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“Yoga and Alternative System of Medicine in India”

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  • Published
    2nd Aug, 2019

UPSC Exam is all about proper strategy, dedication and consistent endeavor in the right direction with authentic and reliable study material. Government and renowned international reports form a very important source for grasping the conceptual clarity of contemporary national and international issues/topics. However, it is a daunting task to comprehend a report that runs through hundreds of pages. It becomes difficult for the students in time crunch situations particularly during UPSC Mains Examinations.

In order to ease the burden over aspirants, GSSCORE has come up with a series of summary of important national and international reports in a crisp and comprehensive manner. Underlining the importance of reports and indexes for PT and Mains, GSSCORE provides a comprehensive summary of important reports of national and international repute. The summary of the report by GSSCORE would save the time and energy of the UPSC aspirants and enable them to quickly cover the syllabus.

  • The following summary of the YOJANA titled “YOGA AND ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM OF MEDICINE IN INDIA” is in one among the series of summaries created by GSSCORE on various reports.
  • The report gives us a brief idea on Yoga, science and well being, Traditional school of yoga, Alternative system of medicines in India. The report underscores the recent developments in achieving these goals.
  • YOJANA is important topic both for UPSC Preliminary as well as Mains. So going through the GSSCORE summary of the report becomes imperative for UPSC aspirants

Yoga is an inner science comprising of a variety of practices and methods through which human beings can achieve a union between the body and the mind to attain self-realisation. The aim of yoga practice (Sadhana) is to overcome and endure all kinds of sufferings that leads to a sense of freedom in Every Walk of life with holistic health, happiness and harmony. Yoga is a perfect Wellness module as it is comprehensive and holistic in its nature. Yogic Principles of Wellness help to strengthen and develop positive health enabling us to withstand stress better. The roots of Yoga are in ancient India; its universal origin is the burning desire in the heart of the philosophers – the yearning to be happy and free of suffering.

Traditional Schools  of Yoga:

  • Traditional School of Yoga include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Patanjala Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jain Yoga, Buddha Yoga etc.

Scientific Studies on Yoga and its acceptance in modern world

  • Modern day lifestyle and globalization has led to regional diversification of Yoga. From its birth place it has travelled across the world.
  • Different scientific study on Yoga has led to establish the fact that it has multiple benefits.
  • Stress, improper dietary habits and sedentary living have led to decline in health, performance and led to diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders and cancer.
  • Yoga has emerged as an useful alternative to medication in combating these disorders and shows that science and spirituality need not always be treated as separate entities. Yoga has the potential to solve the lifestyle problems and psychosomatic diseases.
  • The studies indicate improvement in physical and cognitive performance, body flexibility and distress tolerance. It also strengthens our immunity thereby preventing diseases.

Promotion of yoga

  • UNESCO inscribed yoga in the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • The National Health Policy 2017 recommended introduction of Yoga in school and at work places as part of promotion of good health.
  • In order to promote Yoga as a part of school curriculum Yoga education was made compulsory by National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), a statutory body under Ministry of Human Resource Development, through its 15 Teacher education programmes.

Fundamental of Yoga

  • Yoga works on the level of one’s body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four broad classifications of Yoga:
  • In Karma Yoga the body is utilized and in Jnana Yoga the mind and intellect.
  • Bhakti Yoga utilizes the emotion and Kriya Yoga  the energy is utilized.
  • All ancient commentaries on Yoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a guru.

Yogic Practices for Well-Being

  • The widely practiced Yoga sadhanas are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, Bandhas and Mudras, Shatkarmas, Yuktahara, Mantra-japa, Yukta-karma etc.
  • Yama’s are restraints and Niyama’s are observances. Asanas, capable of bringing about stability of body and mind.
  • Pranayama consists of developing awareness of one’s breathing followed by willful regulation of respiration as the functional or vital basis of one’s existence.
  • Pratyahara indicates dissociation of one’s consciousness (withdrawal) from the sense organs which connect with the external objects.
  • Dharana indicates broad based field of attention (inside the body and mind) which is usually understood as concentration.
  • Dhyana (mediation) is contemplation (focused attention inside the body and mind) and Samadhi (integration).
  • Bandhas and Mudras are practices associated with Pranayama. They are viewed as the higher Yogic practices that mainly adopt certain physical gestures along with control over respiration.
  • Satkarmas are detoxification procedures that are clinical in nature and help to remove the toxins accumulated in the body. Yuktahara advocates appropriate food and food habits for healthy living.

