Table of Contents  
EDITORIAL
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

A perspective on yoga research: Past to present


Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Director of Research, Kundalini Research Institute, Santa Cruz, NM, USA; Research Director, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Stockbridge, MA, USA; Research Associate, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, Boston, MA, USA; Research Affiliate, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, San Francisco, CA, USA; Editor in Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Little Rock, AR; Chief Editor, The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care

Date of Web Publication16-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Sat Bir S Khalsa
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Director of Research, Kundalini Research Institute, Santa Cruz, NM, USA; Research Director, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Stockbridge, MA, USA; Research Associate, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, Boston, MA, USA; Research Affiliate, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, San Francisco, CA, USA; Editor in Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Little Rock, AR; Chief Editor, The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care

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DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_10_17

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How to cite this article:
Khalsa SS. A perspective on yoga research: Past to present. Yoga Mimamsa 2017;49:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Khalsa SS. A perspective on yoga research: Past to present. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 17];49:1-2. Available from: http://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2017/49/1/1/208276





As we approach the 100th anniversary of the first issue of Yoga Mimamsa, it is interesting to reflect on the genesis of the life circumstances, practices, thoughts, and ideas that would lead Swami Kuvalayananda to simultaneously establish both the journal Yoga Mimamsa and the Kaivalyadhama Institute in 1924. In 1917, he was still known as Jagannath Ganesh Gune, and although by this time he had been exposed 10 years earlier to Indian physical education practices, gymnastics, and to physical yoga asanas, he had not yet begun his most intensive dedication to, and study of, yoga with his yoga master Madhavadas. However, there was evidence at this time of the seeds of his future endeavors. Through the physical education and yoga practices, he had already found significant personal benefit in curing his migraine headache and chronic cough and was a witness to the efficacy of yoga asanas being routinely applied for treating medical conditions. The years around 1917 were increasingly devoted to his personal practice of yoga and philosophy which were to lead to this becoming the dominant focus of his life. Interestingly, a number of his family relatives were academicians and scholars and also active in the field of medicine. Notably, in 1917, his uncle Vaidya Panchanan Gangadhar Shastri Gune founded the Ayurvedic College in Ahmednagar, which also published a monthly periodical. It is therefore perhaps not so surprising that he was to ultimately mimic this effort in the field of yoga just a few years later (Kaivalyadhama, 2012).

Yoga Mimamsa has the unique distinction of being the first academic scholarly journal incorporating research on yoga. It is a tribute to the foresight of its founder that it appeared almost a century before we are witnessing a virtual explosion in the fields of yoga and yoga therapy research. Not a week appears to go by before we see a published research trial of yoga by research investigators completely new to the field. Perhaps this interest and activity in yoga research is connected to the rapid exponential-like growth in the practice of yoga in the general public with about 40 million Americans practicing yoga representing over 10% of the population, with unknown but probably similar statistics in India. Our recent bibliometric analysis of peer-reviewed published yoga therapy research revealed over 450 publications as of 2013, a 3-fold increase in numbers as compared with our 2003 analysis (Jeter, Slutsky, Singh, & Khalsa, 2015; Khalsa, 2004). Research conferences in yoga are now commonplace in India from yoga institutes such as Kaivalyadhama, S-VYASA, and Patanjali Yogpeeth. In the US, our International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) annual Symposium on Yoga Research has been held since 2010. Federal funding agencies in India (AYUSH) and in the US (NCCIH) are funding yoga research. Yoga research is now routinely found in leading academic and medical institutions including AIIMS, NIMHANS, and DIPAS in India, and in many leading university medical centers in the US including the Osher Centers for Integrative Medicine and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

As editor-in-chief of the now PubMed-indexed International Journal of Yoga Therapy of the IAYT, the first academic yoga journal in the West founded in 1990, it is interesting to reflect on the growth in the field of academic yoga research publications. The S-VYASA-based International Journal of Yoga, which is also PubMed-indexed, has been perhaps the most prolific journal beginning publication in 2008. However, within the past decade, we have seen the appearance of host of additional yoga-focused journals:

  • Indian Journal of Ancient Medicine and Yoga (2008)
  • Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy (2011)
  • International Scientific Yoga Journal SENSE (2011)
  • International Journal of Yoga and Allied Sciences (2012)
  • International Journal of AYUSH: Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (2012)
  • Journal of Advanced Research in Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (2014)
  • Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy (2016)
  • International Journal of Advanced Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (2016)
  • International Journal of Yoga, Physiotherapy and Physical Education (2016)
  • MOJ Yoga and Physical Therapy (2016)
  • International Journal of Yoga Natural Therapy (newly founded).


