Revolutionising healthcare: The untapped potential of yoga

A silent killer lurks in the shadows as we stand on the precipice of a global health crisis. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the unseen enemy, claiming 70% of annual deaths worldwide. In India, the situation is similarly dire, with NCDs accounting for 66% of deaths. Each statistic, each percentage point, represents a life cut short, a family shattered, and a community in mourning. This grim reality is a wake-up call, a clarion call for a radical solution. And as we search for answers, we find that the solution might just be an ancient practice that has been with us all along – Yoga.

Yoga, often viewed through the lens of mysticism and spiritual practice, must be understood and utilized. While yoga’s spiritual aspects should not be discarded, as it is the basis of its efficacy as medicine for today’s ills. Commemorating the upcoming International Yoga Day, we shed light on the scientific, peer-reviewed facts that establish yoga as an effective tool in medicine.

In India, a staggering 77 million adults are grappling with diabetes, and nearly 25 million are on the precipice of the disease, classified as prediabetics. According to the revelations of Apollo’s Annual Health of the Nation reports, corroborating with the WHO, non-communicable diseases have stealthily climbed the ranks to become the leading cause of death and suffering, contributing to about 66% of deaths in India.

In an extensive survey of urban Indian elderly residents, 71% of the participants were battling at least one NCD, while 40% shouldering the burden of more than two NCDs. This paints a grim picture of the health landscape for our elderly population. This demographic should be enjoying the golden years of their lives, not spending them in constant battle with the disease. The scenario for the country’s youth is even more alarming. The Indian Council of Medical Research provides a somber perspective by stating that the probability of mortality between the ages of 30 and 70 from the four primary non-communicable diseases stands at 26%.

Let us look at what the latest clinical research & medical science says about the efficacy of yoga on the diseases highlighted in the statistics mentioned above. Cardiovascular health is literally and figuratively at the heart of the matter. A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has shown that yoga can be a potent ally in our fight against heart disease. It reduces risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the silent saboteurs of our heart health. The Mayo Clinic also acknowledges that yoga as part of lifestyle changes can help manage chronic conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure alone or in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.

 A systematic review in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that yoga may aid glycemic control and improve other metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Harvard Medical School supports the benefits of yoga for managing specific conditions related to NCDs, including heart disease and chronic lower back pain, often associated with obesity, another NCD. These studies underscore the potential of yoga as a therapeutic approach to managing NCDs and enhancing overall health.

For the elderly, who often bear the brunt of NCDs, yoga offers a beacon of hope. With its gentle postures and mindful breathing, this ancient practice can help manage chronic conditions, improve mobility, and enhance overall well-being. It’s not just about adding years to life, but infusing those years with vitality and health, making the golden years truly golden.

Yet, despite these promising findings, yoga still needs to be utilized in our healthcare systems. It’s often dismissed as merely a form of physical exercise or an ‘alternative’ practice. But the evidence supporting yoga’s health benefits is robust and undeniable. The barriers that prevent yoga’s integration into mainstream healthcare are considerable but manageable. It’s time we overcome these obstacles and recognize yoga’s potential in healthcare. This involves integrating yoga into our healthcare systems, educating the public about its benefits, and training healthcare professionals in its application.

Integrating yoga into mainstream healthcare is not just a matter of health but also of social justice. It’s a cost-effective, accessible, and sustainable solution that can benefit individuals and communities alike. It’s a revolution in healthcare that’s been waiting in the wings, ready to take center stage. It empowers individuals to take charge of their health, fostering a sense of self-reliance and promoting a proactive approach to wellness.

As we grapple with the escalating crisis of non-communicable diseases, we must recognize this ancient tool that has the potential to transform our approach to health and wellness. With its holistic focus on mind-body wellness, yoga offers a unique approach to disease prevention and more effective treatment that complements traditional medical treatments. Moreover, we must continue to invest in research to understand yoga’s benefits further and validate its effectiveness in preventing and managing non-communicable diseases. This is not just about embracing an ancient practice but advancing modern healthcare and making it more holistic, patient-centered, and effective.

