CIF International Yoga Day Writes New Chapter in Integrated Medicine

Asha Bajaj
7 min readJun 30, 2021

CIF International Yoga Day Writes New Chapter in Integrated Medicine

Press Release

Toronto: Canada India Foundation (CIF) marked the 7th Anniversary of International Yoga Day on Sunday, June 20 with a virtual event that saw the participation of medical experts, diplomats, and policymakers from Canada and India. The theme chosen for the Day was Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation — an Integrated Approach. The long-felt need for bringing different medicine systems together to overcome the huge health challenges has resulted in the recently announced initiative between CIF and the University Health Network (UHN).

The two organizations have committed to creating a $1 million fund to support research in both modern medicine and ancient systems like Ayurveda to design a more sustainable action plan to deal with the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.

Opening the International Yoga Day celebration virtual event, Satish Thakkar, Chair, noted, “This news that I am sharing with you makes this day a very special International Yoga Day for us. The discoveries that may follow in the coming years, we hope, will make the adoption of integrated medicine easier in the world. I thank the visionary leadership at UHN, India’s Ministry of Ayush, and the All-India Institute of Ayurveda for making it happen.”

Thakkar conveyed the appreciation of CIF to the supporters and participants at the Yoga Day celebrations before introducing Dr. V I Lakshmanan, the architect of the Canada India Health Summit (CIHS), to share his thoughts on the initiative started at the CIHS. “A journey has begun,” Dr. Lakshmanan stated. “Now it’s up to us to bring our experience, and knowledge and richness here and share them with the world for better outcomes in healthcare.”

Speaking on the hugely successful CIHS 2021, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, H.E. Ajay Bisaria, observed, “One of the most positive collaborations between India and Canada over the past few years has been in the health sector. When the pandemic hit, Canada had a critical need for certain drugs which India had rushed to Canada. And within three weeks of the Canadian Prime Minister speaking to the Indian Prime Minister on the vaccine issue, India made available to Canada half a million doses of vaccine. And when India went through a brutal second wave of the pandemic in April and May this year, we received tremendous support from all levels of governments in Canada that rushed critical medical supplies to India. That became a symbol of the kind of collaboration possible between our two countries.” He concluded by saying that the latest joint venture will take this level of engagement even further for the benefit of Canada and India.

Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, Ministry of Ayush, who is currently guiding India’s efforts at popularizing ancient medicine systems like Ayurveda, noted, “Hope this Yoga Day brings together the whole world in celebration of one of humanity’s greatest achievements, that is, yoga and help to integrate it into our lives.”

Kotecha added, “India and Canada have stood shoulder to shoulder in fighting the pandemic and it has become a symbol of cooperation and friendship between our countries. Ayurveda and Yoga can play an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular and other chronic health issues. Our own goal is to reduce premature mortality from these diseases by 25% by 2025 employing Ayurvedic recommendations in ahar (food), vihara (lifestyle) and dinacharya that includes physical activity, good conduct, mental health.”

Referring to the CIF Yoga Day celebration as “yet another manifestation of the growing relevance of our ancient medicine practices”, Consul General of India in Toronto, Mrs. Apoorva Srivastava, noted, “I hope with these initiatives we will be able to get the perspective of traditional holistic healthcare and integrate it with the advanced healthcare practices in cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation in Canada. This will help develop a sustainable healthcare system not just in India and Canada but throughout the world.”

Prof. Arun Chockalingam, Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto, who chaired the Technical Committee at the CIHS 2021, shared with the audience the stark statistics in both lives lost and the cost incurred due to chronic diseases. “I am delighted that the day has arrived to integrate the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga, Siddha, Unani, and Homeopathy with modern medicine. We’ve been working in the background for this for the past 15–20 years.” He was the Editor in Chief of a comprehensive white book, published by the World Heart Federation way back in 1999, titled: Impending Global Pandemic of Cardiovascular Diseases.

If the world continued in its business-as-usual manner, the cost of managing noncommunicable diseases in the next 25 years will amount to an astronomical $47 trillion, according to a WHO report. And yet, proper primary care management and prevention strategies can cut that cost considerably. “That’s where systems like Ayurveda can play a critical role,” Prof. Chockalingam said.

Dr. Manoj Nesari, Advisor, India’s Ministry of Ayush, stressed that in any discussion of cardiovascular diseases, it is important to understand the differences in approaches of the various systems. And also take into consideration the social and physical differences among patients. According to Dr. Nesari, Ayurveda has three pillars — energy, channels, and structure — and all need to be optimum for optimum health.

Dr. Paul Oh, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Rehabilitation, UHN, who will be leading the project to integrate the systems, is very excited about “the possibilities in an integrated approach”. “(In western medicine), the focus is on diagnosis, interventions, and medication. In this, you will recognize that there is very little space for other domains that are critical around either prevention or rehabilitation. It’s critically important to truly manage the entire person who is in front of us. Often, we focus on the biomedical models in the name of science and modern understanding which may be very young. But we are becoming aware that there are important social determinants of health and the biomedical model of health psychology enters this equation. And the thousands of years of experience that underpins Ayurvedic medicine. We need to embrace both to move forward. Everything we do in modern medicine can be made better by paying attention to the social, mental, and physical health and facilitating people to grow to become champions of their own health.”

He applauded every entity making investments in this endeavor like CIF, India’s Ministry of Ayush, UHN, and other institutions in the science of alternative healing systems. “That’s how we can meet and move forward together,” he concluded, with the hope that by the time Yoga Day comes around next year, there will be an educational video available, ‘Yoga for Heart’ ready to be presented!

Dr. Milos Popovic, Director of Research at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network, said, “We are very grateful to CIF for providing the funding for this very exciting project.” He also named and thanked each of the initial donors to the $1 million funds to support integrated medicine.

Dr. Jonah Sandrepogu, Professor, All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), listed the three basic factors that govern good health — sleep, diet and celibacy — and explained to the audience the differences in Ayurveda and modern medicine. Some of them are: Ayurveda is Experiential while modern medicine is experimental. Intuitive vs. Analytical. Holistic vs. Reductive. Person-centric vs. Symptom-centric. Safer vs. Toxic. Affordable vs. Expensive. Knowledge-based vs. Evidence-based. He proposed that an integrated approach to derive the best from both systems is critical to the future of medicine itself.

Vaidya Harish Verma, President, Canadian Ayurveda Practitioners Association, one of the prime movers behind the CIF Ayurveda Speaker Series, while thanking all the participants and donors who have made the initiative a reality, noted, “This has created a wonderful opportunity for young scientists in Ayurveda to develop safe, effective and economical medicines in integrated medicine.”

Ritesh Malik, National Chair, CIF, while proposing the vote of thanks to all the participants, said, “Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation — An integrated approach is the need of the hour. Let us hope that today’s deliberations will lay the foundation for great innovations in integrated medicine in the future.” He concluded with an ancient prayer in Sanskrit but absolutely relevant to modern times: May all be happy. May all be free from illness. May no one suffer. Om Shanti (peace), Shanti Shanti.

To watch the full program, click here.



Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women