January 2015

Return to S-VYASA


On our first trip to explore Yoga Therapy in India from January to April of 2014, we saw the potential of yoga as a vehicle for health and healing. In the first week of our current trip, we have begun to see how this potential is becoming a reality. This week we visited two institutions that are both very similar and at the same time quite distinct. 


We began by revisiting S-VYASA University. This second trip to S-VYASA was important for two reasons. During our first visit in 2014, the founder and director, Dr. Nagendra, was traveling. Since one of the main motivations of our project is to meet and document the founders of the modern Yoga Therapy movement, it was essential to meet him. Secondly, the state of the art Anaveshana Yoga research laboratory was just being put together during our first visit and we didn't have a chance to see it fully functioning.   

     At our visit to S-VYASA, we had the opportunity to spend an hour talking to Dr. Nagendra. His journey began as a research engineer, first in India and later in the United States where he worked for NASA. His Aunt, Lakshmi Amma, had a healing experience through Yoga, which led her to found a healing retreat outside of Bangalore. This original retreat expanded over the years to become S-VYASA today. Dr. Nagendra and his sister, Dr. Nagaratna, a physician trained in England, were impressed by Auntie Lakshmi's experience and became part of her holistic healing project. Their first project was visiting many of the major ashrams and Yoga healing centers in India to see if there were common approaches and methodologies that supported healing through Yoga. They brought these methodologies and techniques to S-VYASA where they have evolved into a unique healing system used at the Arogyadhama healing center, the world's largest "Yoga Hospital." Arogyadhama treats individuals with a wide range of conditions using a healing model based on the five Koshas. The center has had remarkable results over several decades of operation and these results have been well documented.

From the very beginning, it was clear to Dr. Nagendra and Dr. Nagaratna that Yoga would only be accepted if it were brought into the mainstream through scientific research. S-VYASA was one of the first institutions to engage in in-depth Yoga research. After a four-year clinical study on the effects of Yoga on asthma, they were able to show definite improvement. This study was published in the British Journal of Medicine in 1985, paving the way for many of the advances in Yoga research and Yoga Therapy.

This focus on research has been a foundation of S-VYASA's tremendous growth. They are involved in Yoga Therapy research at MD Anderson Cancer Center in the largest grant ever given for Yoga. S-VYASA publishes a journal called International Yoga Journal, which presents the main research findings from all over India. S-VYASA is also in the beginning stages of implementing a Yoga hospital and university in the United States as well as in China. This means that in ten years time, Yoga Therapy as a mainstream medical modality will be a reality, not only in India but also in the United States.



     For many years the healing approach at S-VYASA was based mainly on Yoga practice. Groups were divided by health conditions and each was given a specific protocol of Asana practices. All of the groups came together for chanting, meditation, etc. Over the last few years, this approach has deepened and broadened, and now includes Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, and Physiotherapy, along with allopathic treatment. Dr. Nagendra notes that through this integrated approach, the healing results are achievable in half the time as compared with the programs offered before the integration of other healing modalities. 


     A key to Dr. Nagendra's work is his ability to explore the original texts of Yoga and discern healing principles from within Yoga philosophy. His main references are the Yoga Vashista and Yoga Sutras. His articles focused on Yoga Therapy are an important part of S-VYASA's monthly Yoga publication, Yoga Sudha. It was an honor for us to meet him and sense ourselves part of Yoga Therapy's past, present, and future as it has evolved in India. 


     While at S-VYASA, we also had the opportunity for an extensive tour of the fully functioning Anvesana research center. Anvesana (which means research) is the worlds most complete research center dedicated exclusively to Yoga. Within each department, we experienced ourselves entering a whole new world of possibilities for understanding how Yoga works. 

     Our return to S-VYASA gave us a vision of Yoga Therapy's future. Dr. Nagendra explains that advances in measuring the subtle body will lead to a time when a series of evaluative techniques can analyze the needs of the individual at the level of each of the five Koshas, including the Chakras and subtle body. These can then be used to design an individualized program of Yoga Therapy at all levels of being.


~Joseph Le Page


Read about our first visit to S-VYASA, Feb. 2014


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