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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 103
Psychiatric pioneers in Yoga therapy

1 Institute of Mental Health, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry, India

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Date of Web Publication9-Jan-2019

How to cite this article:
Ottilingam S, Murthy T. Psychiatric pioneers in Yoga therapy. Indian J Psychiatry 2019;61:103

How to cite this URL:
Ottilingam S, Murthy T. Psychiatric pioneers in Yoga therapy. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Nov 28];61:103. Available from:


Every year, June 21st is observed as International Yoga Day since 2015. Yoga as a treatment for physical and mental disorders has been encouraged by Indian psychiatrists for a long time. Professor NS Vahia contributed extensively to this aspect of Indian psychiatry by his writings. One of us (OS) could recall his presentation on this topic, at 1959, the Annual National Conference of Indian Psychiatric Society held at the then Bombay Metropolis.

Professor Vahia described Patanjali's Yoga as follows: Yoga includes Asanas (postures) which help to achieve relaxation of the skeletal musculature. This leads to a reduction of restlessness leading to mental peace. Another aspect of Yoga is Pranayama (voluntary breathing). Although breathing is involuntary, through practice, gradually respiration is brought under one's voluntary control. This brings some degrees of voluntary control over the heart, gut, and other visceral functions. Meditation (Dharana and Dhyana) is given much importance in Yoga. An object is chosen to meditate upon and the mind is concentrated on it. With continued practices, one becomes able to detach themselves from mental activity, evaluate it objectively and by not identifying oneself with one's thoughts, one attains mental peace. The eventual goal of Yoga is continual and deep peace (Samadhi), with the optimal operation of the body and harmonious socioenvironmental integration. Yoga transcends religions and is being practiced by followers of different religions. It is universally applicable. People with anxiety and somatoform disorders benefit the most from Yoga.[1],[2],[3]

We also remember Professor J. Hoenig, the World Health Organization consultant at the All India Institute of Mental Health (AIIMH), Bengaluru (present NIMHANS) in 1956, who along with Dr. D. L. N. Murthy Rao, the then superintendent of the Hospital studied various parameters of the brain, lung, and heart functions during the Samadhi state of a prominent Swamiji (ascetic) of Mysore. The Swamiji entered a deep pit near the electroencephalogram department, which was covered with sand. We are unaware whether the findings were published by Professor Hoenig. Professor William Mayer-Gross was the Visiting Professor at the Institute then.

Merit is due to a senior psychiatrist of the then Government Mental Hospital, Kilpauk, Chennai, (present Institute of Mental Health [IMH]) Dr. R Ramadas (trained in psychiatry at the AIIMH in the mid-1960s). He organized a Yoga department, which occupied a considerable portion of the new outpatient block (opened in 1971). He removed all chairs and tables and replaced them with mats and soft pillows. Patients were asked to squat on the floor rather than be seated in a chair so that more relaxation could be obtained. He encouraged some of the outpatients and inpatients to come to the Yoga department and taught them various Asanas. He was much interested in “physical culture” and was a one-time Mr. Madras. During clinical meetings, he would describe Patanjali sutras and various aspects of Yoga. He continued his Transcendental Meditation classes till his retirement in 1983. Two former superintendents of the IMH (Dr. Sarada Menon and OS) recall his contribution to this aspect of psychiatry at a time when little interest was evinced in this area.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Vahia NS, Vinekar SL, Doongaji DR. Some ancient Indian concepts in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Br J Psychiatry 1966;112:1089-96.  Back to cited text no. 1
Vahia NS, Doongaji DR, Deshmukh DK, Vinekar SL, Parekh HC, Kapoor SN, et al. Adeconditioning therapy based upon concepts of Patanjali. Int J Soc Psychiatry 1972;18:61-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Vahia NS, Jeste DV, Kapoor SN, Ardhapurkar I, Nath RS. Further experience with the therapy based upon concepts of Patanjali in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Indian J Psychiatry 1973;15:32-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
  [Full text]  

Correspondence Address:
Somasundaram Ottilingam
Institute of Mental Health, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_337_18

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