Inner Engineering, a Synthesis of Yoga and Meditation, Helps Reduce Stress: Harvard, Rutgers Study

In most parts of the world, the concept of work-life balance does not seem to exist. Work takes over life and ultimately gives rise to stress. It is thought that stress is directly proportional to hard work and success. But it is forgotten that stress is also directly proportional to health disorders - both physical and mental.

The mind has multiple thoughts running haywire every minute and is never idle. These multiple thoughts are triggers to constant physical actions. Constant physical action takes a toll on mental health. The success one achieves at work is short lived and the stress originates again to achieve the next thing. At a time like this, many are grappling with anxiety and depression. The fear of the virus, the fear of losing one who is a victim of the virus, the fear of unemployment, the fear of social isolation and many more fears that this pandemic is causing in people is on a high. Fear, stress are assumed to become a part of life, which in fact occurs when one does not know to take care of the mind.

When you talk of the mind, it is important to talk of the Self too. The mind is completely activated only when it integrates with the Self or in other words, the soul. This awareness of the Self enables one to mould their thoughts in a more amicable way- and one is able to think better and perform better. Consider a pool of muddy water- as long as it is disturbed, there is no clarity in the water. Allow it to stand still, the mud settles down and one can see the water clearly. This is what Self-awareness can do to one's muddled thoughts. One’s actions will not be impulsive and will be well thought out. There is no room for irrational behaviour. As one is in control of our own thoughts and emotions, it gives them emotional resilience.

Having the control of your own life is like a smooth running machine- no oil leaks, no strange noises- the productivity is at a high which elevates confidence and ultimately leading to elevated happiness Yoga and meditation help to balance the two aspects of the mind and soul creating harmony inside. Inner engineering uses the ancient practises of Yoga and creates a positive state of mind. In other words, it is a distilled essence of Yoga and meditation. The brain is a software that can be programmed. When one programmes the inside, their thoughts and attitudes are shaped that can be presented to the outside world.

Isha foundation in collaboration with scientists from Harvard published two papers that show the benefits of Inner Engineering (IE) on physical, emotional and mental health. The IE program consists of guided meditations, discourses on the nature of the mind and practical wisdom to take care of life’s curve-balls. It also includes the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya that diverts all the energies to one direction and does not let it dissipate from the sensory outputs.

The first study was conducted on 60 employees from an US-based Fortune-500 where the impact of IE on (i) their well-being which includes the following factors: energy, joy, mindfulness, a sense of wholeness within oneself, and connection with colleagues, and (ii) positive organisational behaviour which included meaningful work, psychological capital, and work engagement. The program was conducted for 40 days with a survey before and after the program on the following attributes: (i) Psychological capital, (ii) Self-Efficacy, (iii) Hope, (iv) Optimism, (v) Work engagement, (vi) connection with work, (vii) Dedication, (viii) Vigour, (ix) Mindfulness, (x) Inclusiveness, (xi) Joy, and (xii) Vitality.

The study showed an increase of 13% in psychological capital, 19% increase in Self-efficacy and Joy. The employees also stated that they experienced better growth in their work and with it came a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The second study was conducted to observe the impact of IE on professional efficiency and burnout caused due to chronic workplace stress. The study was conducted at S2Tech, an IT services company. The study was conducted in two phases among two groups wherein the participants were advised to follow IE online programs as well as to read a book or journal of their own choice. At the end of the study, although the burnout levels showed no difference from before and after the study, the perceived stress score showed a 50% decrease.

Among those who had participated in the IE program were allowed to take part in the Bhava Spandana Program- a 4-day advanced yoga and meditation retreat. The study conducted a survey before and after to assess the anxiety, depression, focus, well-being, and happiness through validated psychological scales. Blood samples were collected before and after the study to measure the concentrations of the biomarkers anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), 1-arachidonoylglycerol (1-AG), docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide (DEA), oleoylethanolamide (OLA), and BDNF. (Anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Anand’ meaning happiness). These are the Endocannabinoids (eCBs) that indicate increased happiness and reduced anxiety or depression.

The study showed elevated levels of eCBs. They also observed that this impact lasted an entire month. Further studies are to be conducted to understand the role of eCB in mediating the positive responses of meditation and the impact of meditation on anandamide inhibitor FAAH. They also want to investigate the sustained benefits of meditation that lasts upto a month.