The transformation of yoga into holistic medicine is inevitable and must cross three barriers. First, yoga must be understood to be a conglomeration of breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and physical postures, not the last alone. Thus, restricting oneself to the last component will ultimately provide, as expected, a tiny portion of the benefit. The second spiritual component and philosophy of yoga are essential to harness the stipulated benefits, particularly as that helps transform our brain and effectively helps us adhere to a discipline. Spirituality is not being religious; thus, any perceived misinterpretation of it as a religious practice is entirely unfounded. Third public education of yoga, both as a philosophy and a therapeutic technique, must be the potential dialogue rather than blind belief, superstition, and genuflexion to rituals and unproved godfathers! 

Standing on the shoulders of giants like Gautama Buddha, Adi Sankara, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Maharshi Aurobindo, we do not need more godfathers but dedicated practice. My Venerable Guru Hariharananda Giri, a saint in the powerful Kriya Yoga lineage of Mahavatar Babaji, often said, “An ounce of practice is equivalent to a ton of theory.”

It is time to get the mat and practice meditation in a lotus or equivalent posture. Yogic breathing and asanas (physical postures) regularly provide cardiovascular health and do away with stress – the harbinger of disease and death!

Pranayama: The Ancient Yogic Practice of Breath Control for Modern Well-Being

By Dr. Indranill BasuRay

The author is a Cardiologist, Meditator, and Yogi based in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He is the Founder and Chairman of the American Academy for Yoga in Medicine. He is the Editor in Chief; The Principle and Practice of Yoga in Cardiovascular Medicine. [email protected]

Pranayama, derived from the ancient Sanskrit language, controls and regulates the breath. It’s a vital part of yoga, helping individuals deepen their connection with their breath and tap into a profound sense of inner peace, calm, and relaxation.

This practice has been passed down for thousands of years as a spiritual discipline, and it’s believed to be one of the most potent tools for cultivating physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. In the yogic tradition, the breath is seen as the bridge between the body and the mind. By regulating our breath, we can directly influence our physical and mental state, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

Swami Vivekananda, a revered spiritual figure, emphasized that pranayama is the control of the vital force in the body and mind. He believed it could enhance overall health, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress. Pranayama is a powerful tool for self-transformation, helping individuals control their thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Another prominent yogi, Swami Rama, stressed the importance of pranayama in promoting overall health and well-being. He said breath is the key to good health, vitality, and inner peace. When we control our breath, we control our mind and emotions, tapping into a deep well of inner strength and power.

Recent scientific research has shown that pranayama can help regulate the autonomic nervous system, leading to better heart and lung health. A randomized controlled trial published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2020 found significant reductions in anxiety, and a literature review published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found positive effects on inflammatory markers and hormones related to various health conditions.

One way pranayama achieves these benefits is by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the body’s relaxation response. By breathing through the left nostril, we can activate this system and promote relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety.

Pranayama has also been found to increase nitric oxide production, a molecule crucial in promoting cardiovascular health and preventing heart attacks and strokes. Research has shown that pranayama can increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, leading to improved vascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that practicing pranayama was associated with increased levels of nitric oxide in the blood, while a 2015 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that pranayama practice was effective in reducing blood pressure and improving heart function.

Incorporating techniques like left nasal breathing and other pranayama exercises into our daily lives can be a powerful tool for improving heart health, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting overall physical and mental well-being.

As we deepen our practice of pranayama, we may begin to experience a greater sense of connection with our inner selves and the world around us. Our breath becomes a tool for self-exploration and transformation, allowing us to tap into the infinite power and wisdom that surrounds us.

It’s important to approach our practice with an open mind and a willingness to explore our inner selves, allowing us to connect with our spiritual nature and tap into the infinite potential that lies within us.

Pranayama is a powerful practice that has been passed down for thousands of years as a spiritual discipline. By regulating our breath, we can directly influence our physical and mental states, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Additionally, pranayama has been found to increase the relaxation response and nitric oxide production, leading to improved heart health and reduced risk of heart disease.

By incorporating pranayama into our daily lives, we can experience the numerous physical and mental health benefits of this ancient yogic practice. As Swami Vivekananda said, “Pranayama is the control of the vital force in the body. It is the one thing that will give you perfect control over the body and mind.”

9th International Yoga Day on– Yoga for Wellness Held

The 9th International Yoga Day (IDY) was celebrated by FIA-Chicago, GSA Global Eye Magazine & Mindful Meditation Yoga in collaboration with the Consulate General of India, on Saturday, June 24th, 2023 in the indoor Sports Complex of Naperville Yard in Naperville IL. The event was well publicized prior to its celebration which resulted in more than 500 yoga enthusiasts, practitioners, students, prominent members of the Indian diaspora/Associations and several local organizations attending, probably the largest yoga event organized in Chicagoland. The program was properly arranged to spread awareness of yoga in all aspects.

