Q.1 Dr. Kapadia, you’ve had the highest education in the field of cardiology in England and America. After such a distinguished career and experience, what really led you to Yoga ?
Dr. Medical science has made great progress in the treatment of coronary heart disease. Angioplasty and by-pass surgery are widely used in its management. But neither of them promises a cure. They are palliative measures. Bypass surgery bypasses the problem , as the trouble often recurs.
Over years, I have been looking for an answer. Meanwhile, I cam to know of Dr. Dean Ornish’s success in the treatment of coronary heart disease through yoga. In June ‘91, I got an opportunity to observe his program. It was really amazing to see how in a city like San Fransisco, steeped in materialism and luxury , Dr. Ornish’s patients experienced such great relief through yoga.
Q.2 Could you please tell us about this program at San Fransisco ?
Dr. Dr.Dean Ornish’s program consists of almost fatfree strict vegetarian diet, modest exercise,progressive deep relaxation (shavasana), meditation, group discussion and the sharing of feelings. 40 patients with severe coronary heart disease showed remarkable improvement during 4 years. This was verified by pocitron emission tomography - PET Scan. This is a technique for assessing coronary blood flow to the heart muscle without coronary angiography.
Q.3 Is this Yoga western, or different from what we have here ?
Dr. Yoga has its roots in Indian culture. Youwill be glad to know that Dr. Ornish’s program was inspired and evolved by Swami Satchidanandji settled in Virginia who is a disciple of Swami Shivanand.
Q.4 It is an alternative therapy ?
Dr. It is supportive or supplementary therapy, a nature cure along with medical treatment. It does not replace the traditional therapy.
Q.5 Will you please explain the method of Yoga ?
Dr. The purpose of Yoga is to bring about the relaxation of the body and the mind. It is easier to relax the body than the mind. Moderate stretching exercises followed by relaxation makes the relaxation process easier. Once the body relaxes, the mind automatically begins to relax. The Mind is present in every cell of the body. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said that there is a measure of conscious thought throughout the body. Progressive deep relaxation that is shavasana achieved in this manner brings about a relaxed state of the mind and the body, which prepares the individual for meditation.
Q.6 Doctor, you seem to be turning toward religion.?
Dr. Certainly not. Meditation is not a religious ritual. It simply consists in bringing your awareness in the present by focussing on the process of breathing or some sound , like Om.
Tension intensifies sympathetic activity which increases heart rate,raises blood pressure, narrows coronary arteries, causes clumping of platelets,often resulting in serious cardiac problems. Meditation retards the sympathetic activity, bringing about the dilation of the narrowed arteries and thinning of blood.
Meditation slows down the rate of "Entropy" - in other words, wear and tear are reduced resulting in longevity.
Q.7 How do you meditate ?
Dr. The technique is simple. You sit down in a relaxed manner. Close your eyes and simply watch the inhaling and exhaling of our breathe. Thoughts may come and go. But remain unconcerned. Breath is life. When you are breathing, it is not only air that you breathe in ; you breathe in light and lifeforce also. Thus your consciousness becomes one with your breath and your lifeforce and healing follows.
Out of 16 hours of our waking time, hardly for an hour and a half we live in the present. Most of the time, our awareness is in the past or the future. Meditation helps us to stay in the present moment. Dr.Dean Ornish says that meditation enabled his patients to change their life-styles, that is, it made it easy for them to become strict vegetarians and teetotalers.
Q.8 Dr. Kapadia, please tell us something about your replication here of Dr. Dean Ornish’s program.
Dr. We started our program on Gandhi Jayanti day, October 2, 1991. We meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays in the evening from 6 to 7 p.m. at CNN. Vidyavihar, Ahmedabad. We start with light stretching and relaxation exercises followed by shavasana, meditation and end with group discussion and prayer. A feeling of connectedness fills the air which promotes healing. Isolation breeds disease, connectedness heals. This has been a subject of recent scientific research in many centres of Europe and USA. A technique evolved in this program to achieve the relaxation of body and mind is very simple and effective. The program has a great potation to make the response of the participants to everyday stress healthier. Dr. Dean Ornish has also noted that self less benevolent work opens up the arteries whereas self- centredness, hostility and cynicism are toxic to the heart ; they constrict the arteries.
Q.9 It seems Dr.Kapadia, that you are happy with your program. Have your also scientifically tested the results ?
Dr. Our experience is quite encouraging. A gentleman joined us out of sheer curiosity. Within less than six meetings, he gave up his 25 year old addiction to tobacco chewing. A 60 year old male was denied the benefit of bypass surgery, as his coronary arteries were so extensively narrowed that the by- pass was not feasible. After attending our program for six months he is now leading a normal life.
When 7 of our participants were subjected to EEG test at 11 in the morning, our Neuro-Physician was simply astonished to observe their alpha activity. The kind of relaxation it revealed could not be normally had even after 6 to 7 hours of sound sleep.
This is borne out by another observation that mere three minutes of meditation reduces the oxygen consumption of 20% as against 8% reduction after six hours of sound sleep. A few of our participants have been able to put off by-pass surgery. Those who have undergone surgery feel happier and more confident after attending our program. Moreover, the program heals the person as a whole. Our greatest limitation comes from our perception that we are individuals limited in space and time. During meditation, one experiences that one is eternal and boundless. The feeling of connectedness with the universe and wisdom down on the individual. This whole experience helps healing in toto. I venture to suggest that if such a program is incorporated in the school curriculum, it could bring about a great change in the human behaviour leading to a saner world.
Q.10 Will you please tell us something more about Yoga and education ?
Dr. Oh ! This is a very important question. I feel that Yoga in the educational curriculum will complete our education. At the moment, our education is lopsided, largely science oriented. There is nothing wrong with science. We have to know science. But the true identity of ourselves, that is the real knowledge of self is not attained by the pursuit of science. Therefore, in the Vedas the knowledge of science is called avidya. Let me explain : avidya does not mean anti-vidya. It is other than vidya. Vidya means the knowledge of self, the knowledge of ultimate reality. Yoga is a synthesis of science and vidya or avidya and vidya. In the Vedas, the Rishi says that if you follow avidya, that is science without vidya, you are led into a blind alley. The Rishi does not stop here. He adds, if you follow vidya that is knowledge of self without avidya then it is worse. It is complete chaos " Ghor Andhkar". In this program the way in which the person learns to relax his body and mind, his awareness turns towards the real knowledge -vidya. This leads to the healing of the individual as a whole. This is the summum bonum of the whole concept of Yoga.
Q.11 Dr. Kapadia, would you please sum up this important topic of heart and yoga ?
Dr. This program is not a panacea or all cure. It does not claim to replace the traditional medical or surgical approach. However, I have no doubt in my mind that it has opened up new, very hopeful frontiers in the management of all stress related diseases like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcer, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, various skin diseases and many more. This program has a solid scientific basis. It deserves a routine prescription for the treatment of stress related diseases. Moreover, it has a capacity to heal the society as a whole, hence we have named it the Universal Healing Program. Let me end by recalling Dalai Lama’s tips to an eminent Harvard Cardiologist, who had gone to Dharmashala to study the benefits of meditation. The quintessence of Chinese medicine consists of three conditions, vital to curing of any disease.