Inner Engineering Online Intervention for a Fortune 500 Company- Isha Foundation and Rutgers University

Inner Engineering Online Intervention for S2Tech- Isha Foundation and Harvard Medical School

Senthilkumar Sadhasivam et al., Inner Engineering Practices and Advanced 4-day Isha Yoga Retreat Are Associated with Cannabimimetic Effects with Increased Endocannabinoids and Short-Term and Sustained Improvement in Mental Health: A Prospective Observational Study of Meditators, Hindawi Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2020

Mental Health an Emerging Crisis of COVID Pandemic- Katherine Kam

World needs Ayurveda’s Code of Medical Ethics

Medical practitioners should take the Ayurveda oath of Ethics

Even the most routine of medical interventions today is a nightmare. The old trust in a family doctor who knew all about the family’s medical history and willing to listen to the patient’s complaint has long disappeared. Today the story is all about ultra-expensive annual checkups with fancy discounts, doctor-diagnostic center-pharmacy tie-ups, and insurance companies involved in payment wrangles.

Worldwide, doctors today continue to make the Hippocratic pledge, a tradition that holds that a doctor is ethically required to use the best of their knowledge to recommend to the patient what they consider to be in the patient's best interests—without regard to the interests of the third-party payer, or the government, or anyone else.

The Charaka mentions some topics not there in the Hippocratic Oath.  Student asceticism, the duty to withhold services under specified conditions, the value which places the patient's life above that of the physician, are the most prominent. Also scholars point out that while the ideas in the Charaka oath were mainstream, “the Hippocratic document originated in a group representing a small segment of Greek opinion”.

However, as Dr Jeffery A Singer wrote in Reason magazine, most doctors today are following the ‘Veterinary ethic’. “The medical profession has been forced to give up this (required by the Hippocratic) approach for what I like to call a ‘veterinary ethic,’ one that places the interests of the payer (or owner) ahead of the patient. For example, when a pet owner is told by a veterinarian that the pet has a very serious medical condition requiring extremely costly surgery or other therapy, the veterinarian presents the pet's owner with one or more options—from attempt at cure, to palliation, to euthanasia—with the associated costs, and then follows the wishes of the owner.”

On the other hand, A. Menon and H. F. Haberman say the Charaka Samhita's dedicated physician’s oath, reveals, “the dedication and high moral principles required of a physician. There is no doubt that the patient's welfare comes above any personal considerations of the physician. It seems that the physician was expected, in his bearing, speech and his approach to patients, to act in a particular manner which was considered befitting a physician.”

They say the Charaka Samhita oath is essentially ritualistic. “The spirit of the oath is essentially religious and it is apparently administered in a ritualistic manner. The student takes the oath in the presence of the 'sacred fire, Brahmanas and physicians. The prayer 'for the welfare of all creatures beginning with the cows and Brahmanas' is reminiscent of ancient Vedic prayers.”

This oath is reminiscent of other aspects of a Guru or teacher in Indian thought and culture. “The style of the oath, the rituals involved, the asceticism required of the student, the student-teacher relationship, the emphasis on the limitlessness of knowledge, the association of worldly prosperity, fame and ethical practices: all these are in conformity with the mainstream of Ancient Indian thought and practices,” say Menon and Haberman.

The Hippocratic Oath and the promise undertaken in the Charaka Samhita are similar, “both essentially religious covenants; both offer rewards for fulfilling the covenants and punishment for transgression, in both, the student teacher relationship is very intimate and similar to the relation between a father and son. Furthermore both express the high moral principles expected in the practice of medicine,” say Menon and Haberman.

However, the Charaka mentions some topics not there in the Hippocratic Oath.  Student asceticism, the duty to withhold services under specified conditions, the value which places the patient's life above that of the physician, are the most prominent. Also scholars point out that while the ideas in the Charaka oath were mainstream, “the Hippocratic document originated in a group representing a small segment of Greek opinion”. Far from being the expression of the common Greek attitude toward medicine or of the natural duties of the physician, the ethical code rather reflects opinions which were peculiarly those of a small and isolated group.”

Quoting Western authors Menon and Haberman say, 'It is more likely that Pythagoras was influenced by India than by Egypt. Almost all the theories, religious, philosophical and mathematical taught by the Pythagoreans, were known in India in the sixth century B.C. It is conceivable that the Hippocratic Oath was influenced by Ancient Indian teachings and practices via the Pythagorean school. On the other hand, we have seen that the oath found in the Charaka Samhita is the embodiment of concepts and practices of the Ancient Indian community in general.”

The Ayurvedic Approach

Medical care has become a market place of options. Ayurveda however saw things differently. “It is the feeling of love and compassion for suffering humanity that first gave rise to the sages’ efforts to discover the science of medicine. (Caraka Sutra VI, 7).

