Question by Paul Harvey
So from what you are saying it appears that it is not really possible to evaluate Yoga in the terms that would satisfy Western science, in terms of having several study groups, one group practising Yoga, one group practising some placebo, one group not practising; measuring the different groups and trying to determine the effect over the same period of time.
Response from TKV Desikachar
It is a challenge. Now I am not saying that people have not done this type of study, I always want to call it study, I do not call it a conclusion, study is being done by scientific people interested in Yoga, studies are being done but there is a tendency to make a hasty conclusion. There are many Institutions in India that say we have done these studies.
For example Dr Dean Ornish has given a course of Yoga in his book for the heart, I am scared of that course. Somebody with a heart problem, suppose he has got some neck problem and has high blood pressure, he does the shoulder stand that he has put in his book what may happen to that person? I am sorry, but with all respect but some of these people in their enthusiasm to look for something good for society make a hasty conclusion without taking into account the other aspects of human beings.
You see when somebody comes to us they are not coming with one problem, there are other problems. Asthma, they come with asthma then they take medication, these medications produce blood pressure, some of the medication increases stomach ulcers, then they have diahorrea then they have heaviness in the head, their legs are swollen, so many factors are there.
Now, this is the challenge, how can I evaluate this person with this problem, something is given, this person nothing is given. Is it possible and is it fair that twenty people get the benefit of Yoga and forty people do not get the benefit of Yoga? Is it ethically correct? These are some of the questions. This is what happens with mental retardation. If you want to evaluate you teach twenty and you do not teach others. Now these children are growing, after four years you cannot teach them because they will not respond.
How do we use Yoga, that this is the question I have asked the scientists. Tell us if there is a means to evaluate so that it is fair to science, it is fair to Yoga and it is fair to the patient. That is the question. We have published some books I am very honest about this, we are just telling what is the condition, what has been happening, but we are not a medical institution; we do not want to conclude that Yoga cures heart diseases.
Many Yoga teachers have heart diseases, many Yoga teachers have family relationship problems, and many Yoga teachers have back problems so we should be honest. So if to be honest means there is also science, science is honest, science is an on-going process. I am a student of science, I am always interested in science, and it is an on-going problem. It is very important because the true scientist is always honest because he is looking for the truth and it is what we want in Yoga, to find the truth.
So in the meantime through all these complicated situations we help people but we do hope that with the data back that we have and with the people coming we hope that we can break ground and ask people to help. I have asked the scientists to help us. Definitely Yoga therapy or using Yoga to help people with problems should not be equated to allopathy where a particular illness has a particular medicine for it. It is not fair to Yoga and it is not fair to science.
One more thing I would like to say, when somebody goes to a doctor certain illnesses are cured forever or it is not to be cured, sometimes when the discipline is stopped the disease comes back. So the responsibility of resolving a problem is not in the hands of Yoga it is in the hands of the person who is suffering. The person is curing their diseases the person is resolving his problem or her problem, so the responsibility here is not in Yoga it is in the person and the responsibility is in the teacher who ensures that this person loves what is given so much that he or she will not stop doing it.
– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000 on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.