Yoga and Mental Health

  • Yoga practice reduces depressive symptoms since a long time. It lifts the mood and improves interest in activities, attention/concentration/memory, sleep and appetite.
  • It has positive effects on the cognitive/behavioral aspects due to its mindfulness component.
  • To treat patients with mild to moderate depression, yoga aloe is sufficient. This has been reflected in several recent studies in India and abroad.
  • Yoga practices has improved socialization, motivation to do activities, occupational functioning, ability to recognize others emotions/feelings and cognitive abilities in patients with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
  • This effect occurs due to increase in the ‘cuddle hormone’, namely oxytocin, by yoga.
  • Yoga is an alternative complementary therapy to treat addiction of tobacco, alcohol and opioid.
  • Methods of concentration taught in yoga practice have effectively reduced attention deficits in individuals.

Increasing relevance of Yoga in Modern Times

  • Yoga should become a part of our everyday life. Yoga is an ancient Indian science having a scientific background which has an antiquity of 11,500 years. Practice of Yoga can enhance physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual powers of
  • India is in the frontline of information technology, biotechnology, nano-science and other types of research. The internal and external stresses of people in these fields can be relieved by practicing Yoga and also for attaining peace and comfort. Various Yoga organisations and NGOs and several central universities have popularised Yoga worldwide with untiring efforts.
  • The systems of Ayurveda, Veda and Yoga have enhanced the health and longevity of Indians since time immemorial. Charaka while elaborating on the issue of health of an individual says that complete health means the totality of healthy body, sense organs and pleasant mind which has been incorporated in the motto of World Health Organization. In this context, the great contributions of ancient Indian medical doctors like Charaka, Sushruta, Vagbhata, Madhava, Nagarjuna, vedic sages and others merit our attention.
  • Yoga and meditation are very important tools in controlling Diabetes which has spread like an epidemic disease the world over and India is soon emerging as a second Diabetic capital of the The world-renowned scholars and research centres have accepted that Yoga can cure diseases such as Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer, Hypertension and other non-communicable diseases. The practice of Yoga would help people to live healthily, happily, harmoniously and people can be free from various ailments and diseases.
  • Yoga should be imparted to children from the very young age and it should become their lifestyle. Yoga would become a powerful means for promoting ageless Indian culture and tradition. Indian youth who form more than 50% of total Indian population should practice Yoga for the overall development of their personalities.

Changes in life style causing disease

  • Physical inactivity is now identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Unhealthy diet was the second biggest factor in India driving most deaths and disability combined after malnutrition.
  • Food borne diseases cost India $ 15 billion.
  • According to World Health Organisation, there is no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001. People with a sedentary Lifestyle are twice at risk than the physically active ones.

Yoga: A solution for lifestyle disease

  • There is strong evidence to demonstrate that adults between the ages of 18 to 64 years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.
  • We have to keep in mind that 65 per cent of India's population is under the age of 35; 50% of India's population is under the age of 25.
  • Future India should be healthy and fit. Yogic practices are considered as perfect exercises because they are more natural by using the Stored energy from the body itself. 
  • Scientific findings on yoga are: yogic practices enhance grey matter for cognition and white matter for communication; enhance white matter to avoid depression which is the number one reason for ill-health.

Yoga has successfully emerged as a way to manage personality, physical and mental health of individuals. It has proved a way to improve attention and cognitive abilities as well as reduce intoxication habits and depression. It has emerged as an alternative way in corporate culture to heal one’s body as it takes lesser time than other physical and mental exercises. It is the science of activating inner energies and blossoming of human potential to its fullness. It is Health Insurance at zero budget and a passport to health assurance. Yoga is a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern daily life. It sutures the wounds of life.  Adoption of yoga in lifestyle can effectively cure many disease and help a personality to build up. It can help India to achieve SDG 3 i.e Health and Well Being. Inclusion of yoga in National Health Policy and special focus of government through initiatives like AYUSH by setting up a dedicated ministry for it has signified its importance for India. Yoga has been widely accepted all over the world as an alternative way of Health management. This can be reflected by the fact that UNO declared June 21st as International Day of Yoga (IDY) and celebration of this IDY has become a global phenomenon. Efforts by government of India to promote Yoga support its popularity factor.

  • The first full-fledged department for Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeophathy (ISM&H) was created under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. In March 1995.
  • This department was, in November 2003, renamed as Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Nauropathy, Unant, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).
  • A fully independent Ministry of AYUSH was formed in November 2014. In 2002, the Government of India also formulated the National Policy on Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy.
  • The current National Health Policy of India has proposed functional linkages of AYUSH at all levels of health systems, including service delivery as well as work force.

India and Alternative System of Medicine

There are currently three broad classification of alternative medicine system being practiced in India. They are :

  • Traditional Medicine (TM): The sum-total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.
  • Complementary Medicine (CM) or Alternative Medicine (AM): A broad set of healthcare practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition or conventional medicine and area not fully integrated into the dominant healthcare system.
  • Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM): T&CM merges the terms TM and CM, encompassing products, practices and practioners.

