'Yoga an excellent method to deal with lifestyle diseases: Cardiologist Gautam Sharma

Yoga is safe and cost-effective

77-Dr-Gautam-Sharma Dr Gautam Sharma | Sanjay Ahlawat

SOMETIMES, DISCOVERY IS just recovery of the lost. In this Amrtikal, India, the land of limitless knowledge, is recovering what it lost decades and centuries ago. And this recovery and rediscovery is not merely limited to the information it had; it is an expansion to modern realms and realities of innovation.

On June 22, 2016, a day after the second International Day of Yoga, the Centre for Integrative Medicine and Research (CIMR) was inaugurated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi. It is a pioneering quest to scientifically validate the convergence of traditional Indian medicine systems of yoga and ayurveda with modern medicine using contemporary techniques and research methods. While we Indians are naturally inclined to accept our traditional practices, modern medicine demands proof of clinical efficacy and safety. We hope that the evidence thus generated at the CIMR would be acceptable to the modern medical world internationally, and our ancient knowledge will be rightfully incorporated into mainstream medicine.

The CIMR has its own team of ayurveda and yoga physicians, and therapists, scientists, statisticians, and researchers that form its core research group. Currently, research is being carried out in collaboration with doctors and scientists from 19 different departments at the AIIMS, such as neurology, psychiatry, internal medicine, endocrinology, community medicine and gynaecology.

[At AIIMS] more than 40 research projects in different areas related to health and disease are in various stages of completion. The CIMR has already published around 20 papers, mostly in reputed international scientific journals. It is encouraging to see leading scientific journals accepting our research on yoga as a therapeutic modality in various medical conditions. Our published studies have featured in the international media too. Notably, The New York Times carried a report on our research that showed the benefit of a specially designed yoga module in patients with migraine. It is validation of the scientific rigour of the research being carried out at the CIMR that top cardiac scientific forums such as the American Heart Rhythm Society and the European Society of Cardiology have extended invitations to present our research on yoga.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often stressed the need to generate evidence-based medicine to establish yoga as a credible therapeutic modality. He appreciated the CIMR’s efforts towards this goal in his popular Mann Ki Baat radio show.

Modern lifestyle related stress is being increasingly acknowledged as a risk factor for heart attacks and conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and also psychological disorders. As a cardiologist, I have come to recognise that yoga, with its slow breathing and relaxation techniques, guidelines for healthy living (yamas and niyamas), and moderate intensity exercises, is an excellent method to deal with stress-related lifestyle diseases. Especially, because yoga is safe and cost-effective.

At the CIMR we are conducting studies on how yoga can benefit patients suffering from cardiac diseases. Yoga-based cardiac rehabilitation, following heart attacks and heart surgery, is a major area where patients benefit and a large trial is underway. Other studies at the CIMR have revealed benefits of yoga in pregnancy and in patients suffering from depression and sleep disorders. The cost of modern health care is high and many drugs have side effects. An integrated approach will help doctors choose the best management options to combat the challenges of diseases in future.

Dr Gautam Sharma is professor of cardiology; founder, professor in-charge, Centre for Integrative Medicine and Research (CIMR) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.