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Yoga crosses over from AYUSH to Department of Science

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Department of Science and Technology to fund research on impact of yoga

In further proof of the growing importance of yoga under the NDA government, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has decided to fund research on the impact of yoga and meditation on human health — the first time the department has ventured into this area.

Research and studies on yoga have so far remained within the domain of AYUSH, a government department whose mandate is to promote traditional medicine, including ayurveda, unani and homeopathy.

Now, in tune with the government’s efforts to promote yoga internationally, the DST has called for research proposals from “scientists/ academicians with prior research experience in yoga and meditation”.

“Yoga is already an international movement, and it has been adopted even by the United Nations. So, there is nothing unusual if the DST makes efforts in promoting research in yoga. We have already seen how popular yoga is,” Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan told The Indian Express.

“The science and technology department funds a lot of high-end research in medicinal sciences and we have had good results. The decision to fund research in yoga and meditation should also be seen in this light. The scientific advantages of practicing yoga are very well established,” he said.

The new research programme will be part of a long-running Cognitive Science Research Initiative of the DST.

“This programme is aimed at research on the effects of yoga and meditation on mental health and cognitive functioning in healthy people as well as in patients with disorders,” the DST said in its call for proposals.

“Cognitive science as an interdisciplinary endeavour that interfaces with psychology, neuroscience, medicine, computer science and philosophy is well placed to address the different aspects of yoga and mediation research. An interdisciplinary approach based on cognitive science is needed to integrate different disciplines, approaches and methods engaged in the study of yoga and meditation. The research on yoga and meditation would also help in solving fundamental problems in cognitive science,” it said.

It was not immediately clear how many research proposals the department would fund, or the amount of money it had kept for this purpose.

A number of premier medical institutions, including AIIMS in New Delhi and NIMHANS in Bengaluru, have ongoing research programmes on yoga.

The Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, an autonomous organisation under AYUSH, is one of the nodal points for promoting research in this area. Delhi-based Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, which is fully funded by AYUSH, offers degree and diploma courses in yoga, and also claims to conduct fundamental as well as clinical research related to yoga.

Even the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru runs a yoga and biomechanic laboratory. S N Omkar, one of the lead scientists at the laboratory, welcomed the DST move.

“Irrespective of which agency supports the research, there is a very important need to promote more research in yoga. Many other countries are also realising the benefits of yoga and promoting research. The United States has been supporting several research projects on yoga. We must not be left behind,” he said.

(The story has been filed by Amitabh Sinha from New Delhi)

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