Different types of Alternative system of medicines in India

  • Ayurveda: The Ayurvedic System of Medicine evolved nearly 5000 years ago (3000 BC). The word Ayurveda means ‘Science of Life’ and employs treatment modalities, such as purification, palliation, prescription of various diets, exercises and the avoidance of disease causing factors.
  • Unani Medicine: Unani Medicine originated in the Arab world. Unani medicine treats a patient with diet, pharmacotherapy, exercise, massages and surgery. It was introduced in India around the 10th century AD.
  • Homeophaty: The word ‘Homeopathy’ is derived from the Greek words, ‘Homois’ meaning ‘similar’ and ‘pathos’ means ‘suffering’. It originated in Germany and was introduced in India around1810-1839.
  • Homeopathy is based on the law of healing- “similia SimilibusCurantur’ which means ‘likes are cured by likes’. It uses highly individualized remedies selected to address specific symptoms or symptom profiles.
  • Siddha: This system has originated in India and is amongst the oldest systesof medicine in the country. It takes into account the patient, his/her surroundings, age, sex, race, habitat, diet, appetite, physical condition etc. to arrive at the diagnosis.  Siddha System uses minerals, metals and alloys and drugs and inorganic compounds to treat the patients. Unlike most T&CM, this system is largely therapeutic in nature. Siddha literature is in Tamilnadu.
  • Sowa-Ripa: The word combination means the ‘science of healing’ and its considered one of the oldest living and well-documented medical traditions of the world. It originated from Tibet and is widely practiced in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and Russia.
  • Yoga & Naturopathy: The concepts and practices of Yoga are reported to have originated in India. Naturopathy or the naturophatic medicine is a drugless, non-invasive system of medicine imparting treatments with natural elements based on the theories of vitality, toxemia and the self-healing capacity of the body as well as the principles of healthy living. The common naturopathy modalities include counseling, diet and fasting therapy, mud theory, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, magnet therapy and yoga therapy.

 Siddha system

  • The term ‘Siddha’ is derived from the root word ‘Siddhi’ which means ‘an object to be attained’ or ‘perfection’. The Siddha system of medicine owes its origin to medicinal ideas and practices of a class of Tamil sages called the Siddhars – ‘perfected’ or ‘holy immortals’.They had firm faith in the ‘deathless’ physical body being in tune with the spiritual immortal ‘soul’,  

Basic Human Principles – 96 Thathuvas  Five Elements  

  • The primordial elements are called panchamaha bootham, namely mann (earth), neer (water), thee (fire), kattru (air) and aagayam (space)

I.  Three Humours

  • To regulate the living body easily the five primodial elements were concised into three humours namely vazhi (vadham or air), azhal (pittam or heat) and Iyyam (kapha or cold), When humours are in natural equilibrium and harmony, a person enjoys the best of health.
  • The first one third of one’s life is considered as vazhi period where a person grows physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
  • The second one third of ones life is considered as azhal period where life is considered to be in the maintenance phase in physiological condition.
  • Finally, the last one third of one’s life is physiologically attributed to Iyyam period or the destructive/senile phase of one life. 

II.  Five Sheaths (Kosham)

  • The nature of being human encompasses physical and psychological aspects that functions as one holistic system.
  • The kosham system refers to different aspects as layers of subjective experience. They are paruva udambu – annamaya kaosham (food- apparent-physical sheath), vali udmambu pranaamaya kosham (air-apparent-sheath), mana udambu- manomaya kosham (mind-apparent sheath), arivudambu – vijnanamaya kosham (wisdom-apparent-Intellectual sheath) and inba udambu – anandamaya kosham (bliss-aparent sheath).

III. Ten Pranic Air (Vayus)

  • These ancillary vayus are not just responsible for physiological function but also contribute to the psychological and spiritual component.
  • Siddha Therapy :The foremost substance given for an imbalance of three humours or illness is of herbal origin.   

Homeopathy System of Medicine

  • Homeopathy is an age-old system of healing, with its discovery dating back to 1796. It was discovered by a German doctor, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, in his discontentment with the then medical practices and lack of cures. Homeopathy is a nature-based system that treats holistically as well as individually, by way of stimulating one’s own immunity capable to fight an illness.

