Integrating yoga with healthcare

Last Updated : 24 December 2019, 18:57 IST
Last Updated : 24 December 2019, 18:57 IST

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In India, Universal Health Coverage is a constitutional obligation of the State, making the constant improvement of the state of public health one of its primary duties.

Although the Directive Principles are not enforceable like fundamental rights, they make up for the conscience of the State and point us in the direction we need to take if we are to become a developed country. They are in alignment with the WHO’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which aims to achieve universal health coverage for all by ensuring access to quality healthcare, and affordable and effective medicines and vaccines.

India has just one government doctor for every 10,189 patients, a figure that is a far cry from the WHO recommended ratio of 1:1000. The nurse-patient ratio is even more disproportionate, standing at 1:483 as opposed to the ideal ratio of 1:4.

With a shortage of over 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses, lack of adequate health infrastructure, shortage of pathologists and other technicians for laboratory tests, we need to promote preventive care to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which have overtaken infectious diseases to become the leading causes of deaths in India. In rural India, NCDs currently account for 47% of the deaths, a number that has gone up over the years, due to lifestyle changes and increasing life expectancy.

Over the last 30 years, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences conducted a series of tests to explore the preventive and promotive potential of Yoga, and the results indicate that it might just be what Primary Health Centers need to induce positive lifestyle changes in people and reduce the burden of lifestyle diseases.

Brain function and cognitive performance: Om meditation has shown to have beneficial effects on the autonomic nervous system. A study found that meditators were more mentally alert with a relaxed heart rate compared to the control group of the subject involved in activities that did not require targeted thinking. Hatha yoga promotes neuroplastic changes, like increase in the volume of gray matter. Yoga asanas have also shown to improve neurotransmission and improve cognitive abilities.

Cardiovascular physiology: Studies have shown that both short and long term yogic practice help bring down the blood pressure and heart rate. Iyengar yoga practitioners exhibited lower blood pressure, heart rate, and a low-frequency power of heart rate variability.

Respiratory profile and lung function: Hatha yoga has been demonstrated to improve the
force vital capacity and force expiratory volume, which is extremely effective for people
suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It also improves the passage of air
though the bronchi and breathing capacity of patients. Increasing levels of pollution have caused an upsurge of patients with lung diseases. Integrating hatha yoga programs in PHCs will go a long way in easing the strain on doctors and medical resources.

Oxidative stress and other biochemical variables: Studies have also demonstrated that yogahelps reduce the oxidative stress, bringing down the harmful effects of free radicals in the body and help reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and age-related cancer developments. It also has therapeutic effects for patients suffering from end-stage kidney disease by bringing down oxidative stress indicators. The challenges faced by the health sector are complex and enormous.The sheer size of our population, coupled with the diversity of socio-economic, health, and education standards, the state of human resources and infrastructure — all these factors pose major problems.While all aspects of the health sector need attention, primary physicians should take the lead in bolstering it by researching yoga therapy options, and referring patients to trained yoga practitioners to meet specific medical issues.

Not only will it promote good health and reduce the disease burden of non-communicable diseases, it will also help direct government spending on health to areas that need it the most.

(The writer is the chairman of Jindal Naturecure Institute)

Published 24 December 2019, 17:41 IST

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