The spiritual part of us

Yoga, often seen as supporting mental and physical health, is perhaps the best practice for delivering a spiritual dimension to health care. And a number of studies link spirituality to better health outcomes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Spirituality should be incorporated into care for both serious illness and overall health.” The Lancet agrees—the journal published a 2023 article titled “Time to Integrate Spiritual Needs in Health Care.” It states, “Providing spiritual care to patients with serious illness has been associated with better end-of-life outcomes, and unmet spiritual needs can be associated with poorer patient quality of life and wellbeing.” 

A quick PubMed search turns up more than 30,000 additional scholarly articles on spirituality and health. This significant body of research describes benefits such as better mortality outcomes, coping, and recovery from illness and disease. 

The Lancet article notes that one way to define spirituality is the “way individuals seek ultimate meaning, purpose, connection, value, or transcendence. Spirituality can include organised religion [as well as] connecting . . . to family, community, nature, or things people hold sacred.” 

IAYT-certified yoga therapist Montserrat Mukherjee shares her experience of working spiritually with someone with lung cancer in this video.

 

In noticing this person’s suffering and asking about her experience, Montserrat allowed the client to explore her own spirituality—what this suffering meant to her life. She asked the client if there was anything she believed in, is there anything that inspires her or opens her heart. After reflection, the client shared that she believed that there is a reason or larger purpose for this course of events and that she believed in the love of her family. The question helped the client to find this source in herself and helped her to find the strength to continue. 

Montserrat suggests different moments throughout a day where you might feel connected to something larger than yourself, to a deep sense of peace, or love, or awe such as waking up early in the morning when everyone else is still asleep and having a cup of tea quietly in your garden; or when your pet comes to sit in your lap and you take a moment to just listen to their breathing and feel something shared between you; or walking with a dear friend and sharing things that make the moment intimate; or other experiences that feel very close to your heart or expansive, as if you are connected to a much larger whole. These are moments when we make meaning, ease suffering, and can experience something spiritual. Yoga therapy can—and often does—include a spiritual aspect in every practice, tailored to an individual client’s needs and comfort. Such practice surely is healing and belongs in healthcare of all kinds.