Dignitaries in attendance were Consul General of India, Chicago Somnath Ghosh, Congressman Bill Foster, First Lady of Naperville, Lynda Wehri, Councilman Paul Leong along with his wife Artista Leong, Dr Vijay Prabhakar Chairman GSA Global Eye Magazine, Sunil Shah Chairman FIA-Chicago, Vinita Gulabani President FIA- Chicago, Anu Malhotra President Mindful Meditation Yoga, Esteem guests and Community leaders of Chicagoland.

Participants received a warm welcome by showering rosewater sprinkles by the IYD Welcoming Team of 40 Yoga Ambassadors upon their arrival and were escorted to their seats.

Picture : Asian Media USA

Anu Malhotra started the program promptly at 10am. In her welcoming remarks, she stated “Yoga brings celebration and skill in our life & Today’s large gathering confirms this fact. In these gloomy days, it’s very important that we keep our spirits alive, we   keep our enthusiasm alive and spread it all around us and Yoga can make this dream possible.”

Sunil Shah highlighted the Indian origin of yoga & its benefits in his welcome remarks.  Welcoming the participants joining the celebration, Dr Vijay Prabhaker encouraged everyone to join FREE Weekly Yoga/Meditation Sessions offered by Anu Malhotra through her Non for-Profit Mindful Meditation Yoga to enhance physical & mental health.

Lynda Wehrli highlighted the unifying force of Yoga & its immense benefits. Lynda also presented a Proclamation on behalf of Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli to Anu Malhotra for conducting free Yoga/ Meditation sessions for the community for the past 25 years through her non- for -profit Mindful Meditation Yoga & transforming hundreds of lives.

Adding to the excitement, Consul General of India Chicago expressed his immense joy to see the massive participation in the event. He promised that Consulate General of India Chicago would be happy to collaborate with the organizers in this celebration every year through contributing and inspiring more & more people to join.

“Events like this help remind us of the importance of finding time to take care of ourselves in the midst of our hectic lives. It also helps create a stronger and more united community, something that we can see with the mass number of individuals present here today” said Congressman Bill Foster.

The program was inaugurated with the traditional Lamp lighting Ceremony with the chants of Vedic Mantras joined  by Consul General Somnath Gosh, Congressman Bill Foster, First Lady of Naperville, Lynda Wehri, Councilman Paul leong with his wife Artista Leong, Dr Vijay Prabhakar Chairman, GSA Global Eye  Magazine, Sunil Shah Chairman FIA-Chicago, Vinita Gulabani President FIA- Chicago, Past FIA Presidents Hitesh Gandhi & Dhitu Bhagwaker, Seeta Bala GSA GE Events Chair, Shree Gurusamy GSA Chief Community Officer, Anu Malhotra President Mindful Meditation Yoga  &  Bharat Malhotra Co- Founder Mindful Meditation Yoga.

As part of the IYD celebrations, Anu Malhotra, an expert Certified Yoga Teacher conducted a common Yoga protocol session with demonstration of asanas, Pranayama & Meditation. Live Meditative Music played by a renowned Musician Navneet Malhotra   added high energy and enthusiasm to this yoga session. All participants, including dignitaries enthusiastically followed the yoga practice session.

A soulful Bhakti Yoga program organized by Vipul Srivastava, Director of Mindful Meditation Yoga presented devotional prayer songs by the prominent musicians & singers of Chicagoland; Anil Jha, Shreelekha Mohanty, Poonam Poddar, Prashant Kurdukar, Sanjiv Saraswat, Bharat Malhotra & Navneet Malhotra. Their enlightening prayer chants touched everyone’s hearts and created ripples of love, joy and peaceful vibrations.

Outland Media Team Anchor Anica Dubey conducted interviews with participants, dignitaries and community leaders to gather their overall experience of the event. Refreshment bags were handed to all participants while leaving the session by the IYD Yoga Ambassadors’ Team.

Anu Malhotra in her closing remarks thanked everyone for their vibrant participation and making this the most impactful event of Chicagoland. She reminded everyone to register for her Free Weekly Yoga/ Meditation classes to help achieve greater joy, greater peace & vibrant health by contacting her at 630-460-4271.

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