Yoga therapy enters medical curriculum

April 30, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:51 am IST - PUDUCHERRY:

A recent yoga workshop at the MGMCRI in Puducherry..Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

A recent yoga workshop at the MGMCRI in Puducherry..Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Yoga might have gained acceptance as a useful supplement in modern medicine’s strategy for disease management.

The Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute (MGMCRI) here has gone a step further in ingraining yoga therapy in the curriculum of a medical university.

Having launched a one-year PG Diploma in Yoga Therapy at its Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research (CYTER) which has already produced the first batch of qualified yoga therapists, the MGMCRI is now all set to commence a two-year Master of Science in Yoga Therapy (MSc YT) programme from the forthcoming academic year.

“Yoga has been seen in the construct of alternative medicine and is usually kept out of mainstream medical education. What we have done by introducing such courses is to show that it is possible to integrate yoga therapy in the mainstream academics and clinical practice of a medical university,” said Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, deputy director, CYTER, MGMCRI.

The first batch of four students who graduated from the PG Diploma in Yoga Therapy in March 2015 are likely the first set of yoga therapists graduating from a modern medical university.

The intake for the next batch of students (2015-16) is expected to begin in July/August.

The institution’s move to mainstream yoga comes at a time when global interest in yoga is at an inflection point. The United Nations has even declared June 21 as International Yoga Day.

CYTER too has proposed week-long programmes for the occasion (June 22 to 26) that include public awareness programme with free yoga therapy consultations, lectures and demonstrations in collaboration with Pondicherry Yogasana Association at MGMCRI City Centre, yoga awareness programmes for medical, dental and nursing students of constituent colleges and a national seminar cum CME on “Therapeutic Potential of Yoga.” 

Recently, the Vice-Chancellor of Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth that runs the MGMCRI, K.R. Sethuraman, launched the first-look poster for the International Day of Yoga, handing over to Claire George of the Om Yoga Studio in Cardiff, the U.K.

A team from Cardiff, which included yoga teachers Jeremy Dixon, Christine Henderson, Tony O'Dea and Kfui Lee, were here for a first-hand experience of yoga education at a medical university and its interconnectedness with clinical disciplines.

The Cardiff team is not the first international delegation that has been impressed with the structured harnessing of yoga for medical benefit.

Last year, Joseph and Lilian le Page, founders of Integrative Yoga Therapy, the U.S., had remarked after a visit to CYTER: “There are many centres where you can get a yoga degree, attend a yoga therapy session or find yoga research being undertaken. However, to have all three happening in one place is surely innovative.”

Practitioners here said that the mystique around yoga may be unravelling in the eyes of the world, but increasing popularity of yoga has only generated an incomplete understanding of its true potential. The Western experience with yoga has been largely limited to a form of exercise, they added.

What CYTER has done is to establish an integrated set up that simultaneously runs courses for educating future yoga therapists and in parallel helps patients recover from their illnesses. Yoga consultations are very much part of routine healthcare as well as the master health checkups.

Ongoing research studies are focusing on obesity and computer vision syndrome.

The CYTER model could even serve as a benchmark when the new MCI regulations on inclusion of Yoga in MBBS curriculum are implemented, doctors said.

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