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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2
Is yoga an intervention?

Dean of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA Yoga University), Bangalore, India

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Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2012

How to cite this article:
Srinivasan T M. Is yoga an intervention?. Int J Yoga 2012;5:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Srinivasan T M. Is yoga an intervention?. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2012 [cited 2023 Mar 30];5:1-2. Available from:
Emerging areas of research in science and medicine need special terminology with a view to characterize the areas precisely. Sometimes, old terminology may not be useful in representing new phenomena. Many terms are embedded in the old paradigm of Newtonian sciences or in ideas related to Biomedicine. [1],[2] In Allopathic Medicine, one cuts, cauterizes, removes, demolishes and kills the troubled areas of the body. Extensive surgical procedures are practiced in cancer, cardiac and many other problems, whereby these radical procedures offer longer life expectancy, even if traumatic to the patient. These procedures intervene in the functioning of the body for the greater good of the patient.

When we refer to Modern Medicine, it is taken for granted that we are talking about biomedical practices as taught at an "approved" university or college. However, this is a puzzling term as there are many other medicines that are also of modern origin; for example, Homeopathy, which is a mere 200 years old! Pranic Healing is of recent origin, and are we referring to that also when we say Modern Medicine? Naturally, the terms are confusing unless we define it every time we use it. The equivalent terms to Modern Medicine are Biomedicine and Allopathic Medicine that are well understood. Using unambiguous terminology is extremely important in the emerging areas of complimentary medicine.

A term that worries this writer is intervention. Almost all papers dealing with Yoga as therapy use the term "Yoga Intervention." Let us look into this in some details. The dictionary definition of intervention is as follows: It is the act of interfering or interceding with the intent of modifying the outcome. It is derived from the Latin word intervenire, meaning to come between. In medicine, an intervention is usually undertaken to help treat or cure a condition. Further, intervention is synonym to invasion, whereby we invade the body either directly (through surgery) or indirectly (through radiation therapy) to correct or modify a condition. Presently, we have minimally invasive surgeries, pin hole surgeries, all being invasive and hence interventional.

At one time, it was thought that ultrasound investigations are entirely non-invasive in nature. At the investigative level, the energy of ultrasound is very low either to damage or even to heat the tissues. However, routine ultrasound imaging, especially in prenatal applications, is not advised. Children who had prenatal ultrasound had slightly impaired neurological function, although this is thought to be clinically inconsequential. [3] Therefore, there is hardly any procedure in biomedicine that is truly non-invasive.

Many mind-body techniques such as biofeedback, meditation and yoga assist biochemical and neurological systems for proper functioning. They are primarily "learning strategies," whereby we facilitate the control systems in the mind-body complex for proper functioning. Surely, there are biochemical and neurological expressions of these practices in the body [4] and, often, these practices help in alleviating the problems.

How do we define a method or procedure as "interventional"? Is meditation (a term used without much discernment) an intervention? If so, all holistic procedures are interventional. If you teach a child to walk, is it intervention? Should we let the child learn to walk on its own, even if it takes 5 years? How about language competency? Is school education interventional?

Obviously, there is a fine line between intervention and learning strategies. If a mechanism is not functioning properly, we need to intervene to set it right. We take a machine apart and replace the worn parts with new ones. This reminds us of the methods in biomedical paradigm. Rehabilitation is usually related to relearning a lost function and hence it may not be termed interventional. Learning a new task, like playing baseball, is simply learning. Biofeedback is learning to look into a particular function of the body; meditation is learning to look into one's own mind. These may not be classified as interventions. Acupuncture could be termed intervention as it invades the body with a needle; however, tai chi is learning to move energies within one's own body and is not an intervention. Anyone could practice a new learning or behavioral strategy and almost anyone could teach another person in learning, while only a specialist could fulfill an interventional objective.

It is obvious from the discussion above that interfering with the function of a system is intervention that could be social (study of sociology, in some instances), individual (psychological testing) or even cellular (biochemical and electromagnetic inputs). Strategies that we are taught new or anew (driving a car or learning to walk after an accident or trauma) could be classified as educational or learning. Thus, many rehabilitation techniques, physiotherapy, biofeedback, meditation and yoga could be classified as within the learning modes.

Further, anything that is administered by another person (medical professionals) may be termed intervention as it is from outside the recipient's body. In contrast, anything that is done within oneself (yoga, tai chi, meditation, etc.) could be classified as intravention. However, these terms could be awkward in technical use. Simpler and appropriate terms could be Yoga Practice or Yoga Learning. I am sure others will come with better terms; this piece is only to induce workers in this area in arriving at a consensus so that a consistent terminology emerges in the field of Energy Medicine and holistic therapies.

Evidence-based medicine has come to be the norm for testing procedures in all areas of therapy and rehabilitation. To the extent psychology and physiology are non-convergent, the holistic therapies and biomedicine tend to be non-convergent also. Some attempts are already in the making through identification of molecules of emotions and electrochemical responses to emotions. [4],[5] However, when a complete understanding of biochemical-psychological-neurochemical-electrical interactions emerge, better acceptance is possible between different modes of treatment. A holistic treatment could be the first line of defense for most psychosomatic disorders, complemented by trauma medicine (the current biomedicine), treating all problems of an acute nature. A balance in approach could be the ultimate benefit to the patient. Meanwhile, (re)search and elucidation of both mechanisms and interaction of psychophysiological correlates are required in complementary medicine even if it takes much effort, time and infrastructure in terms of money and people working in this area.

   References Top

1.Cassidy CM. Some Terminology Needs for Writers, Researchers, Practitioners, and Editors as We Move Toward Integrating Medicines. Jr. of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine; 2008. p. 613-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Dossey L. Healing, Energy and Consciousness: Into the Future or a retreat to the Past. Subtle Energies; 1994. p. 1-34.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Wagner M. Ultrasound: More Harm than Good? Midwifery Today; 1999. p. 84.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Pert CB. Molecules of Emotions: Why you feel the way you feel. N.Y: Scribner Books; 1997.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Tiller W. Science and Human Transformation, Subtle Energies, Intentionality and Consciousness. Walnut Creek, CA: Pavior Publishing; 1997.  Back to cited text no. 5

Correspondence Address:
T M Srinivasan
Dean of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA Yoga University), Bangalore
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-6131.91690

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