Sample from the  Fall 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.

An Interview with Swamini Mayatitananda

Through her relationship with cancer, Swamini Mayatitanandaji (formerly known as Maya Tiwari) discovered that profound results could be achieved from intensive inner work, meditation and faith in our own rhythmic power to heal ourselves. In this interview she talks about our innate ability to heal that is the core of her new book, Women’s Power to Heal Through Inner Medicine, and how America has changed Yoga.

Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): Your new book, Women’s Power to Heal Through Inner Medicine, talks a lot about “inner medicine,” what do you mean by this?

Swamini Mayatitananda (SM): Inner medicine consists of practices, or sadhanas, to strengthen our inner resources for health, nourishment and the development of personal awareness. Our full potential can only be awakened when we secure the knowledge of who we are as an infinite conscious being. All blessings naturally accompany this awakening to consciousness. We practice for the sole purpose of enhancing the core awareness within. Practices done with the intention to raise awareness are called sankalpas. A sankalpa is more than an intention; it is a blessing. You should know before you approach a practice why are you approaching it. The practices are designed to secure Self-awareness, to fortify it, to build it and nourish it.

Practitioners of inner medicine are not obsessed with health, wealth or the myriad of other goals that the majority of health-seeking practitioners are striving for. We can say that all holistic practices affect our inner awareness. The difference is that the practices do not necessarily raise our awareness unless we have arrived at a juncture in our life where that is our purpose.

IYM: Is the approach of Inner Medicine different than prescribing specific Yoga practices to treat a condition?

SM: Prescribing Yoga asanas, meditation and pranayama is helpful—any wholesome activity will serve to benefit the individual. For the most part, holistic practices are rooted in a sense of dualism. Many practitioners are taught to depend on external practices and remedies for their therapeutic work. They perceive the practices as separate from themselves. They perceive that they need something outside of themselves to heal. Healing is believed to be something outside of oneself that must by sought after and pursued. Many pursue these holistic practices even to the point of fatigue, leading to a further disassociation with reality. When we are obsessed with illnesses and the idea that we’ve got to get healthy, the vital core of holistic work is obscured. The purpose of Yoga and all holistic modalities is the development of our own knowledge, knowing of Self.

Our work as healers must be to meet individuals where they are. Whatever is the inspiration or calling, each of us has a divine right to choose healing and to be healed. We must be able to meet each and every person in whatever milestone they may be found in their individual journey of consciousness. To help another person we must not only accommodate them, but gleefully embrace the chance to meet them at any juncture of their journey. Healers must be able to hone their own understanding of consciousness and awareness into their students understanding. This is the core intention of my teachings.

IYM: What advice do you have for Yoga teachers who are interested in committing to Yoga as a spiritual practice, as opposed to an allopathic or prescriptive approach?

SM: What is spiritual? There is spirit in all things, including the allopathic way of medicine. It is the human being who gives spirit to the practice; it is the human being who illumines the way to one’s own awareness. I have found incredibly compassionate Western physicians. On the other hand, I have seen individuals who are dedicated to raising awareness and the end result of their five-year practice of asanas and meditation is that they have become total wrecks: with bad backs, nervous systems shot, fibromyalgia and many other forms of distress. What should we make of this? …

Read the rest of this article in the Fall 2008 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.