Saturday, December 18, 2010

The nocebo effect in a class

Click to get cool Animations for your MySpace profile
Free MySpace Animations!
 I think, soon, instructors must make it a rule(with severe penalty for transgression) that physical problems may  not be discussed in the class and on the mat, but may be discussed in private, after or before a class depending on its relevance (before the class if u did not want to do a particular pose and if your teacher is equanimous).  I am going to soon write a rocking, hilarious book on my experiences as a teacher.. and in this several chapters are going  to be dedicated to this particular aspect. I will nit-pick it to its barest essential... funny, but so true...

Any case, this incident happened last week: one student refused to go into the headstand because she felt it was causing skin eruptions. Taking myself seriously as this know-all yoga teacher, I laconically told her it must be just toxins releasing. And I also felt ulcers when I did advanced pranayama this March with Prahalada.. And Prahalada told me that it was impurities coming off ..

After this, we dropped the topic, allowing the student to do what she chose and let her resolve it on her own. I thought the topic closed. And lo, a few days later, this new student who does yoga in front of this girl informs me that his skin broke out in rashes from the day he started yoga a few weeks ago! Mmm.. I immediately realised where that came from.. Damn, that was the nocebo effect(See below). He asked me what I thought was the cause. I had the feeling he wanted to be told that it was toxins released. I refused to answer, realising the folly of my know-all position just then and knowing where that was headed!

Then he goes to doc. I think he was diagnosed with folliculitis... common with men, where the hair follicles get inflamed ...

He came after a day's gap... But he told, confirming what I feared, that he wished to be told that it was the toxins releasing!!!

This is amazing. I realise that once the mind makes up something has to happen it can create the ideal conditions for it to happen, including diseases, rashes or whatever. He even told me: "I hoped it was toxins releasing!"Heavens!!!!

Oh, lord. The nuanced pyschology of teaching yoga -- it still stumps me:)

Here all u wished to know about the nocebo effect...

Latin words placebo, meaning `I will please’ and nocebo, meaning `I will not please’  refer to the mind’s positive and negative impacts respectively on health. Both effects are not just set off by pills but by any belief systems the patient may accept in reference to his illness.

An infamous example of the nocebo effect occurred during an American football game at  California in 1987. An official announcement was made that a soft-drink dispensing machine was suspected to have triggered food-poisoning among four spectators. Though it was later established to be a false news, over 200 spectators became immoblised with sickness, needing ambulances, while 100 among them were actually hospitalized.

(This is part of an article I wrote for Mid-day a few years ago, on the placebo and nocebo effect. The latter is what the tantrics use, similar to the voodoo doll thingie, where superstitious tribals can just die in a few days when they saw a voodoo doll of their own image lying about!!)


mary Westmacott said...

Love this post, thanks for posting, really useful, keep it coming x

Anonymous said...

Just popping in to say nice site.