Tuesday, February 14, 2006


My mind recently went back to the Guru Ramdev - Brinda Karat affair. Guru Ramdev is the champion of yoga who sees it as a technique which will lead to a healthier lifestyle, while Karat is the typical Communist - anti-Hindu, and salivating at the feet of multi-nationals medical companies who see Guru Ramdev as a threat to higher profits.

This whole affair got me thinking (and this also follows from a discussion with my father). Millions of people in India have benefited health-wise from Guru Ramdev's yoga. Many people claim to have been cured of long standing illnesses, while many others have declared that they have felt no need for medicines because of their regular practice of yoga. So many people cannot be wrong about the health benefits of yoga, and it only serves to strengthen Guru Ramdev's claims.

Modern medicine has one problem. If the problem is diagnosed to be in A, modern medicine will treat part A, while the effect of the cure on other parts is not known. Conversely, if the problem lies in A, B and C, all in some proportion, modern medicine has not advanced enough to detect that (there may exist some specific instances which can be so diagnosed, but in a general sense, they cannot be). It only attempts to cure part A or B or C, which really is not enough, because all 3 parts must be cured simultaneously.

The solution is a holistic approach, that takes into account the natural tendencies of the human body, rather than trying to force a solution. Yoga is one such holistic technique. Other techniques are psychological influence (using a placebo instead of an actual medicine has provided the desired results in some cases), use of music (or sound frequencies) to effect a cure, etc. It is this holistic approach that Guru Ramdev is advocating. Yoga has another advantage - its legitimacy has been well documented over the ages. It is traditional wisdowm that is as of now beyond the reach of modern medicine (the irony!).

What would be a good idea (IMO) is to introduce yoga as a compulsary subject in schools across India. In the longer run, this would lead to an entire generation of Indians being familiar with yoga and its health benefits. And this regular practice of yoga would also render any sort of medication unnecessary, which would greatly reduce health-related costs. The value of this cannot be underestimated in a developing country such as India. This is somewhat similar to the Japanese initiative to help prevent malaria in Africa (with US funding) using low-cost techniques.

However, I have my doubts as to whether this idea can actually be implemented. Political motivations fueled by profits, gross ignorance, and maybe even religious opposition (Christians and Muslims see yoga as blasphemous) would mean that this idea will face stiff opposition.


Ramiah Ariya said...

Me again!
Your blog is interesting and well written.
Now, Brinda Karat has no axe to grind with international medical companies. Further I have heard of international drug companies (and I assume you mean them), not of medical companies. The normal doctor in India prescribes drugs that are "modern", and I doubt if these doctors have something against Guru Ramdev either. Plus what does anti-Hindu got to do with this? What has Yoga got to do with being Hindu? If it is a good medicine system, why should it be associated with Hindus?
You mention that modern medicine has a problem - But modern medicine has saved more people's lives than Guru Ramdev ever laid his eyes on.
Yoga has its place in medicine - no doubt, but there is no need to project it as an alternative to "modern" mdeicine.
Yoga's legitimacy may have been well documented - but we need to remember that the average Indian male had a life span of 35 years just a couple of hundred years back.
Further many of the praises about Yoga are unsubstantiated - where is the proof that cancer rates are lower in Yoga practitioners? Where are the statistics to show that diabetes is lower? How do we know for sure that Yoga would lead to lesser medication usage?

Nikhil said...

I would like to see Reiki being made compulsory too. It has helped millions of people health-wise. It is traditional wisdom that is as of now beyond the reach of modern medicine (the irony!).

Gypsy said...

no more compulsory subjects plz...watever r there, r already screwing our futures, im kinda getting more and more negative abt indian education system today...

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Shankar: Going through your comment line by line.

I'm sorry, I meant International drug companies, not medical companies. The ones that manufacture the medicines/drugs.

Agreed, the doctors in India are trained in the use of modern medicine, and hence they prescribe them. But I have nothing against them and I certainly didnt say they had something against Guru Ramdev. Its the drug companies that stand to lose. But more than the drug companies (and I suppose they are within their rights to increase their profits), my complaint is against the Marxists in India. I do not know what their agenda is, but every time I read something about them, it clearly strikes me as being anti-national. And quite often, anti-Hindu as well. I have a very strong feeling that this distribe against Guru Ramdev would not have occured if the CPI was not anti-Hindu.

I associate Yoga with Hindus, beacuse that is where it originated from. What is wrong in identifying its origin? After all, no one is trying to make yoga exclusive to the Hindus.

I do not say that modern medicine is bad, just that its knowledge is not complete. We have many more drugs today than, say, a hundred years ago, and modern medicine cures more diseases today, but the method of treatment has not changed over the past two hundred or so years. This method is called a reductionist method, separating the problem into its parts, and treating each part separately. While this works on a fairly regular basis, it fails to acknowledge that the parts might be connected. This is the "problem" I mentioned. There are signs of medicine growing out of the reductionist approach, with research towards holistic approaches (including yoga) increasing.

While I agree with you that yoga should be counted as one aspect of medicine, there is not nearly enough evidence to classify it as a scientific discipline, though this has more to do with lack of enough research, and the attempt to view yoga through the reductionist approach, than with any deficiencies in yoga itself.

The Indian male had a life span of 35 years 200 years ago - was that due to the lack of any attempt at health care or was that despite the wide-spread practice of yoga? If you read the biographies of yoga gurus such as BKS Iyengar, or his guru (I forgot his name), yoga was almost a forgotten science 200 years ago. The revival of yoga was due to the efforts of these gurus, and is about a 100 years old.

As for statistical proof, I admit there are not many. The few papers that have been written, however, report only positive results, and this is a pointer to the benefits of yoga. More research and more proof is however required for scientific validity. If you care to go through the American Journal of Medicine, you will find papers that report the health benefits of yoga. These include problems related to migranes, back pains, indigestion, reduction in heart attacks, (and yes) even cancer and diabetes.

And btw, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss has said that yoga will be made mandatory in schools. Am I prophetic or what?