Meet Dr Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda, formerly Dr Brian Thomson, MB, BS (Syd.) DPM, MANZCP, a sannyasin disciple of Swami Satyananda, is currently touring India and lecturing on yoga in medical colleges, universities and yoga centres.

Please tell us about yourself.

I graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney, Australia in 1960 and completed my psychiatric course in 1966. Since that time I have practiced as a psychiatrist, retaining some activity in general medicine.

How long will you stay in India?

I will remain for as long as I can effectively help people to realize the part that yoga has to play in treatment of illness and improvement of peoples' lives.

How did you become interested in yoga?

It was a gradual development. My wife, who is also a sannyasin, and in charge of an ashram in India, had been teaching yoga long before I became interested. At first I was critical of the whole thing. Then gradually I started to see the good results her students were experiencing. I also read some of her yoga text books and became mildly interested. However, it was when I found the integral yoga teachings of Satyananda Paramahansa that I began to realize what yoga has to offer.

How is yoga helpful in curing diseases?

Many doctors are using yoga techniques to supplement their usual medical treatment. This has resulted in fewer drugs being used and fewer operations. Many people in the west now, especially young people, prefer to take fewer drugs and to participate in their own treatment. For this, yoga is the answer. Its varied techniques help and sometimes remove diseases, and when the acute phase is over, regular practice will maintain the patient's health. The illnesses which I have treated have been mainly those of the mind, muscles, joints, and diseases of the body which can arise from the mind (psychosomatic diseases). I have had many cases which were cured or helped by yoga. I also know many other doctors who have had the same excellent results produced by using yoga in addition to allopathic medicine.

Can a mentally retarded person be helped by yoga?

Certainly, anybody who is able to follow the instructions given will benefit.

How is yoga helpful in eases of drug addiction?

At Satyananda Ashram and many yoga schools in Australia we have had excellent results in curing people who were addicted to drugs. Most of these people stayed in the ashram where they practiced karma yoga, asanas, pranayamas, kriyas and meditation. They not only stopped taking drugs, but yoga supplied the relaxation, energy and meaning in life which they were seeking from the drugs.

Can yoga help cancer patients?

Much research is being done on the use of meditation to relieve, and occasionally cure, cancer which can no longer be treated by usual medical means. However, in cancer cases it is most important that medical treatment be used first. In this way most cases are curable. The doctors who are performing successful meditation research in the third stage of cancer are Dr Ainslie Meares in Australia and Dr Carl Simonton in USA.

What impression do Australian doctors have of yoga?

In Australia there is an increasing amount of interest in yoga especially among the younger doctors. We have many of them in the Satyananda Ashram organisation throughout the country. Four Australian doctors are sannyasins and have dedicated their lives to helping other doctors to incorporate yoga into their practices.

What is your impression of acupuncture?

Obviously the energy systems involved in acupuncture and those dealt with in kriya yoga and prana vidya are the same. It is good that related sciences are apparently proving so effective.

From your experience, what is the role of yoga in psychosomatic diseases?

Psychosomatic illness is the area in which much of my work has been done. The results have been excellent. I believe that it is in this area that yoga will first contribute to medical treatment.

Can yoga be correlated with osteopathy?

The asanas which are taught in the introductory course are the same as the basic osteopathic manipulations, though of course they are many thousands of years older.

Do you think yoga will replace medical practice?

No, I do not. I believe that the doctors will learn about yoga and use it in their practices. Many doctors in Australia actually write 'prescriptions' which their patients take to the yoga school in the same way that they take other prescriptions to the chemist. This trend is spreading quickly and I am certain it will become worldwide. The science of yoga which India has nurtured for thousands of years is now rapidly spreading throughout the world for the benefit of all.