Sage Kashyapa has written in the Kashyapa Samhita dated to 6th Century BC, “Medicine should be studied for the sake of the knowledge of truth, of acquiring spiritual merit for himself and of extending help to humanity.”

Dhanwantari, the Indian deity of medicine defined the purpose of the medical sciences as ‘release from suffering to those who are in the grip of disease and maintenance of well-being as regards those who arc right-healthy. Medical science is eternal, sacred and bestowed of heaven, fame, longevity and subsistence.’

Medical oaths and pledges are not new to India.  Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, written around 2700 BC had very sacred oaths of initiation for physicians. The cure depended on the pureness of intent of the dispenser. Says the Charaka Samhita-‘weapons, learning and water are wholly dependent for their merits and demerits on their holder.’

Charaka Samhita

 ‘Thou shalt speak only the truth, be free from envy,

‘Thou shalt behave and act without arrogance and with undistracted mind, humility and constant reflection . . . thou shalt pray for the welfare of all creatures…,’

‘Day and night however he may be engaged, thou shalt endeavour for the relief of patients with all thy heart and soul. Thou shalt not desert or injure thy patient even for the sake of thy life’

‘When entering the patient’s house thou shalt be accompanied by a man known to the patient and who has his permission to enter. Thou shalt be well clad and bent of head, self-possessed and conduct thyself after repeated consideration… Having entered, thy speech, mind, intellect and senses shall be entirely devoted to no other thought than that of being helpful to the patient and of things concerning him only.’

‘The peculiar customs of the patient’s household shall not be made public. Even knowing that the patient’s span of life has come to its close, it shall not be mentioned by thee there, where if so done,it would cause shock to the patient or to others.’

‘Though possessed of knowledge, one should not boast…’

Susruta Samhita

‘Thou shalt renounce all evil desires, anger, greed, passion, pride, egotism, envy, harshness, meanness, untruth, indolence and other qualities that bring infamy upon oneself.’

‘Thou shalt clip thy nails and hair close, observe cleanliness . . . and dedicate thyself to the observance of truth, celibacy and the salutation of elders… ‘

‘The preceptor, the poor, the friendly, the travellers, the lowly, the good and the destitute – those thou shalt treat when they come to thee like thy own kith and kin and relieve their ailments…’

Kashyapa Samhita

‘O gentle one, you should be agreeable in disposition and righteous. You should control your senses and be ready to study… Share the suffering of others… and be resolute. You should be away from greed, anger, infatuation, envy, derision, enmity…’


‘O son! You should never turn deceitful, wicked, greedy, envious, hard hearted and unfair. You should always be free from lethargy and sin and should have the character of venerable persons and compassion for the family.’

Fees, presents and remuneration to medical men

‘This science of life is permanent and yielding merit… Those who, for the sake of a living, make merchandise of medicine bargain for a dust-heap, letting go a heap of gold… Practice of medicine is never fruitless, it sometimes gives money, sometimes religious merit, sometimes renown or sometimes the opportunity for study…’

No Side Effects Drives Ayurveda Growth

An international report on Ayurveda trends conducted by Market Research Future (MRFR) this year predicts that the global Ayurveda market is poised to increase by 2023. The over 3,000-year-old Indian Ayurveda system offers a unique approach to healthcare through collaboration of body, mind and spirit.

The main driver for this growth, says the report, is an “increasing reliance on organic and herbal treatment procedures with the belief of having no or less side effects.” Ayurveda practitioners use natural herbs for preparation of concoctions that possess healing properties. Increased research in the field of Ayurveda, along with collaboration with technologically advanced techniques, are some of the other factors that are fuelling the growth of the global Ayurveda market.

The report divides the global Ayurveda market into four major regions: North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and Africa. The Asia Pacific region commands the lion’s share in the global Ayurveda market, led by India. “The rich tradition of herbal medicines and large-scale export of Ayurveda drugs from India to various regions in the world are majorly aiding the growth of the Ayurveda market in this region. The increasing trend of organic treatments and a reduction in preference for synthetic drugs are propelling the expansion of the Ayurveda market in the North America region,” says the report released earlier this year. Growing demand for natural therapies that might not cause certain side effects on the body is fuelling the growth of the Ayurveda market in the Europe region. The Ayurveda market in the Middle East and Africa region is flourishing owing to the availability of herbal medicines that provide cost advantages over synthetic drugs.

