Yoga and Lifestyle Management

Taken from The Hindustan Times, 21.9.94

P. K. Suri, who runs a steel unit in Delhi, developed hypertension and cervical ailments. He was just thirty at that time. Fatesingh Jodha, editor, Sunday Information and Newspapers, suffered a heart attack and took treatment from two major hospitals in the city. But he did not get cured completely. Similar were the cases of Daijit Singh and Bhandari.

All of them have one thing in common. They belonged to the first batch of a unique research based treatment programme organised by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), with assistance from Adhyatma Sadhana Keudra, Mehrauli, for lifestyle guidelines and yogic exercises. Under a grant from the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Department of Physiology of AIIMS started a research project in January 1983 to combat increasing cases of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Dr Bimal Chhajer, Assistant Professor of Physiology, says, "I happened to study the effects of yoga in curing heart ailments while I was doing my M.D. thesis from Lucknow. Later in Delhi I was introduced to Dharmananda at Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra. And I began to think along the lines of conducting a research programme incorporating a yogic lifestyle for CHD patients at AIIMS. Yoga research in India was started in 1960 by B. K. Anand and G. S. Chinna. But somehow there was no major research work after that. Mostly the research was theoretical and mainly academic. With ICMR grants we have started this treatment-oriented research."

The programme has been a great success as the patients themselves would testify. The success has triggered an international Conference on Lifestyle and health at AIIMS scheduled for January 20-21, 1995. We are told that it is the first of kind. Its main objective is to focus on lifestyle prescription as an alternate and auxiliary side-effect-less therapy for modern diseases. The conference is to be followed by a three-day workshop on lifestyle intervention techniques for coronary heart disease, the science of living for stress management and moral education and lifestyle.

Since the inception of the integrated programme of yoga and lifestyle, twelve batches of ten patients each have received the treatment. As the programme is basically for research purposes, only male patients have been included.

"We send ten patients to the lifestyle-plus-yoga therapy while ten others are kept on usual medication, minus the yoga and lifestyle patterns. The patients for both the batches are picked at random. But the success of the program is so impressive that every patient wants to join the yogic lifestyle batch."

"We accommodate them, however, on the subsequent batches. At the start we had about 250 patients listed for this experiment. Now most of them have received this treatment and the results have been very positive," Dr Chhajer explains.

The patients are sent to Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra at Mehrauli for yogic treatment. "They stay here for three days," says Dharmananda. "During their stay they are taught yogic exercises, meditation and are advised to follow a prescribed lifestyle - diet, sleep, everything as per schedule. The duration of the daily yoga practice is about forty or sixty minutes. However, meditation can be practised for a longer period if one wishes." Their progress is monitored in the AIIMS.

Research has proved that unlike medicines which give only temporary relief, the integrated yogic treatment eliminates the very cause of the ailment. Therefore the heart diseases disappear totally. Says P. K. Suri, "Today I don't have diet control but I continue my exercises. I don't take any medicine either. My cervical problems are also gone. I am perfectly alright."

Dharmananda advises that the exercises should not be done if they hurt. "You can stop there for some time if it pains," he says. The cure basically is inside us only. Most of the physical problems can be traced to psychological imbalances.

Dr Chhajer says the treatment involves training in communicative skills. "The entire lifestyle perspectives have to be corrected. We include wives in the programme. The family members should also realise correct lifestyle based on proper diet, proper thinking and communication/interaction makes a complete, healthy life."

But will a package programme of three days help in the cure? "These three days are only training sessions after which the patients are advised to follow the pattern and keep reporting to us once in a week or once in a month," says Dr Chhajer. The guidelines issued to the patients stress regularity in practice. There is advice on proper diet and duration of sleep. In the yogic exercises, 'kayotsarga' (relaxation with self-awareness) and 'preksha dhyana' (deep perception and meditation) are important.