( By Dr Ramesh Kapadia )

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Appendix C

Universal Healing A valid third alternative in the treatment of Coronary Heart Disease Could a simple technique of relaxation, medittion, modest exercise, vegetarian diet, low in fact, and group support achieve the reversal of coronary heart disease?

The answer is YES.

Bye By clogged arteries
Nothing to thrive on anymore !
No meat, no lumps of fat.
No nicotine, no alcohol.
Love dares you, fellowship dares you ;
Bye bye clogged arteries,
Nothing to thrive on anymore !

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a global phenomenon. Increasingly more people in the prime of life are victims of this disease in India also . The tell-tale causes of coronary heart diesease are : heredity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high serum cholesterol, smoking, and sedentary habits. The way of living and the way of feeling appear to be quite important factors in its rising incidence. Hostility, the lack of social support, and job and family stress are the major causes of heart attack even amongst the young.

The present medical approach is to dilate the coronary arteries and increase the blood flow through them, and diminish the need of oxygenated blood by the heart muscle. The surgical approach is the bypassing of the narrowed arteries or dilating them by inflating a balloon inserted in the narrowed artery. These are palliative measures and do not completely deal with the root cause of the problem.

Dr. Dean Ornish has been conducting a unique program in USA, which has proved a boon to the patients of severe coronary heart disease. He has shown that CHD can be reversed by comprehensive life-style changes. The changes include a very low fat vegetarian diet, the mind- body stress management techniques, moderate exercise, smoking cessation and psychosocial support. Providing life-style changes in this new model as a valid alternative to the patients, who otherwise would receive coronary bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty, results in the immediate and substantial cost savings. In India, bypass surgery and angioplasty cost more than Rs. 1,25,000.00 and Rs. 60,000.00 respectively. Up to one half of bypass grafts may become blocked after about five years, and one third to one half angioplastied arteries may clog up again after only four to six months. When this occurs, coronary bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty is often repeated, thereby incurring additonal cost and risk.

With spiralling health care cost, the prevention and less expensive treatment of coronary heart disease ought to be our foremost concern for the teeming millions of our country. We are committed to this goal. The Universal Health Charitable Trust was founded with an idea of pursuing an all-round approach to the complex problem of coronary heart disease. The main objectives are :

  • A holistic approach accommodating all measures - drug as well as non-drug ones of whatever discipline.

  • To create mass awareness regarding coronary heart disease, and dispel unnecessary fear of the disease.

  • To promote research, and original thinking in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of the patients of coronary heart disease.

  • To simplify the treatment of coronary heart disease bearing in mind the cost effectiveness of all interventions.

  • All the above efforts to be made with the scientific temper without prejudice to the widely accepted current methods of treatment and prevention. Inspired by the favourable results of Dr. Dean Ornish's program, we launched a program on the similar lines at Ahmedabad on October 2, 1991, the Gandhi Jayanti day. The program consists of

  • Diet counselling

  • Moderate exercise like walking on level for 30 to 40 minutes

  • Stretching and relaxation exercises leading to progressive deep relaxation, i.e. shavasana

  • Meditation and Visual Imagery

  • Group discussion with emphasis on the sharing of feeling.

  • Diet

  • Ordinarily our diet is rich in fats, simple carbohydrates, and contains excess of salt. Fat is almost 30% to 40% of the total calorie intake. It is recommended that dietary fat should not exceed 10% of the total calories. Experts recommend not more than 3 grams of sodium for adults. Non-vegetarian diet is rich in fact, cholesterol and oxidants which increase the production of free radicals in the body. The excess of free radicals damages body cells, accelerates aging and atherosclerosis, and increases the proneness to heart disease, cancer, lung diseases, and cataract. Hence pure vegetarian diet is recommended. Vegetarian diet being rich in complex carbohydrates has antioxidant properties which reduce free radicals in blood. In our program, a qualified dietician guides the participants regarding proper diet and gives individual advice taking into account the dietetic habits of the family.


Regular daily walking on level at a moderate speed for 30 to 40 minutes is all that is recommended.


Shavasana has been practised from the ancient times in different ways. It has been considered the king of asanas. Physical and mental relaxation achieved by shavasana has no equal. During shavasana slow rhythmic alpha activity is recorded from the frontal lobe of the brain, and various chemical changes occurring in the body promote healing by increasing the immune status of the individual. Meditation and Visual Imagery (Visaulization) It is difficult to calm the mind even for a few seconds. It is estimated that out of 16 hours of our waking time, hardly for an hour and a half do we live in the present. Most of the time our awarness is in the past or future. Meditation helps us to stay in the present moment. It diminishes the need of oxygen by the heart muscles. Within only three minutes of meditation, 20% of oxygen consumption is reduced as against only 8% reduction in oxygen consumption after six hours of sound sleep. Meditation brings our awareness into the present by focussing it on the process of breathing as well as some sound like Om. It slows down the rate of entropy. In other words, wear and tear are reduced. This results in better health and longevity. The progressive deep relaxation, i.e. shavasana prepares one for meditation. The technique of meditation is simple. Sit in a comfortable manner and gently close your eyes. Bring your awareness to the process of breathing. Simply watch the inhaling and exhaling of your breath. Thoughts may come and go but you remain unconcerned. Breath is life. When you are breathing, it is not only air that you inhale, you breathe in light and life force also. Thus your consciousness becomes one with your breath and life force, and healing follows. When we try to focus our awareness on the natural process of breathing, various thoughts disturb us and our awareness centres round these thoughts. However, we humans have a unique gift of being able to direct our awareness wherever we wish. Thousand times that the awareness wanders to the thoughts, thousand times it is gently brught back to breathing. This is the essence of meditation. Meditation motivates the invididuals to adopt a healthy life-style. During meditation one experiences that one is eternal and boundless. The feeling of conectedness with the universe and wisdom dawns on the individual. This epxerience helps healing in toto. The perception of real identity and of non-flowing time brings about the desired changes. Our greatest limitation is that we perceive ourselves as individuals limited in space and time. This perception is real but not total. There is another dimension of our reality (our larger self) free from the bounds of space and time, which is the source of our everday reality (our smaller self). During meditation one experiences the boundless dimension of one's reality. Moreover, no experiment in physics has proved the flow of time (Davis). What we experience as the flowing time accelerates wear and tear. When we experience the eternal present and the real identity, the sense of isolation, self- centredness and hostility comes to an end. Visualization means formation of images in one's mind. It is not wishful thinking or fantasy, both of which are unfocussed and passive, whereas visualization is direct and active. It is a therapeutic use of meditation. During meditation, the patient can visualize the cleaning up of blockages in coronary arteries and resumption of blood supply to heart muscles. It also enables us to forgive one for wrongs dones to us and it redeems us of the sense of guilt if any.

