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Scientific credentials needed to popularise Yoga and Indian systems of medicine

E R Ramachandran

Updated: January 14, 2016, 2:25 PM IST
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The recently concluded 103rd Indian Science Congress (ISC) held from Mysuru from January 4, 2016 had its own controversies which has become a pattern every year. In Mumbai Congress in 2015, one of the delegates had mentioned of aircrafts that were invented during Vedic age that could travel from one planet to another.

University of Mysore (UoM) which recently completed its centenary recently provided excellent infrastructure to host the 4–day annual Congress which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Large number of scientists from India and broad including Nobel Laureates participated in various deliberations.

The UoM campus is a 740 acre sprawling area which has the backdrop of Chamundi Hills and Kukkrahalli Lake by the side offering picturesque scenery for the 15000 delegates who had come to attend the scientific assembly. Perhaps this was one of the finest places for such a Congress with salubrious climate and clean air enveloping the greenery which Mysuru is famous for.

While routinely large numbers of Papers were presented on specific topics in various disciplines, few created a flutter as to whether they were scientific at all or not. There was a Paper on Lord Shiva as Environmentalist’ which was listed but not presented and another by an IAS officer on ‘Benefits of blowing Conch’ and how it generates well being for the blower. Idiosyncrasies will always be a part of human endeavour and the Science Congress was no different.

There was some criticism from Venkataraman Ramakrishnan that no original papers were presented and those that were read were rehashed ones of previous years’ with minor modifications. This looked like an unfair criticism considering funds allotted for scientific research is a miniscule than want is required for a healthy and robust growth of science and Information Technology literally steals brighter students to IT pathway because of’ scope and great future’ in terms of mind-boggling pay. Its little wonder science does not attract the best of talent. And those who enter scientific institutions leave for greener pastures abroad tempted by better lifestyle and more importantly a conducive working atmosphere. Still India ranked 9th behind Italy among 239 countries in number of papers presented over a 8 year period with US and China occupying first and second place.

India is credited with invention of zero in AD 458 by Brahmagupta and for the first time zero was recognized as an idea, a number and a symbol and additions and subtractions came after this.

India has a tremendous amount of material available which have proved extremely useful to mankind which did not receive much of scientific attention earlier. I will restrict only to Yoga and efficacy of India’s Ayurveda.

From time to time, one hears of research on Yoga conducted by hospitals and medical researchers in Western worlds who thorough painstaking study over years are convinced of benefits of India’s Yoga perfected thousands of years ago. Patanjali is the first to categorize voluminous data of Yoga into Yoga Sutra. Mysore’s Pattabhi Jois and Pune’s BK Iyengar took Yoga to international heights through their teaching. Pattabhi Jois started his Centers in California where number of artistes like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow all learnt Yoga to improve their breathing technique and discipline so essential for singers and actors. Karim Jabbar, earlier Lew Alcindor, the greatest basketball player ever, improved his stamina by paranayama under Pattabhi Jois.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) in USA has made a detailed and substantial study on Yoga and its benefits to practitioners of Yoga. Tufts Medical Centre, Massachusetts General Hospitals also use Yoga techniques in their treatment of patients.

Vivekananada Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA) , Bengaluru is actively involved in Research in projects such as in Neurology, Spinal and metabolic disorder along with institutions like IISC and NIMHANS, Bengaluru under Dr. HR Nagendra in National and International level.

Medical field has benefited a lot from Yoga especially in breathing technique, in keeping the body supple and control of weight and in control of blood pressure. This is India’s contribution to the world. However, what is missing is a full-fledged multi-disciplinary research team which can do research to find the basic science behind Yoga and establish the principle behind the benefits scientifically.

There are large numbers of herbs available which have been used in Ayurveda for centuries. These have been handed over through generations as word of mouth and as scripts in ancient literature. A majority of them has been used for treating various ailments. What is needed is a classification of all these herbs and their uses, basic research to find how it actually works and ensure repeatability, testing the efficacy of the medicine in various conditions and study the contra effects. Pioneering multi-disciplinary research will help in finding out the science behind these drugs so that its acceptance can be worldwide.

Similarly turmeric is one of the items that have been used in Ayurveda among many ingredients used in cooking and in Ayurveda for many medical applications as an anti-inflammatory agent to control flatulence, gastritis, toothache, antiseptic etc.

If through Government help or private enterprise there is a systematic interdisciplinary research into the basic science to establish the cause-effect relationship, repeatability of traditional Indian systems of medicine it would lend scientific credence to the practice.

Such study was indeed needed many years back and it is not too late to establish scientific evidence and principles behind age-old practices used routinely today.
First Published: January 14, 2016, 2:25 PM IST

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