Homeopathy In India

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) data suggested that Homeopathy is currently the second largest system of medicine in the world.
  • Homeopathy in India  Homeopathy came to India in 1810 when Dr. Johm Martin Honigberger, a French traveler who learnt homeopathy from Dr. Hahnemann, visited India and treated patients.
  • He treated Maharaja Ranjit Sigh, the-then-ruler-of Punjab, with a homeopathic remedy Dulcamara while he suffered from paralysis of the vocal cords.
  • Babu Rajendra Lal Dutt (1818-1889) may be called the Father of Indian Homeopathy.

Benefits of Homoepathy

  • The principles that Homeopathy works on include such nature-based, pragmatic facts, like treating a person holistically, through a single, simple medicine, prepared in a dynamic manner, and prescribed in a dosage that is just enough to stir up the self-healing mechanism of your own body.
  • One of the potential aspects of Homeopathy is that it addresses these conditions in a patient successfully, that too with single, or at the most with two medicines.
  • Homeopathy treats the multi-morbid person as a whole, which works on bringing back the biological functions in order, thereby addressing them all, and thus helping the patient holistically and simultaneously improving his/her general well-being.
  • Homeopathy has been covered under AYUSH Mission. Homeopathy medicine system due to its low cost is a better alternative medication system. Homeopathy has proven strength in the treatment of allergic disorders, skin diseases, children’s problems, several so-called surgical problems like piles, tonsillitis, sinusitis, menstrual disorders, life style diseases and common mental and emotional disorders.

Unani System Of Medicine: The Science Of Health And Healing

  • Unani medicine, also called Unani tibb, Arabian medicine, or Islamic medicine, a traditional system of healing and health maintenance observed in South Asia. The origins of Unani medicine are found in the doctrines of the ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. It is a comprehensive medical system, which meticulously deals with the various states of health and disease.

Principles of Unani Medicine

  • Temperament (Mizaj) of a patient is given great importance in diagnosis and treatment of disease with natural remedies derived mostly from plants.
  • Temperament is also taken into consideration for identifying the most suitable diet and lifestyle for promoting the health of particular individual.
  • Unani system of Medicine considers the entire universe including human beings, disease, drugs, environmental factors etc. to be intrinsically defined by four primary qualities – Hot, Cold, Dry and Wet.
  • These qualities are reflected in all the basic concepts of Unani System of Medicine such as elements, temperament and four humours, which are used for describing and correlating human health and disease with promotive and curative factors e.g. diet and drugs.
  • While diagnosing and treating a disease, Unani System of Medicine looks holistically into the overall physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.
  • Unani System of Medicine has the importance of psychiatric treatment in the management of various diseases. Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) under the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has, over the past three and a half decades, emerged as the leading research organization in Unani Medicine. India has emerged as the world leader in Unani System of Medicine.

Naturopathy: The Science Of Health And Wellness

  • Naturopathy is a traditional system of healing based upon natural principles that govern life, living and health. The references of such principles can be found in the scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads and Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Naturopathy is called a drugless system of healthcare based on well-founded philosophy and practices. Its main emphasis is on holistic approach to health, covering not only physical but also the mental, moral and spiritual aspects.

Salient Feature Of Naturopathy

  • Naturopathy practice educates the patient in health matters. Naturopathic practices are easy to follow and can be integrated systematically in the daily routine of people.
  • Naturopathy believes that all living beings in nature stay healthy as long as they are tuned with the natural laws.
  • Naturopathy is recognized and promoted as an independent system of healthcare under the ambit of AYUSH.
  • Naturopathy believes that entire universe is composed of five basic elements Panchamahabhutas Eather (akasha), Air (vayu), Fire (Agni), water (jala) and Earth (prithvi) and so is the human body.
  • Imbalance of these elements creates disease. The diseases can, therefore be treated by the appropriate use of these elements and such treatments are called Prakritik Chikitsa or Naturopathy.

Therapeutic Modalities Used in Naturopathy:

The main therapeutic modalities of Naturopathy employed for preventive promotive and curative purpose are following

  • Upvas Chikitsa (Fasting Therapy)
  • Aahar Chikitsa (Diet Therapy)
  • Mitti Chikitsa (Mud Therapy)
  • Jala Chikitsa (Hydro Therapy)
  • Malish Chikitsa (Massage Therapy)
  • Surya Kiran Chikitsa (Helio Therapy)
  • Vayus Chikitsa (Air Therapy)
  • Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy)

Promotion of alternative system of medicine in India has not only made the world aware about rich Indian cultural heritage but also opened new ways to ancient medicine system of Ayurveda, Siddha, Sowa-Ripa, Homeopathy and Unani system to reach the global audience. It will further aid India to consolidate as medical tourism hub and emerge as the world’s leader in this field. Cheap medication and treatment will further attract more medical tourists from under developed and developing countries. As a whole India, in future can aid the world to achieve Sustainable Development Goal of “Good Health and Well Being” (SDG 3).


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