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by Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.
Historically, yoga has been fundamentally a spiritual practice to attain unitive states of consciousness or the samadhi state. However, given the fact that yoga employs both physical (asana, pranayama, relaxation) and cognitive (meditation) practices to foster self-regulation and optimize human functioning, its relevance to restoring optimal functioning in disease states has been an obvious possibility. Even in the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika are statements attesting to the benefits of specific yogic practices in reducing obesity, removing abdominal disorders, fatigue, and edema and generally “destroying all diseases” including leprosy.
By the beginning of the 20th century, we see the systematic application of yoga as a treatment for therapeutic conditions in India. The Yoga Institute in Mumbai documented the application of yoga as therapy to 124 patients in 1918-19, reporting “Symptom relief in most cases. Occasional verification by physician.” In a two-year period from 1920-22, 2,000 patients were treated with the identical claim of clinical improvement. Similarly, the Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, founded in 1924 and also in Mumbai, was reporting in its 1930 volume of its research journal Yoga Mimamsa that “nearly two thousand people have been treated…as…patients. People suffering from constipation, dyspepsia, auto-intoxication, nervous debility, asthma, piles, seminal weakness, heart troubles and a variety of other diseases have found great relief from Yogic Therapy.” Unfortunately, such vague descriptions of clinical benefit clearly failed to meet any kind of acceptable scientific or clinical criteria that provide confidence in attesting to the safety and efficacy of yoga therapy.
Even as late as 1964 in a four-paragraph report by Higashi in the prestigious medical journal Lancet we are still provided with minimal documentation of specific quantitative details of clinical improvement. In a Tokyo sanatorium, they applied a daily 10-minute pranayama practice over a year to 50 male schizophrenic patients. The clinical outcome is marginally and vaguely described with the text: “About the beginning of the third month, we noticed that the patients gathered spontaneously at the usual place. When the session ended a quiet atmosphere prevailed for some time. Moreover the average number of patients participating was 81% as against 56% in the previous year.” It’s conclusion stated, “An exercise which controls breathing favourably influences the psychiatric regimen.”
Given the proliferation of yoga therapy in India, yet conducted without adequate research and clinical documentation, the Ministry of Health of the Government of India created a committee in 1960 led by well-known leading yoga researcher Dr. B.K. Anand to evaluate yoga therapy claims. It collected information from 71 institutions across India, visiting 19 select institutions, and yielded the 1962 Ministry of Education 72-page document entitled “Report of the Committee on Evaluation of Therapeutical Claims of Yogic Practices.” It concluded that for lack of proper data and the personnel adequately trained to collect such data, it was not possible for it to evaluate Yogic therapy claims. It further stated, “Unless a scientific assessment of the patient treated by Yogic therapy is organized under controlled conditions, it will not be possible to evaluate the important therapeutic claims of Yoga.”
Finally, in 1966 we see the publication of perhaps the first acceptably-reported biomedical research evaluation of yoga therapy by Vahia, Vinekar and Doongaji in an 8-page paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry. In this case series study conducted with the Kaivalyadhama Institute they describe results of 4 to 6-week yoga therapy sessions with patients at the K.E.M. Hospital in Mumbai. A table in the report describes multiple characteristics including demographics, diagnoses, treatment durations, and quantitative percent improvements for 30 patients with psychosomatic conditions such as anxiety, depression, headache, insomnia, cognitive difficulties and other stress-related symptoms. They further included 3 detailed case reports that were presented in the format and with the amount of detail that would be viewed as reasonable from a modern clinical research presentation perspective.
It was not long after this that we see the first humble clinical trial publication in yoga therapy published in Yoga Mimamsa in 1967, to be followed by the first randomized controlled trials on yoga for hypertension by yoga researcher Chandra Patel in the U.K. in the early 70’s. From that first 1967 trial of yoga for asthma through to 2003, there were approximately 150 clinical trials published, a number which tripled to about 450 publications 10 years later by 2013. We are now fortunately in the position in this field in that we are experiencing an exponentially increasing growth in the number of clinical yoga research studies and publications with more and more of the rigorous randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses necessary to justify recommendation of continued yoga therapy research and implementation of yoga interventions in modern medicine.
Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D. is the KRI Director of Research, Research Director for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has practiced a Kundalini Yoga lifestyle since 1973 and is a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor. He has conducted research on yoga for insomnia, stress, anxiety disorders, and yoga in public schools. He is editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy and The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care and author of the Harvard Medical School ebook Your Brain on Yoga.
