Yoga in Czechoslovakia

In Czechoslovakia, the application of yoga therapy is being investigated in several areas of medical practice. A number of preliminary studies have been conducted or are currently underway, and we present their preliminary findings here. These reports are by courtesy of Dr. Karel Nespor, MUDr., Institute of Physiological Regulations, Czechoslovakia Academy of Sciences.

Preliminary research reports

  1. Yogic relaxation for hospital patients: Doctors in Czechoslovakia have completed a preliminary study on the use of tape recorded sessions of relaxation in shavasana as a form of therapy for hospital inpatients. The taped relaxation sessions, adapted from the Bihar School of Yoga Kriya Yoga Postal Sadhana Course were utilised in treatment of patients with conditions such as myocardial infarction and pancreatitis, which commonly result from an acutely stressed life situation. At present they are evaluating their results to determine the psychological and physical benefits gained in those patients who learn to effortlessly enter a deep state of physical, mental and emotional relaxation once or twice a day, as opposed to a control group of patients with similar illnesses and treatment regimes, including tranquillising drugs, but with no adjunctive yoga therapy.
  2. Ischemic heart disease: In the same department an investigative study into the factors which are important in the pathogenesis and development of ischemic heart disease, has begun. This disease is the largest single cause of death in middle aged Czechs, as it is in most societies today. The study involves 300 male factory workers in the age group 40-50 years in and around Prague. It is in this decade that men most commonly first develop the symptoms of cardiac insufficiency.

The researchers intend to monitor the workers conditions with regular medical examinations over a five year period, and if possible, to investigate the effect of a short daily program of yoga- including pawanmuktasana, surya namaskara, nadi shodhana pranayama and relaxation, on their ongoing health status.

Report on the proceedings of the 1st Conference of the Czech and Slovak Commissions for the use of yoga in rehabilitation.

Yoga practices are presently used mainly in rehabilitational medicine in Czechoslovakia, probably because there are relatively good conditions for its use. Exercise has been traditionally used in this field, so that yoga fits readily into this framework. In addition, rehabilitation departments have gymnasiums that can be readily used for yoga practices. Some rehabilitation nurses are personally interested in yoga, and are transferring their experience into therapy for their patients.

Very encouraging results are reported in yogic rehabilitation treatment of vertebrogenic diseases, including postural deformity and scoliosis. *1, *2, *3 Yoga practices are also used in balneology (spa treatment)*4, and also with surprisingly favourable results, in the rehabilitation of children with minimal brain dysfunction.*5 Simple yoga practices have also been applied in the rehabilitation of tuberculosis patients.

Isolated, but very interesting communications have also been made in application of yoga therapy in other fields of medicine, including gerontology (old age medicine)*6, psychiatry*7, matrimonial counselling service*8, cure of smoking*9, and oncology (cancer therapy).*10

Problems and perspectives of the medical use of yoga

Practical education of rehabilitation staff is very important, to ensure correct application of suitable yoga practices. The cited works above are of a preliminary character, and in order that the confidence of medical men in yoga will increase, good studies of yoga therapy must appear in the respected medical journals. At the present time it is only those doctors who have had favourable personal contact with yoga for their own health and that of their patients, who are convinced about the great medical value of yoga. Most medical men, who have had no such experience of yoga, have an understandably reserved approach to it. In this light, both theoretical and practical papers,*11 are important, as they create a suitable background for practical use of yoga therapy on a wider scale in our communities.

Similarly, yoga is an excellent means of disease prevention and more papers can be expected in this regard.*12, *13 For example, a comparison of the incidence of specific diseases in men who practise yoga and a control group who do not, would be very interesting.

Further interesting and promising areas for study are the effects of yoga on psychosomatic (stress-related) diseases and alcoholism.

The medical use of yoga is in its infancy in our country, but it seems assured of an important role in medicine on a larger scale.

The potential of yoga to relieve suffering and frustration, and lead a society and its individuals towards better physical, mental and emotional health demands full investigation. Scientific proof for yoga's effectiveness must be forthcoming, even if the exact scientific mechanisms and modes of action of the practices proves difficult at the present time.

References

*1, *2, *5, *9, *10 Workshop "Yoga and Medicine", Praha, 1978.
*3, *6, *7, *11, *12 "1st Conference on the Applications of Yoga in Rehabilitational Therapy", Kosice, 1978.
*4 Krakora, B., "The Use of Hatha Yoga Exercises During Spa Treatment", Fysiatricky Vestnik, 56: 41-52, 1978.
*8 Plzak, M., "Personal Communication", 1978. 13. Nespor, K., "Yoga and the Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases", Cas. Lek. Ces., in press.