The World Health Organisation ranks cardiovascular diseases as the number one killer in the world and coronary artery disease (CAD) or the blocking of arteries by accumulation of cholesterol that leads to heart attacks, currently afflicts 14 per cent of urban India.
Studies have shown that CAD is assuming epidemic proportions due to changing lifestyle and increasing stress — over half of the patients below 50 years of age. Ironically, the number of doctors afflicted by CAD, hypertension, obesity and moderate syndrome is more than the rest of the population.
Again, angioplasty or bypass surgery does not actually prevent its recurrence, or improve life expectancy in the long run.
Taking this factor into account, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Defence Research & Development Organisation, New Delhi, initiated a multi-disciplinary sponsored study in 1998 in collaboration with the J. Watumull Global Hospital, Mount Abu, and the Brahma Kumaris, a non-government spiritual organisation.
A three-dimensional healthcare model, addressing the spiritual, mental and physical aspects, was used to treat a group of angiographically-documented patients. They attended a one-week in-house trial that clubbed conventional medication with Rajyoga meditation and healthy lifestyle, comprising low-fat high-fibre vegetarian diet and post-sunrise walk. They followed the same regime for another three months at home before being angiographically tested again.
An independent team of cardiologists found that in cases where patients had religiously followed the prescription, artery blockages had opened up significantly; some calcified blockages opened even 100 per cent. While exercise tolerance had increased more than 550 per cent, the heart’s pumping power had improved by 10 per cent and the drug intake significantly dropped.
Following the encouraging results, the study was converted into a full-fledged government-approved programme in 2004 and continues to run at Shantivan, Global Hospital Trauma Centre in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
Course director and programme principal investigator Dr. Satish Kumar Gupta is confident that the 3D model can be a panacea to heart diseases and other lifestyle disorders. “Rajyoga meditation places the patients in a tranquil and happy mental state by producing alpha, theta and delta brain rhythms. Due to the high release of happy hormones and parasympathetic dominance in the body within the first seven days of the programme, patients experience overall well-being, freedom from disease consciousness, and enhancement in willpower to sustain a healthy lifestyle.”
The programme is unique as it identifies negative thought patterns and tendencies like anger, fear, sadness, hurry, worry, sense of isolation and Type A behaviour as key factors triggering ‘dis-ease’ in the body. Through a series of counselling sessions, patients are encouraged to recognise their faulty habits and take up the responsibilityof reviving their own health.
The programme also comes as a major relief for low and middle income families as a single intervention for heart diseases, like inserting a stent or conducting a bypass — costs lakhs. In fact, this is what drove Dr. Gupta, a former cardiologist from Delhi, to take up this project and shift base permanently. “One day a woman approached me in the hospital saying her husband had suffered a second heart attack. I told her to get him admitted for a bypass. She said, ‘During the first attack, we sold our house for the surgery, what should I sell now?’ It touched me greatly and I felt what we were doing as doctors was not enough as it was not addressing the root cause. So I decided to take up this project.”
The website and books on the programme are teeming with happy experiences of patients who claim to have found a new life, many of whom were wilfully able to give up their lifelong addictions. Now they can often be spotted as energetic volunteers at these sessions working selflessly to pass on the benefit to others.