Have you explored the Historical Notes tool in the Library of Teachings? This delightful feature allows users to view Historical Notes while reading or viewing a lecture or kriya. Historical Notes are notations done by students in the class, pertaining to the kriya, at the time the original lecture was given. You will notice that the notes vary widely – some are just a few handwritten lines while others are typewritten text with hand-drawn diagrams. You can gain valuable insight from the Historical Notes, picking up emphasis and perspective that only first-hand experience can give.
These Historical Notes are made from scanning the original documents contributed by legacy students. We then create the notes as Adobe documents that are downloadable for readers.
To Search for lectures that contain Historical Notes:
- Simply enter the topic into the search-bar on our homepage (see Example  below searching for the topic “Love”)
- Next look for the ‘Filters’ to the left of your search results and select the plus sign next to ‘Media.’
- Under ‘Media’ you will see the option ‘Historical Notes.’ It will note the number of lectures that contain Historical Notes (in the sample below it shows there are 12). Click on ‘Historical Notes’ and it will take you to the results of this search.
- Once you select the lecture and you want to view the Historical Notes, click on this icon:
The student notes will pop-up in the document. (See Example  below.)
This feature is one that scholars and novices alike will enjoy. And as always, let us know what you think. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®
The chakras are the keys to being human and being happy. In this collection, Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, defines the nature of the chakras, how they work, their interaction, projection and potency with both humor and subtlety, and often surprising candor.
Regular Retail: $29.95
Ebook: $13.49 (10% off)
7 (2 DVDs per set) DVD Series
The progressive nature of the human is to succeed…and that is where the science of the chakras comes through.
The First Chakra: Meditation on the First Chakra
The Second Chakra: Meditation on the Second Chakra
The Third Chakra: Meditation on the Third Chakra
The Fourth Chakra: Meditation on the Fourth Chakra and Arti Kriya
The Fifth Chakra: Meditation on the Fifth Chakra
The Sixth Chakra: Chaar Padh Meditation and Meditation on Being a Yogi
The Seventh Chakra: Hissing Meditation for the Glandular System l and ll
Regular Retail: $24.95 per 2-DVD Set
Promo: $21.21 per 2-DVD Set
Or take advantage of our everyday Full Set Special of $130.00 for all 14 DVDs in 7-DVD packaged sets.
Art & Yoga
Kundalini Awakening in Everyday Life
by Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa
“The sole purpose of life is the soul.” — Yogi Bhajan
Learn to express your soul’s longing, delve into images that awaken your imagination and speak of a truth yet unexplored. Allow Art & Yoga to take you on a journey to your intuitive, creative and authentic self—the True Being, awakened!
This book is for anyone interested in yoga and the arts. It explains how to create a daily Art and Yoga practice. It provides step-by-step guidelines for producing art and doing yoga as complementary practices individually, in a group, or in community. Yogis will find creative exercises to deepen their experience of yoga, while artists will discover simple, yet profound yoga and meditation practices that will help their creative flow, focus, and intuition. Along the way, we will draw inspiration from the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, nature, artists of the past, and recent developments in healing and spirituality.
Ebook: $16.19 (10% 0ff)
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of 3HO, KRI is featuring another way to prepare mung beans that is amazingly delicious!
From Vegetables, With Love: Recipes and Tales from a Yogi’s Kitchen (Revised and Expanded New Edition)
Siri-Ved Kaur Khalsa
Spicy Mung Beans with Mustard Greens
Yield: 4–6 servings
Serve this in place of regular daal or as a soup. For a little variety, add a diced potato in the last 20 minutes of cooking.
2 bunches mustard greens, chopped
1 cup mung beans
6 cups water
⅓ cup oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 rounded teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne or to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or kala jeera
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup ghee or olive oil
Boil greens and beans in water until very well done (about 45 minutes). Then, using a blender or food processor, coarsely purée, adding enough broth (and additional water if necessary) to attain a soupy consistency.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over a medium-high flame and fry onions, garlic, and ginger 8–10 minutes until lightly browned. Add spices and cook few more minutes, with a little extra water if necessary to prevent scorching/sticking. Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 8–10 minutes until the “masala” is very saucy (add a little water as needed) and unified. Combine this mixture with the beans-greens mixture in a large saucepan. Add ghee and cook 5 more minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste.