When we go in search of quick fixes, and spontaneous solutions, we tend to overlook the source of our problems. For example, when we have back pain, we look to treat that back pain with a balm, or a pain killer. But we never really think about what is causing that back pain – is it bad posture? Is it because I slouch on my chair while working all day? Is it because of my sleeping position? Is it because after no physical activity whatsoever for weeks, I decided to attend a dance party, where I danced for like, 2 hours straight? (Yeah, that last one comes from personal experience.) By popping a pill, or by applying a balm, that back pain might go away, but it does not eliminate the fact that it happened to me because I did not exercise my body enough to deal with that sudden onslaught of amazing dance moves.
So, what do I do? Instead of fixing the problem at its root, that is following a regular exercise regime for my body, I fix the pain. I treat the symptom, and not the disease. In that process, superficially, the problem seems to have disappeared. No pain, ergo no problem. But what we fail to see is that the pain is just a manifestation of a deeper, underlying issue that needs to be addressed. And this doesn’t just apply to physical issues, as illustrated in my example above, but mental health concerns as well. I feel angry, and in the feeling of anger I either lash out at someone, or I try to distract myself with something else till I stop feeling that way.
But, I do not think about what made me feel angry. Was my anger really justified? What can I do to not get angry again, because being angry hurts me more than it hurts someone else? I merely treat the symptom that is the anger, and not the root cause, that can be any number of things in my life. And so, because treating just that anger is a temporary fix, the problem does not go away. It is merely hidden and suppressed till it manifests itself in another, perhaps more destructive manner.
Well, then how do I treat the cause? The simplest answer to that question is another question that you must ask yourself, in all honesty – what is causing the problem? The answer may be too difficult for me to accept, but I must have the wisdom and the strength to accept it, because only then can I take steps to fixing it at its root. And, believe it or not, Yoga helps with that. Ashtanga Yoga, or the eight-fold path, especially the Yamas, develop such a holistic change in your lifestyle when you follow them diligently, that they weed out these sources. Most of these problems are linked with lifestyle issues, and Yoga stands on a firm belief that a lot of aches and diseases are psycho-somatic. Implementing that regimented lifestyle change helps you understand yourself and your body and mind more. Therefore, it can help you regulate it in such a way that the small problems do not manifest.
I would like to quote a very often used line that I learnt when I was in school – a stitch in time saves nine. Recognising the problem, when the symptoms are mild, and fixing it by being a little strict with yourself, can help save you a lot of pain when you decide to have a dance party in the future.