Yoga therapy in conventional medicine

By Dilip Sarkar

Yoga has evolved as one of the most reliable, authentic and efficient health care systems available in society today. Most people believe that daily practice of yoga and maintenance of a yogic lifestyle produces better health benefits than does regular exercise. These yogic health benefits are useful as therapy for chronic lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, chronic lower back pain, asthma, stress and depression.

The expanding field of yoga therapy includes a wide variety of practitioners and organizations. Today, medical centers like the Cleveland Clinic are using yoga as therapy in their Lifestyle 180 Program. In 1998, the National Institutes of Health established a full-strength federal agency, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and included yoga as a part of CAM treatment. Its website currently lists 34 ongoing clinical trials for yoga as therapy, all funded by grants. On May 19-23, 2008, it premiered its first annual Yoga Week, highlighting the science, research, and practice of yoga.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists , a nonprofit organization, spans a 20-year history and serves as a professional organization for over 2,600 yoga teachers and yoga therapists worldwide. The association publishes a peer review annual journal, International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and a tri-annual publication, Yoga Therapy Today. There are over 100 books on the market today describing yoga for various ailments. Dr. Timothy McCall’s bestselling book Yoga as Medicine references over 25 health conditions benefited by yoga.

A recent survey by the Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit group with 20,000 members that maintains a registry of yoga teachers and schools, found that 15.9 million Americans are practicing yoga, 18.3 million are extremely interested in yoga, and 9.4 million say they will try yoga in the future. An August 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 23 percent of Americans believe yoga to be “a spiritual practice with health benefits.”

Conventional medicine defines health as the absence of disease, whereas in yogic tradition disease is defined as the absence of vibrant health. Yoga therapy is not disease specific, but rather yoga’s therapeutic benefit is derived from a general target to maintain good health. Yoga Therapy simultaneously treats a disease (rogir chikitsa) and maintains one’s health (swastha rakhsa). This maintenance of the health or personalized lifestyle change is used in conventional medicine as adjunct therapy.

Dr. Dilip K. Sarkar, MD, FACS, CAP, one of foremost experts in yoga therapy is coming to San Miguel de Allende in August to present his work, combining 45 years of experience in conventional medicine with extensive knowledge of integrative medicine, Ayurveda and yoga therapy. After 25 years of practice as a vascular surgeon, Dr. Sarkar retired from practice after suffering a heart attack and undergoing bypass surgery (2001). Since then, he developed a profound interest in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy, devoting considerable time to the study of these ancient treatments and wellness philosophies.

On August 16-18, 2013, Dr. Sarkar will present “Health and Wellness Through Yoga and Ayurveda.” The weekend sessions are to be held at Hotel Casa Primavera, San Miguel. Lunch is included on Saturday and Sunday, included with the price of admission. For information or to register, please phone: Lily Gonzalez, 044-415-112-3824 or email: or


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