Empirical Success of Traditional Indian Sciences

Professor Alex Hankey, a British theoretical physicist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge University, is currently doing research at India’s premier Yoga and Ayurveda research agency, S-VYASA (Swami Vivekanada Yoga Anusandana Samsthana), in Bangalore, India.

Comparing Indian sciences to Western practices, Professor Hankey says that Indian traditional sciences depend on the well-defined process of cognition from the Yogic state of Ritam Bhara Pragya described at the end of Patanjali Yoga Sutras Pada I. “When the applied Vedic sciences such as Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharva Veda, Sthapatya Veda, Shiksha, Vyakarana, Jyotisha, Nyaya, Samkhya and Yoga are considered, the feedback of empirical success into the structure of knowledge and teaching are very much in evidence, also in the Arts such as Natya Shastra, Painting or Sculpture, to name but a few.”

Professor Hankey says Indian sciences can solve modern problems because “they recognise the difference between the gross physical level, Sthula, and the more subtle, Sukshma, level(s). The western sciences have almost no idea of the existence of the latter, and tend to deny evidence for it when data indicating their existence is brought up. The power of the Sukshma levels can explain all the great results reported in ancient Indian sciences.” Professor Hankey says he has developed an authentic and powerful theory of how the Sukshma fits into the physical world.

Making Indic Knowledge Systems Mainstream

Indic knowledge systems including Indic technology, Vedic Physics, Ayurveda and Yoga, can become mainstream, says Professor Hankey, by establishing well-respected empirical validation of scientific conjectures derived from them.

“Yoga has been thoroughly validated, and the numbers of Randomized Controlled Trials conducted at such prestigious institutions as Harvard University, M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, and NIMHANS in Bengaluru (not to speak of S-VYASA) is steadily increasing. Similarly, the number of case studies and randomized controlled trials of Ayurveda is steadily increasing. There is now a national move in India to promote AYUSH integrative medicine. More work on the foundations of Yoga is needed; particularly on its ability to produce higher states of consciousness like those intimated in the second half of Mandukhyopanishad (vs. 6 to end) verifying the principles enunciated in Ishopanishad, Yoga Sutras, etc. Decisive work has been carried out on the Sukshma Sharira, verifying such statements as Padmasana being the most effective means to energize the subtle body (its verification led to one of my Ph.D. students being named Valedictorian of his graduating class).”

In the field of Ayurveda, Professor Hankey says South Indian cuisine, with its Sambhar and Rasam, emphasizes replacement of mineral losses due to Swedana. “Both systems use the fundamental masalas including Haridra, Ginger, Dhanya and Black Pepper, that reduce cancer, especially in the GIT (Haridra), enhance digestion (Ginger and Dhanya) and absorption (Black Pepper). The popularization of various Indian curry dishes, and modes of cooking such as Tandoori, around the world does much to enhance awareness around the world of India’s culture, both historic and contemporary.”

The Chancellor and Founder of S-VYASA, Dr. H R Nagendra says the institute has focussed on scientific research, and has made the largest contribution of research on Yoga in the world. “We have been able to unravel the secrets of Yoga from Yoga texts and offer it to society through an evidence based approach,” says Dr. Nagendra, who is believed to be a sage and scientist rolled in one.

S-VYASA aims to bring “the best of the East with that of the West, to bring peace on earth, create an ideal social orders marked by Wealth and Health, Bliss and Peace, Efficiency and Harmony,” says Dr. Nagendra, who is the Yoga guru for the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

Yoga and Ayurveda are two of the greatest sources of soft power of India. S-VYASA attracts over 200 non-Indians a year to study in their campus and has centers in over 30 countries. The Center for Soft Power is bringing together over 26 countries to celebrate Ayurveda Day on October 25.

It is significant that in Hungary Ayurveda has become an accepted medical system and is an obligatory subject for a postgraduate degree course since 1997. Guru Kiran Vyas who runs Tapovan at Normandy in France was the first person to introduce Yoga at UNESCO. He says:

“Yoga and Ayurveda are the two greatest gifts of India to humanity, to planet earth. I tell them that the health of a human being depends on the health of our planet earth. I also tell them that a human being’s health is not just for the body ?—it includes the body, mind and feelings. There is the pranamayakosha,the body of energy, the manamayakosha,the body of the mind, and then of course the psychic and spiritual body. All of our being should be treated, to be in good health. Ayurveda and Yoga have made people become more and more aware of this.”

(This story first appeared in University of Southern California's CPD's blog:’s-greatest-gifts-mankind)