Yoga, a boon for health tourism
Health tourism means travelling for the purpose of improving or preserving health. It is an “umbrella” term covering under it medical tourism, spa tourism and wellness tourism. For India, Health tourism is the next boom after the IT boom.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Recently this definition was enlarged to include productive financial and social life.
In the context of Health, three aspects become obvious:
- Preservation of health
- Promotion of health
- Recovery from ill- health
In all the above-mentioned three aspects, Yoga can make positive contribution. Preservation connotes a life style which is preventive of ill-health / diseases. Promotion is where a person who is healthy can gain better health. Recovery from ill-health comes under the therapeutic aspect. Yoga and its practices cater to all these three aspects of health.
Health tourism from the Indian context (with Yoga in mind) may not only mean an ailing person coming to India and doing Yoga but also a healthy person coming and improving his or her health through Yoga. With the abundance of natural resources and natural beauty in our country, rejuvenation and recovery are naturally sped up. Thus, the promotional potentiality of Yoga can really be tapped by Health Tourism. Yoga is not only preventive or curative but promotional too.
The multi-dimensional man with body, mind and spirit as the basic dimensions, needs a holistic approach and not the reductionist approach of modern medicine to deal with his problem. Today, the applicability of Yoga is unfortunately restricted only to the therapy part. People take to Yoga in the first instance to gain some health benefits. Therefore, Asanas and Pranayama have become exclusively popular and this at the cost of Yoga philosophy, which has to offer a lot to mankind.
Even if the tourist are attracted to India for medical reasons, it can be over-emphasized that the root of his health problems is in the mind. Hence, it is the mind which also needs to be tackled. Patanjali Yoga Sutras (PYS) form the basic text of Yoga, which is one of the six orthodox Indian Philosophies. These Sutras, in their theme, are an amalgamation of Philosophy and Psychology. The PYS is an acclaimed text, are an unparalleled text when it comes to understanding the core nature of human mind. There is no type of mind which is not considered in the PYS. Around 350 B.C, Sage Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras, whose main aim was to end human sufferings and reach the goal of self-realization. PYS is compiled and structured in such a way that a layman as well as an adept yogi can benefit from it.
A number of techniques are prescribed to make the mind calm, tranquil, clear conflict-free. and so it can be considered as indispensable for modern times. Kleshas or in-born mental afflictions, which form the root cause of human sufferings, are dealt in great detail and the method of dealing with these Kleshas are lucidly explained. Yoga recognizes the spiritual aspect in man along with the physical and mental aspects. One may venture to state that, if the spiritual aspirations of man are not catered to, human well-being can never be complete and satisfactory.
In the western world (reference is to modern medicine), for the body there are Allopathic doctors and for the mind there are Psychologists and counselors. But Prana, the vital force which is the entity between the body and the mind is completely neglected. This Prana finds its grossest manifestation in our breathing. Any mental disturbance is reflected in a disturbance in the breathing pattern. Similarly, any physical ill-health has its repercussions on the breathing pattern. Thus, if we address the prana / breathing, we kill 2 birds with one stone i.e. it sets the body right and also the mind right.
PYS is more mind-oriented and so it is beneficial to pacify an agitated or disgruntled mind. It is well recognized now that more than 90% of the diseases are psycho-somatic. The order of the day is that the most killing ailment is stress and the best antidote is PYS. Mind can be brought from a scattered to a gathered state with the most important cleansing practice i.e. Pranayama.
Western science or modern medicine deals from the reductionist point of view. So, when the body is not well, only the body is treated. Human being has to be treated in totality and hence the importance of holistic approach. Science is always reductionist. And in doing this the bigger picture is lost. In dealing with the ailments of man affecting parts of his body, man in totality should not be neglected.
A multi-disciplinary approach involves drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations. Multidisciplinary working is often seen as revolutionary by skill-centered specialists but it is simply a fundamental expression of being guided by holism rather than reduction-ism, as described by Jan Smuts in his book Holism and Evolution.
Natural state of being is one of wellness. Brand India or Incredible India can have a holistic approach with wellness as the focus. Much of India’s past has to be rediscovered by the world and the ancient technology of Yoga, as provided by PYS, can be applied to the modern mind. With a leap in technology, Health tourism can become one of the most important activities in India and reduce the employability gap. Social media can connect the dots and help improve Wellness infrastructure and Wellness eco system.
A well-known thinker Dr. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, in reference to India and China said that “my intuition is they will move somewhat together but in very distinctive ways. But I think the thing that will be really common to both of them will be the fact that they won’t be able to do this without reconnecting to their heritage. They have learnt a lot from the west but they don’t have to copy, they cannot create a Chinese or Indian version of a western model. The western model itself is basically bankrupt. It does not give enough attention to the human side of development.
Thus, Yoga can well become the focus of Health Tourism boom, which has already commenced in India. Also, with the focus on Yoga, we can do justice to Yoga by disseminating the true and factual perspective of Yoga as found in our scriptures.
 Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
Saraswati.S.S (2013). Four chapters on freedom. pg. 163
 Ibid., pg. 91-104
 Karambelkar.P.V, (2011) Patanjala Yoga Sutra, pg. 177.