Medical practitioners from different disciplines are increasingly integrating yoga in their treatment plans for faster healing and better health of their patients
After years of unbearable back pain, Sasikala Rajan was in a dilemma about her medical treatment. The doctors she had consulted had suggested everything that medical science could offer–painkillers, injections and even surgery. An MRI scan revealed that she had herniated spinal disc.
“I was taking a massive amount of painkillers,” the 56-year-old school teacher from Bengaluru said. Scared of surgery, she decided to go for physiotherapy. It was then that the physiotherapist recommended yoga for long-term relief. After four months of doing simple stretching positions along with some breathing exercises, she no longer felt crippled by the ache.
People look at yoga in different ways. For some, it is a form of exercise, while for others it is a life-saver. So much so that, nowadays, doctors from various June medical streams are increasingly prescribing yoga and integrating it in their line of treatment. They say they recommend yoga for faster healing and better health.
YOGA IN MEDICAL PRACTICE
“Nowadays, healthcare is looking at yoga to provide relief from lifestyle induced diseases. However, yoga has the potential to work on a par with medicine systems and is yet to be realized by many. Turning healthcare professionals into yoga practioners and inducting yoga therapy professionals in hospitals will give a chance for holistic healing to patients,” said Dr Kumari Lakshmi Andiappan, founder of Lakshmi Andiappan Yoga Centre in Chennai. “In future, I’m sure that people will become mindful of considering yoga instead of drugs.” Yoga is about harmonizing the function of every system in our body–from the muscles to digestion, circulation and immunity; it is about emotional well-being, spiritual resilience and even joy. Yoga is different from allopathic system, but the two must complement each other for the maximum benefit of mankind, says Dr Smita Gautam, consultant homoeopath and yoga therapist at Health First, Vadodara.
Gautam said, “I incorporate my perspective as a physician; I am particularly concerned with the current level of physical and mental strength, about the possibility of yoga injuries, and the potential of causing more harm than good. When I evaluate different styles of yoga and make recommendations about what seems most appropriate, I compare the risks and the potential benefit.”
Dr K Raghu, consultant psychiatrist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru, who integrates yoga in his medical practice, said, “Yoga works on the principle that any benefits derived by the mind are helpful for the body, and vice versa. Once a patient has been assessed for any major illness, treatment is discussed with him/her. This may include yoga. Since yoga caters to different aspects of management of a person’s health while viewed from a holistic perspective, there should not be any problem in integrating it with any system of medicine.”
Many patients are on life-long medication for illnesses such as asthma, COPD, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Apart from high cost and loss of productivity, many of these medications create side-effects that have to be treated with other medicines, leading to other side-effects. The answer to these problems is lifestyle modification, and that is where yoga can really make a big difference in today’s society, explained Gautam. Systematic practice of yoga may help bring down the number of medicines and also cut down the side-effects.
People are aware of the benefits of yoga in dealing with stress, but a lesser known fact has been its efficacy in managing various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks with the help of meditation, said Raghu.
Andiappan said, “Many of the health problems we have are because of the medicines we take. Yoga prevents diseases by strengthening the immune system and controls the disorders by balancing the hormonal and metabolic systems. Yoga was a part of lifestyle for our ancestors. That also explains why our ancestors were able to experience better health compared to us.“ She added that yoga doesn’t have any side-effects.
Several women have found relief from thyroid disorders by practicing yoga. People with arthritis too have been able to find progress in increasing the range of their functionality. Yoga sometimes creates miracles and reverses the disease condition which has also been observed in a few cases, Andiappan said.
In case of back ache or neck pain, most of the medicines suppress the symptoms rather than treating them.
Hence, there is a high chance for relapse of the disease conditions. Yoga aims at strengthening the muscles and is found to be very effective in pain management. With prolonged practice, it provides unrestricted and pain-free living, Andiappan added.
Yoga is known to provide life-long tools to combat chronic diseases. “For example, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, the practice of pranayama and bhujangasana will be of a great help. Similarly, in patients with insomnia, yoganidrasana will certainly help them achieve good sleep,” said Dr Rajesh B Iyer, consultant neurologist and epileptologist at Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru.
He explained that every patient with illness needs yoga therapy for a quicker recovery as well as better control of chronic disorders.
According to Raghu, yoga is beneficial even for a person with good health, as it has a huge role to play in preventive healthcare. Since yoga works on the five different sheaths of the body, that is, physical, energy , mental, intellectual and causal, a person who caters to all these different ‘koshas’ in their normal day-to-day life could potentially ward off illnesses to a large extent.
Yoga is known to improve the level of fitness, improve energy levels, reduce stress as well as lead to better immunity.
“Those who practice yoga tend to be stronger, energetic, thinner, more flexible and youthful compared to people who don’t do yoga. With the practice, you can strengthen and calm the nervous system. You can increase blood flow to internal organs and bring in more oxygen to your cells. Your thoughts will be clear and, in a way, that can make you happier and less anxious. Since stress is a key factor responsible for a host of medical conditions yoga’s role in stress reduction is way higher”, said Gautam.
Dr Shirley Telles, director of Patanjali Research Foundation, Haridwar, and head of Indian Council of Medical Research Centre for Advanced Research in Yoga & Neurophysiology , said, “Some studies have shown that pre-teens benefit from yoga by a reduced risk of childhood obesity , a greater inclination towards outdoor physical activity, a reduction in cyber addiction and improved emotional resilience.”
Even adults, particularly those who use computers for over six hours a day , can benefit greatly from yoga as it relieves pain from remaining seated at a workstation, alleviates symptoms of ‘dry eyes’ due to continued gazing at the display screen, reduces mental stress and brings an overall sense of well-being, Telles said.
In senior citizens, yoga helps retain memory and other cognitive functions, brings a sense of well-being, leads to quality sleep, better lung function and, importantly , better gait and balance. Also, yoga helps cure various issues related to women’s health such as pain during menstruation, premenstrual tension, discomfort associated with perimenopause and menopause, she said.
“Patients should be given a realistic picture of what gains they can expect and how soon. They should also be warned of possible risks and precautions. Yoga should always be taught by a trained and experienced therapist and patients should never go off medicine without medical advice,” said Telles.
Also, patients with specific medical conditions need added attention and precaution. For example, “patients with cardiac disorders or epilepsy should not do certain fast breathing (practices),” said Vikram Hospital’s Iyer.