Group Discussin and Sharing of Feeling

This is also a useful part of the program. Mere expressin and sharing of the problems results in reduction in the stress response and substantially benefits healing.

The occurrence of a heart attack is a dynamic process. All of a sudden, the narrowed arteries become further narrowed due to spasm, and the blood flowing through the artery becomes thick due to the increase in viscosity of blood and clumping of platelets. This is usually the result of extreme sympathetic activity following undue physical and mental exhaustion and stress. A heavy meal, alcohol and smoking aggravate the arterial spasm and the clotting of blood. The practice of shavasana, meditation, and change in food habits with avoidance of alcohol and smoking blunt the edge of these harmful reactions and save the patient from heart attack.

Dr. Dean Ornish has noted that self-centredness, hostility, and cynicism are toxins to the heart. They constrict the arteries, whereas selfless benevolent work opens them up. The feeling of isolation is by far the most important factor in increasing the incidence of heart attack in the individuals who are prone to it on other scores. The feeling of isolation and hostility in the cancer-prone individual triggers the incidence of cancer and also affects the immune system causing psoriasis, arthritis and peptic ulcer.

Results of the Program

In one study by Dr. Dean Ornish, 46 patients of coronary heart disease were randomly divided into two groups of 23 each. All the 46 patients were given the conventional advice and treatment and a diet very low in fat. One group was taught stress management , which consisted of shavasana, meditation, and visualization. The results of a twenty-four day studies revealed a significant difference in the clinical improvement between the two groups. The group, which was taught the stress management technique, showed much greater improvement indicated by increase in work performance by 55% due to the improvement in the left ventricular function. There was 20% fall in cholesterol level and 90% reduction in the frequency of anginal attack.

We have a similar experience with as many as about 2000 participants uptil now. In a study of 113 patients, over and above the physical benefits of reduction in the frequency of angina and the increased capacity to work, a very encouraging spiritual gain was observed in the increased confidence and wholesome attitude towards life circumstances. Surprisingly, the fear of death almost vanished in a large number of them.

The program does not claim to be a panacea, nor is it opposed to the conventional medical approach including bypass surgery. It is felt, this program can serve as a model of a third alternative without compromising the quality of health.

Expert Opinions

Dr. Larry Dossey, Executive Director, Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health, USA, writes :

"We have considered heart disease to be purely a physical condition. We have focussed on discovering and eliminating risk factors like elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking and other minor risk factors. In treating CHD , we have relied almost exclusively on the physically based therapies - surgical procedures, drugs, dietary manipulatin, and exercise.

"As valuable as these approaches are, we know that they are incomplete, frequently ineffective, costly, and sometimes hazardous. The other methods such as those employed by the Universal Healing Program, based on the landmark work of Dr. Dean Ornish, have resulted in equal and often superior results with less cost and fewer side effects."

Dr. M.R. Girinath, a snior cardiovascular surgeon of India, writes about the UH Program :

"The incidence of CHD in India has shown steady increase during the last few decades. In contrast, in the western countries there has been a steady decrease in the incidence of this dreaded disease. The opposing trends highlight the fact that we are not paying enough attention to the preventive measures ... Having been active in the management of coronary artery disease, especially with respect to the interventional methods of treatment such as balloon angioplasty and bypass surgery, I am firmly convinced that though these forms of treatment have their own place, prevention is superior to any other form of treatment."

A considerable data on the benefits of low-fat vegetarian diet, shavasana, meditation with visual imagery, and group support in reversing Coronary Heart Disease is being collected in a chain of "Heart Diseases Reversal Collaborative Network" at 25 centres in the United States of America, 3 in Australia, 1 in Canada and the Universal Healing Program in India.

Select Bibliography

  • Reversing Heart Diseases * Eat More, Weigh Less - by Dr. Dean Ornish, M.D.
  • Space Time Medicine
  • Recovering The Soul * Beyond Illness * Meaning & Medicine * Healing Words - by Dr.Larry Dossey, M.D.
  • Quantum Healing * Ageless Body, Timeless Mind - by Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D. * Primer of Universal Healing
  • Wealth of Food, Health of Heart * Heart Disease : A New Direction - by Dr. Ramesh I. Kapadia

The books are also available in Gujarathi :
(Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad 380 014)

The audio and video cassettes of the program are also available.

The UHP is conducted twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays from 5-3- p.m. to 7-00 p.m. at C.N. Vidya Vihar, Ambawadi, Ahmedabad.

Donations to the Trust are exempt under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.

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