I get this question among the first of many questions from students, friends, prospective students and yet-to-be friends – “Can yoga heal my situation?” “Can yoga help me lose weight?” “Can yoga help my high blood pressure / diabetes / thyroid problems?”

It is difficult to express a satisfactory answer to these questions, especially when you don’t know the person and the person hasn’t known you. Words can try, but will only fail, and much more than silence would have. Honestly, I would love to give an adequate answer, but until now, I haven’t found a way of doing so and it has been bothering me. Here, I will try to elucidate the answer to these questions by exploring the meaning and ways of yoga as I experience it.

Yoga asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana apart from kriyas, bandhas, mudras combined with yama and niyama have the potential to heal your being beyond even your wildest imagination. The Ashtanga System of Patanjali and the more recent Hatha Yoga Pradipika methodology are sufficiently complete in themselves. Yoga, if looked at as a technology, has everything in its toolbox to set you free, to allow you to find yourself. Good physical health is trivial find. It will find you even as you begin the journey of your practice.

And that is what Yoga is about – Practice. Yoga is experienced only through your own practice. If you find practice, you have a chance of experiencing yoga. Yoga might ask of you to let go some of your habits as you embrace the practice. That might be your first stepping stone. It would be Yoga’s way of asking you if you really want to go further. You can drop out right there, or make adjustments to your lifestyle and egg on. Yoga (your practice of yoga) might push you further, ask harder questions of you as you pursue the practice. There is the enticement of health, peace and joy in the practice and the challenge of overcoming old and painful physical and emotional memories and experiences on the other. Yoga will bring you to crossroads and make you take decisions. Every moment, you will need to make a choice. If you decide to continue your practice, yoga will push you further, help solve some of your problems, and pose deeper questions. If you drop out, your body and mind will have recorded forever that there is a technology that can help and that you have consciously let go because you are too attached to your problems. Sometimes, this memory will pull you back to the practice several years after your first attempt. The only way you will ever find out if you can solve your problems through yoga is by practicing it, by intensifying your practice, and by becoming the practice. By the way, you might only be seeing diabetes now, but the practice of yoga might show you the cause which could be poor habits, failed relationships, broken careers and deeper issues; you might wish you never wanted to open them up. Yoga is a gamble. It is for those that are open to learn and disciplined to practice. Wiser people for ages have said that yoga chooses its practitioners and not the other way around. Maybe this is what they meant.

No amount of theory, words, even gurus or gods for that matter, can do this for you. Yoga is a 1:1 relationship between you and you. No one can interfere, and no one should. You can go to class if you like, or you can practice at home, or in a jungle, or on the streets. It does not matter where you practice or who your teacher is. It only matters that you practice. It only matters that you invite yoga to you. Yoga, through your practice, will decide whether to honor that invite and by how much. You can decide to practice, and your practice will decide everything else.