Furthermore, advances in technology now allow us to study the effects of yoga and meditation on activity in key brain regions, giving us a glimpse of the neural processes involved. Using imaging, we can now see which areas of the brain are active in the relaxed, attentive state, and which are likely important for our capacity to empathize, or to examine our internal bodily state. These can potentially teach us about the workings of the brain in the yogic state of “being”.

YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine has become an integral part of my personal wellness routine, one which I consider to be preventive medicine. I invite you to explore the YEM approach, to test this against your own internal wisdom, and allow it to transform your life.

Karen Ho, MD, is a neurologist practicing in Kingston, Ontario. She also works with the Queen’s University Centre for Responsible Leadership.