March 2015 
Exploring Yoga Therapy's Future, Part 1

Moraji Desai National Institute


The last stage of our journey in India begins in Delhi where we visited the Moraji Desai National Institute of Yoga. This is the branch of the Indian government that organizes and supervises most Yoga related activities at the level of the national government. This organization has become even more important since the recent election of Prime Minister Modi, one of whose policies is to promote Yoga and India's natural healing systems.  


Our meeting with Ishvara Basavaradi, the director of the institute, is inspiring. Perhaps we were expecting facts and figures about the Indian government's support for Yoga. While we did receive essential information about the organization, we found Dr Basavaradi deeply committed to the essence of Yoga and very inspiring in his ability to communicate his vision.

   For Dr. Basvaradi, the techniques of Yoga are just the most surface level layer of a complete path for finding ones true self. "It is at this deeper level," he explains, "that Yoga has the capacity not only to transform individuals, but also to transform societies, nations and the entire planet." In this regard he mentions the importance of World Yoga day on June 21st which is an initiative of the Indian government approved at the United Nations.



Patanjali Yogpeeth 


From Delhi, we travel up to Haridwar for a visit to Patanjali Yogpeeth which is the largest Yoga and Arurveda organization in the world. Swami Ramdev's vision of bringing Yoga and India's traditional healing systems to the masses is the heart of the organization. Swami Ramdev comes from humble origins and began Yoga as a way of healing his own partial paralysis. This is one of the reasons that Yoga Therapy has such a key role in the organization.

Swami Ramdev began teaching Yoga on TV in 1993 and his daily programs may now have as many as 30 million viewers. His organization also produces a range of health products with sales of several billion dollars a year. These products cover a wide range of natural health needs from herbal soap and shampoo to Ayurvedic supplements. The combination of high quality and low cost have caused the sales of these products to skyrocket.


When we arrive at Yogpeeth, we find a large complex of well-organized buildings surrounded by well-tended gardens and fountains. There are impressive statues of Patanjali as well as Dhanvantari and other preceptors of Ayurveda. We are received warmly by Dr. Shirley Telles, and her research team, who support us in visiting the many facets of Yogpeeth. As we tour the grounds, it slowly begins to dawn on us that Yogpeeth is the heart of a Yoga revolution in which as many as fifty million Indians have begun practicing Hatha Yoga in the last 20 years. While vast in its scope, the organization is also deeply grounded in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as a way of life and Ayurveda as a path of healing. 


We visit Yogpeeth's Yoga hospital that can treat up to five hundred patients per day, at minimal cost. At first, it is easy to get lost in the scale of everything at Yogpeeth, but as we begin to explore more deeply, we saw that the scale is usually matched by quality and attention to detail. Care receivers participate in both group and individualized classes and their treatments are supported by Ayurveda, including panchakarma.


There is also a special facility for the shatkarmas, the Yogic cleansing techniques. While visiting this facility, we were able to observe the practical uses of the major shatkarmas as well as evidence of their effectiveness.


Along with the abhyanga and panchakarma treatments, the Ayurveda unit has two surgery theatres where major and minor procedures are carried out in line with the traditional texts of Ayurveda. We were shown how certain types of procedures, such as those involving removal of hemorrhoids, have much lower rate of recurrence with Ayurvedic surgery than with conventional medicine.


We also visited the Yoga and Ayurveda university which offers a five and a half year medical degree in Ayurveda. The school of Yoga offers a B.A, M.A, and PhD. in Yoga studies with a substantial portion of the course work focused on therapeutic applications. In the Ayurveda school, we were impressed by the number of experiential learning tools and methods; almost everything is done hands on.  

At the Yoga school we were impressed by the high level of the faculty that has both breath and depth in everything from the physiology of stress to the subtleties of Patajanli's Yoga Sutras. One of the professors offered a class for us in English as most of the instruction is given in Hindi. This use of Hindi is part of the Yogpeeth's emphasis on offering Yoga for all socio-economic groups.



After visiting the university and Yoga hospital we went to Phase 2 of the campus, where the large meetings are held for general Yoga groups as well as large health camps for specific conditions. What initially impresses one is the size of the facilities; there are several large Yoga halls, one of which holds ten thousand practitioners.


We also visit a Yoga and Ayurveda history complex that is nearing completion. Along with a four-story structure to showcase all of Yogpeeth's products, there is an outdoor garden area with a series of man made caves. Within these caves, the entire history of Yoga and Ayurveda unfolds in the form of statues gilded with gold paint. As individuals pass through the different exhibits, they are naturally imbued with the essence of their own spiritual and natural healing systems.






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