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Yoga is today considered a $80-billion market globally but is India, its country of origin, doing enough to invest in truly nurturing the impact of this mega export. Our yoga expert writes about how proverbial bridges between the academic, scientific and spiritual thought leaders could be answer. My medical history notes read “45 yrs female SSC c LBP”. The lower case 'c' is medical shorthand for 'with' and LBP means lower back pain. The acronym SSC regularly appears in my consultation notes these days and stands for 'suffered and survived cancer'. SSC is synonymous with patients that have endured all kinds of tests, treatments and the agony of not knowing where you stand. The reason this particular patient of mine has lower back pain is because her body has been cooked with chemotherapy. She has lost critical mass and her muscles and joints struggle to manage their own weight let alone leverage her body into positions needed to get in and out of bed. But if you ask her what she is really struggling with, she will tell you that although she is exhausted at night she can't sleep. Instead her mind battles with chaotic concerns - some trivial, some too traumatic to even contemplate - and while she has been given the all-clear, it will be a few years before she can really say that she is a survivor. It is predicted that by 2020, one in two people in the UK alone will suffer from cancer. Currently 40 per cent of cancer cases come under the preventable category. The 'Journal of Clinical Oncology' published a hard-hitting paper reporting on a randomised control study which demonstrated that quality of life improved significantly in cancer survivors who practiced yoga. Insomnia, anxiety and fatigue all reduced in the cohort that practiced asanas, breathing techniques and meditation in 75-minute sessions twice a week. Yoga is known to impact heart rate and blood pressure, not just bringing them down to lower levels but supporting their auto-regulation, allowing them to adapt to stress and trauma, bringing about alertness and calm. Cancer is one of the world's greatest epidemiological challenges not constrained to socio-economic climates like many diseases. In a world that understands prevention is better than cure, how can we promote the fact that two and a half hours of yoga a week will help you stay healthy to the point that you can fight off cancer The government of India and United Nations efforts in establishing International Yoga Day (IYD) represents a great platform to highlight and showcase the depth and understated values of this ancient science. I recall a meeting with the honorable minister for AYUSH [Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy], Shripad Naik, in New Delhi two years ago to discuss the introduction of Osteopathic medicine in India. Hearing the facts about the profession was not his priority, he wanted to experience what the discipline was about. So, rather informally, I gave him an Osteopathic session where I had the opportunity to demonstrate spinal manipulations and soft tissue techniques rooted in bringing about functional changes. He quickly remarked on its similarity to yoga, recognising the “artistry” in it and expressing how a short session made him feel like he's just done a one-hour yoga session and that above all he felt fresh. The minister's approach was unique; he was looking for a first-hand experience over a randomised control study with a sizeable cohort. Is this one of yoga's limitations A lack of evidence base Yoga has been described as one of India's greatest exports. Quantifiably and qualitatively speaking this is true. Its cultural influence globally is incredible, inspiring people to greater levels of awareness, ethics and improved wellbeing. It also happens to be valued as a $27 billion business in the US alone and estimated at around $80 billion globally. With a $66 billion budget for scientific R&D, can India empower its academic institutes to build proverbial bridges between the academic, scientific and spiritual thought leaders over yoga Surely there's a return in it. As an Osteopath that recommends yoga on a daily basis to his patients, I hope that the future IYDs lead to ground-breaking yoga-based medical research.
Keerti Mathur is an associate at the Gait and Posture Centre at Harley Street in London and has been practicing Osteopathy for 10 years. He is part of the Art of Living faculty and a keen musician. Under the guidance of Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Keerti worked to set up India's first school of Osteopathic medicine in Sri Sri university Orissa