These are only the journals that specifically highlight yoga as an object of research study. Because yoga is a part of the global movement in complementary and integrative medicine as led by the International Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, yoga research trials are also being published routinely in many journals within this broader field. Clearly, Swami Kuvalayananda would have been gratified and probably somewhat surprised that the initiative he began so long ago is being adopted aggressively and internationally a century later.

This growth in yoga and yoga research and therapy is appropriately given the challenges in modern society. Paramount in modern medicine is the epidemic in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including disorders such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, depression, cancer, and substance abuse, which represent the largest burden in health and wellness as the leading cause of death and the greatest burden on the health-care system. These are largely preventable lifestyle diseases whose etiology is driven by the major risk factors of low levels of physical activity, poor dietary choices, lack of stress management, low mind–body awareness, and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and excess alcohol consumption. I would add that a limited and mostly materialistically dominated sense of life purpose and meaning is common in modern society. All of these underlying causative factors are known to be effectively addressed with yoga and other mind–body practices. However, the current Western acute care model focusing more on treatment of symptoms alone using surgeries and pharmaceutical treatments continues to be the dominant approach in medicine in most advanced societies including North America and India. Although emphasis is on addressing existing health challenges in adults, it is also clear that our children and adolescents are also exposed to the same risk factors and therefore are suffering the consequences of unmanaged stress and unhealthy behaviors including mental and physical health disorders as well as academic and cognitive performance challenges. Addressing these problems in our schools by providing yoga practice skills is an important preventive strategy for reducing the health-care burden in children while also stemming the expression of NCDs in adulthood (Butzer, Bury, Telles, & Khalsa, 2016). The strong voice of yoga researchers and therapists promoting the implementation of yoga within modern health care is well represented in our recent comprehensive biomedical textbook, The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care (Khalsa, Cohen, McCall, & Telles, 2016).

The current issue of Yoga Mimamsa includes reports of studies that are appropriate and timely given the important needs in the current state of the medical system and societal health as described above. Two randomized controlled trials reported in this issue deal with key NCD-related disorders. A large sample size study of yoga for patients with type 2 diabetes shows clinically and statistically significant improvements in key outcomes for this disorder. Another study in normal subjects demonstrates the utility of yoga in weight management. Two studies on children in school settings have reported on the positive benefits of yoga for stress regulation and for academic performance, which is known to be impaired with unmanaged chronic stress. Another important but relatively neglected area of medicine is women's health, which also suffers from the consequences of chronic stress including menstrual cycle dysregulation, and the randomized controlled study reported is encouraging with respect to positive outcomes in this common medical problem. We are grateful to Kaivalyadhama for the continued publication of Yoga Mimamsa in service to yoga research.





 
  References Top

1.
Butzer, B., Bury, D., Telles, S., & Khalsa, S. B. (2016). Implementing yoga within the school curriculum: A scientific rationale for improving social-emotional learning and positive student outcomes. Journal of Children's Services, 11, 3-24.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Jeter, P. E., Slutsky, J., Singh, N., & Khalsa, S. B. (2015). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: A bibliometric analysis of published research studies from 1967 to 2013. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21, 586-592.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Kaivalyadhama. (2012). Yogi and Scientist: Biography of Swami Kuvalayananda. Lonavla: Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Khalsa, S. B. (2004). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: A bibliometric analysis of published research studies. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 48, 269-285.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Khalsa, S. B., Cohen, L., McCall, T., & Telles, S. (Eds.). (2016). The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care. Pencaitland, United Kingdom: Handspring Publishing Limited.  Back to cited text no. 5
    




 

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