Integrating Yoga in Primary Healthcare Centers for Preventive Care

The wellness component within the Health & Wellness Centre pillar of AYUSHMAN BHARAT encapsulates the idea of fostering a convergence between AYUSH and NHM in a push towards promotive health i.e. YOGA getting institutionalized as a part of the primary health care system.

In India, Universal Health Coverage is a constitutional obligation of the State, making constant improvement in the state of public health as one of its primary duties. Although the Directive Principles are not enforceable like fundamental rights, they make up for the conscience of the State and point in the direction of efforts one needs to entail if we are to become a developed country. They are in alignment with the WHO’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which aims to achieve universal health coverage for all by ensuring access to quality healthcare, and affordable and effective medicines and vaccines.

Where does the government stand?

The Government of India has emphasized improving primary healthcare for all, launching a series of programs to affect transformation. The 2017 National Health Policy of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, states: “...the attainment of the highest possible level of health and well- being for all at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence.”

The wellness component within the Health & Wellness Centre pillar of AYUSHMAN BHARAT encapsulates the idea of fostering a convergence between AYUSH and NHM in a push towards promotive health i.e. YOGA getting institutionalized as a part of the primary health care system. The orientation is towards improvement in population-level productivity and efficiency along with the improved quality of life for people.

Yoga for Promotive & Preventive Care

Yoga is an ancient practice, rooted in Indian philosophy. It began as a spiritual practice but has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being. The classical popular yoga styles such as Iyengar, Bikram, and Hatha yoga typically emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana). Yoga and two practices of Chinese origin—tai chi and qi gong—are sometimes called “meditative movement” practices.

Over the last 30 years, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences conducted a series of tests to explore the preventive and promotive potential of Yoga, and the results indicate that it might just be what Primary Health Centers need to induce positive lifestyle changes in people and reduce the burden of lifestyle diseases. Researchers are looking deeper into the wellness benefits of yoga and uncovering fascinating evidence of how the practice affects us mentally and physically.

Beneficial Effects of Yoga on Bodily Systems

  • Brain Function and Cognitive Performance – Om meditation has shown to have beneficial effects on the autonomic nervous system. A study found that meditators were more mentally alert with a relaxed heart rate compared to the control group of subjects involved in activities that did not require targeted thinking. Hatha Yoga promotes neuroplastic changes, like an increase in the volume of grey matter. Yoga asanas have also shown to improve neurotransmission and improve cognitive abilities.
  • Cardiovascular Physiology – Studies have shown that both short- and long-term yogic practice help bring down the blood pressure and heart rate. Iyengar yoga practitioners exhibited lower blood pressure, heart rate, and a low-frequency power of heart rate variability. Long term practice of yoga can help keep the heart healthy and help people avoid lifestyle-related heart diseases such as hypertension, and stroke, and improve circulation, thereby preventing the onset of peripheral vascular diseases.
  • Respiratory Profile and Lung Function – Hatha yoga has demonstrated to improve the forced vital capacity and force expiratory volume, which is extremely effective for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It also improves the passage of air through the bronchi and breathing capacity of patients. Increasing levels of pollution have caused an upsurge of patients with lung diseases. Integrating hatha yoga programs in PHCs will go a long way in easing the strain on doctors and medical resources.
  • Oxidative Stress and Other Biochemical Variables – Studies have also demonstrated that yoga helps reduce the oxidative stress, bringing down the harmful effects of free radicals in the body and help reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and age-related cancer developments. It also has therapeutic effects for patients suffering from end-stage kidney disease by bringing down oxidative stress indicators.

Today, the focus in healthcare is shifting from curative treatment to an emphasis on patient-centred approaches that promote wellness, support individual care, provide preventive care and effective disease management. In the process of moving from transaction-based health care to wellness and promotive care interventions, it is critical to identify strategies and therapies that are both clinically effective and cost-beneficial. The results across studies have demonstrated and indicated that mind-body intervention certainly reduce individual disease burden as well as result in better utilization of healthcare resources. These are well suited and aligned to the changing healthcare environment. This, in turn, will help direct government spending beyond health to critical human development needs driving the country’s focus towards other economic growth engines.


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