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Heartfulness proposes meditation on the heart with an aim of attaining subtler levels of consciousness. The heart is not merely a pump for blood circulation – its role goes far beyond that. References in ancient Indian literature on Yoga, especially that from Sages like Patanjali,…

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30 Nov 2021


Integrating Yoga in Health Professions Education

Integrating Yoga in Health Professions Education 

Modern medical advancements provide the rationale for integration of various traditional healing techniques like Yoga, Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Siddha and Music to promote health, healing and longevity. Government of India is currently promoting indigenous systems of health in an active manner through Ministry of AYUSH. The limitation of modern medicine in managing stress induced psychosomatic, chronic illnesses is the strength of these traditional healing systems and hence a holistic integration of both systems enables best quality of patient care.

For probably the first time anywhere in the world, all medical, dental and nursing students of a medical university are receiving regular training in Yoga. This is happening at Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (a Deemed-to-be-University in Pondicherry) in where all medical, dental and nursing students of SBV’s constituent colleges are getting exposed to the integrative potential of Yoga with the modern healthcare system (

In view of SBV’s innovative focus, the CYTER (Center for Yoga Therapy Education and Research) was founded in 2010. It was entrusted with the task of facilitating transformation of focus from pathogenesis to salutogenesis through various activities in realms of patient care, health professionals education and research. Ample infrastructure facilities were provided and eminent faulty members recruited to fulfil the vision and mission of SBV.

Yoga in MBBS curriculum
All MBBS students have received exposure to Yoga during their orientation programs at the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute. During these daily sessions, they have lectures detailing the foundations of the philosophy and psychology of Yoga as well as science behind the effects of Yoga. They also receive practical training in various techniques aimed at stress management.
In order to facilitate a general awareness about Yoga and its role in health and disease amongst students and health professionals of SBV and other institutions, CYTER in collaboration with IYA organized many national level CMEs, seminars and workshops in the past decade.

The Hon’ble Vice Chancellor of Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth Prof Subash Chandra Parija is guiding this pioneering integration of Yoga in medical curriculum through Yogabhyasa for medical students at SBV. All students of SBV are having regular Yoga sessions that aim to develop physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health and wellbeing in them. Dr SC Parija while inaugurating the unique endeavour emphasised the need for the holistic wellbeing of students in general. He laid stress on the theme salutogenesis, originally coined by the Austrian sociologist Aaron Antonovsky to describe the focus on well-being and health instead of disease. Prof. Parija also felt that this initiative would go a long way in stress management among students besides enhancing the well-being of the mind and body and improving the learning skills among the student community.

Yoga in BDS curriculum
All BDS students have received exposure to Yoga during their orientation program at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences (IGIDS). They are given lectures on the philosophy and psychology of Yoga as well as science behind the effects of Yoga. They also have practical training in stress management techniques and contemplative relaxation practices. Feedback showed excellent response to the sessions. BDS students are receiving two hours of Yoga training at CYTER twice a month and many also attend the regular practical sessions conducted in the evenings at CYTER. Thanks to the support of the Principal as well as faculty members, students of IGIDS also participated enthusiastically in the SBV International Day of Yoga celebrations to experience the wholesome nature of Yoga. The interest generated at IGIDS and support from faculty have also resulted in MDS dissertations being taken up on Yoga in autism spectrum disorder and oral hygiene.

Yoga in BSc Nursing curriculum
The authorities of Kasturba Gandhi Nursing College were amongst the first to understand the value of Yoga and started giving Yoga training to students of their college right from 2012. Initially it was given as an optional extracurricular activity and later became a co-curricular activity. A study done with 60 students who received Yoga training twice weekly for 6 months showed significant beneficial changes in quality of life indices as well as hematological and biochemical parameters and these changes correlated positively with attendance. On the basis of this study it was recommended that Yoga be made an integral part of medical and paramedical collegiate education. All nursing students take part enthusiastically in the International Day of Yoga celebrations since 2015.

Avant-apres (pre-post) comparison showed how Yoga has transformed their personalities as well their sense of wellness. Initial feelings expressed as heavy, inability, breathlessness, anxious, hesitant and scattered transformed through Yoga into feelings of being capable, respected, contented, confident, composed, happy and peaceful.

Based on positive changes experienced and expressed by students, teachers and administrators, it was proposed to include Yoga officially as a part of the nursing curriculum and through a specialized course namely “Foundation in Yoga Therapy”. A total of 45 hours are earmarked for the 1st year, 30 hours for the 2nd year and 15 hours during the 3rd year thus making up a total of 90 hours during the entire BSc (N) course. 2nd year students are regularly posted to CYTER for a full week on rotational basis to receive comprehensive training and hands-on experience in how Yoga therapy is imparted for patients through CYTER.

Yoga in AHS curriculum
Yoga is offered as an elective for all students of AHS courses including physiotherapy and pharmacy. The response has been gratifying with many of them bagging honours during IDY celebrations. They also participated with enthusiasm in the YUVA YOGA SANGAMAM, a mass Yoga demonstration held at SBV in January 2020 as part of the National Youth Day.
Overcoming challenges and growing holistically

CYTER of SBV has taken up the opportunity to introduce Yoga in healthcare with innovative “Yogabhyasa” program for all students of SBV who receive regular yoga practice sessions to foster a sense of wellness. It has also facilitated the incorporation of Yoga Therapy education in Nursing Curriculum, integrated Yoga in Health Professions Education and created Standard Operating Procedure for Application of Yoga in Primary Health Care (Voyaging of Yoga Basics to Grass Roots – VYBGR with Department of Community Medicine. It has also contributed to SBV policy on salutogenesis implementation and SBV Standard Operating procedure for salutogenesis.

Anything new idea is bound to face resistance from within as well as from outside the system. Our efforts are no different and there has been some resistance from within the medical field especially as Yoga is viewed as mere exercise or as a fad that has nothing to offer students in a medical university. Students have also at times been apprehensive of the need for such an introduction of what is perceived as being “ unscientific”. The main challenge has been to keep them interested in the sessions as they are not bound by any academic evaluation and hence don’t feel obliged to attend or pay attention. However because of the unconditional support of the management and administrators of our deemed university, we have been able to tackle visually all of these roadblocks. We have also made sure that the sessions are lively and interactive and the positive feedback from the students has been tremendous.

Dr Ananda Balayogi

( Editor-in-Chief )

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