'Yoga helps in preliminary stages of cancer': Dr Ishwar Basavaraddi

Basavaraddi is director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga

100-Dr-Ishwar-Basavaraddi Dr Ishwar Basavaraddi | Sanjay Ahlawat

DR ISHWAR BASAVARADDI, director of Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, says the popularity of yoga has grown so much that for courses with 100 seats, they receive thousands of applications. In an exclusive interview, Basavaraddi talks about the importance of yoga, how youngsters are opting for it as a profession, and yoga’s global impact. Excerpts:

Q/ How do you think the celebration of yoga has changed its course in the last few years?

A/ Yoga has become a mass movement. It is the culture of our country and has been a practice for centuries. But after [the United Nations declared June 21 as] International Yoga Day, it has reached a lot of countries and homes. [In the past] only a few would come to celebrate yoga day, but this year we had thousands of participants. It is becoming a motivation for youngsters.

Q/ We are seeing a lot of cases of stress, anxiety and depression. How can yoga help?

A/ There are five important steps to it. First is detox, which means ridding the body of muscle spasms, cleaning our respiratory and digestive systems. Second is diet modification, posture modification, right breathing techniques and mind management. It takes 18 to 21 days to learn all the techniques, or about 45 minutes, at least, four times a week. If you continue the practice, it will become a part of your life. In my professional life and also in medical research, we have observed that three to four months of practise can lead to reduced stress and anxiety. This leads to better sleep quality, and the chakras [energy centres in body] align, leading to better metabolism.

Q/ Can yoga be used to cure ailments as well?

A/ Yoga is basically a preventive practice. Modern technologies and facilities have restricted our bodily movements. The nuclear family system has led us to be isolated. There is pollution and unhealthy food. The most common ailments are cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, respiratory problems. Yoga may regulate our cardiac functions and promote breathing in the right manner. We have seen cases where pre-diabetic conditions have [been] reversed through regular yoga and diet modifications. It will also gradually reduce the burden of medications. We have observed that yoga helps in preliminary stages of cancer, along with medicines, and, for advanced stages, where chemotherapy is being given, it helps in healing and [in managing] gastrointestinal problems. I have seen people who have had a healthier life post cancer recover as they included yoga in their daily life.

Q/ Do you see an uptick in demand for your courses? And, what placements do they offer?

A/ We receive thousands of applications every year. Short-term courses are extremely popular among working individuals as they want to learn yoga as a side skill and practise for themselves. Due to increased demand, the cut-off has gone up―earlier it was 50 per cent, now it is 70-75 per cent because we are attracting good students. Wellness, too, has a huge demand because a lot of corporates are now introducing wellness sessions and inviting wellness coaches.

They land jobs like private instructors or group instructors, yoga and wellness experts in schools, universities and corporates. All now want to make wellness and yoga a part of their institution. Instructors and wellness experts make Rs30,000 a month to Rs4 lakh a month [for those in corporates].

Q/ Are students from other countries coming as well?

A/ Yes, but we don’t have accommodation for them. They usually come on tourist visa for short-term courses leading to an uptick in wellness tourism. They are interested in healing techniques.

Q/ Have you launched new courses in line with the government’s vision of promoting yoga across the world?

A/ The government is aggressively promoting and establishing health and wellness centres in the country, in small towns and villages where there is a provision for one male and one female trainer. We have a yoga wellness instructor programme, where we certify the competency on the basis of the skill and knowledge.

Q/ What more can be done to promote yoga right from the beginning of a child’s learning phase to the corporate level?

A/ The government is working on major areas like hospitals and primary health care centres. Health care data is being integrated on where we need yoga wellness system. Accordingly, we are certifying courses. Introduction of yoga in schools and universities is an ongoing process where teachers are being trained in yoga as a part of their teachers’ training programme. For those working in public and private sectors, we have come up with an app that suggests a yoga break of five minutes every morning, afternoon and evening. Yoga is also being taught to Army and other uniformed personnel as well as to the Accredited Social Health Activist (Asha) workers.