Dr Dean Ornish – “Best from East!”

By Ms Usha Shinde

Ayurveda is knowledge of life or a science of life. This ancient science of medicine and surgery is so comprehensive that it encompasses the every aspect of human life including body, mind, soul, genetics, anatomy, physics, chemistry, nature, society, life style, diet, meditation etc.. As we know that Ayurveda goes to the root cause of the disease or a disorder and then plans the treatment. Ayurveda does not suppress the symptoms or disease but deals with the causes and corrects them. This holistic approach results in enhancing the quality of life with less chemicals pumped in the body.

America being one of the most advanced country with a lot of research and state of the art technology, the medical practitioners were doing very well in 1960s and 70s by newly researched drugs, methodology, different modalities, and surgical techniques to deal with the epidemics like Obesity, Heart diseases, Diabetes and related complications and Cancer etc.
Read related: How My Husband Reversed His Diabetes

At this juncture Dr.Dean Ornish, an American physician, practicing Cardiologist and a researcher who had completed his medicine study in well known Universities like Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School suddenly started feeling that “something is missing“ in western people’s lives. He started more and more research on “ going back to nature” approach and was surprised with high stress levels of the modern world and related physical and mental problems. He came to understanding that prosperity and materialism is atwo fold sword and it has to be used carefully by western world.
Read related: Stress Causes, Types, Tips On How To Handle Stress

During 1970 to 1990s he researched the impact of diet and stress levels on people with heart diseases. This research was a base of a “ Program for Reversing Heart Disease.” In 1993, it became first non interventional, non surgical, non pharmaceutical therapy for heart diseases to qualify insurance reimbursement! This was a great achievement! The western world came in the wave of higher incomes, sedentary lifestyle, junk and fast food and stress from broken homes, marriages and drug abuse. (The Arab world is also affected by petro dollar richness same way!)

Dr.Ornish who is a socially committed, started his observations, studies and research in human interest areas. When nothing was wrong in his life, unfortunately he went into a deep emotional depression. He developed suicidal tendencies and planned for his own end! But as the old saying says “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” One day Swami Satchidananda was invited to his home by his sister Laurel. Laurel insisted brother to join. Dr.Ornish was not sure about this meeting. Dr.Ornish spoke to him and his life was transformed. His physical and emotional pain became a catalyst for transformation. Dr.Ornish came to know that the ancient system of medicine has a treasure for human beings!

Dr.Ornish read extensively about Ayurveda, specially how the diet can prevent, control, cure and can be a cause of a particular disease / diseases. He studied how Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the basic balancing principles of human health.

Dr Ornish started his program called “Reversal program” is totally based on ancient Ayurveda which elaborates Diet (Ahara), Lifestyle (Vihara), Exercises ( Vyayama) and Diagnosis and Medication (Chikitsa).
Read related: Chikitsa: Treatment Types, Ayurvedic classification

His recipes are typical “Satvik” in nature.
He invented such a recipes with very low fat and high fiber. Reversal diet is a very low fat vegetarian diet with no animal products except egg whites and non fat dairy. Reversal diet consisted complex carbohydrates. He eliminated empty calories like alcohol and sugar which does not have any nutritional value.

Protein is formed from Amino acids. According to him the Amino acids which come from plant foods are exactly as the Amino acids which come from animal foods. His epidemiological studies showed that those who eat a low fat vegetarian diet have low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels and low rates of heart diseases. In1900, two thirds of protein in the typical American diet came from plant foods, whereas today two thirds of protein comes from animal foods. This is because of prosperity, increased purchasing power and availability of refrigerators and freezers.

Dr.Ornish gave the information about salt and monosodium glutamate (Chinese salt which is rampantly used in Chinese food – popular in western world)stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sodas, sugars and fiber. He relooked in each food item from Ayurveda’s perspective and gave an extensive list of grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, Kashayas (Herbal Teas) etc.
Read related: Kashayam (Kwath) – Herbal Teas Preparation, Benefits, Usage

All his recipes and the names may sound typical American, but it is not so. One or two ingredients may not be available and used in India but they can be replaced. Foods on Reversal Diet have no cholesterol, so there is no need of calculating the cholesterol intake. Tennis star Martina Navratilova gave full credit to this diet for her phenomenal success on the court.

Dr. Ornish himself adopted this diet and brought his cholesterol level to 125! Mr.Talbott, Managing Director of The First Boston Corporation in New York underwent Coronary Angioplasty at the age of 44. A few months later the arteries closed again. Finally in few years he underwent four Angioplasties! He was fed up and started following this program. His Cholesterol levels decreased from 307 to 130. He lost sixty pounds of weight. Now he says “My Angioplasties have stayed open!” One can find plenty of success stories in Dr.Ornish’s book, this is just one of them.

Inspired and influenced by Swami Satchidananda, Dr.Ornish studied Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, Tibetan Medicine and Sufism too. He visited India and Sri Lanka. He developed a deep faith in Yoga and yogic exercises for well being and fitness. Yoga helps the endocrinal system efficient, muscles flexible. There is no other comprehensive system which brings unity and harmony in body and mind. Dr.Ornish recommended simple stretches in the beginning and then the proper Asanas ( positions) for his clients. He charted out a scientific and easy program with intensity and frequency of the exercises.

Dr.Ornish started simple stretching exercises, breathing techniques, meditation, relaxation techniques and visualization. Though he grew up in Texas on cheese burgers and steaks and burgers, he began to eat low fat vegetarian diet. He made stress as his friend than an enemy. He viewed his physical and emotional pains as information about himself.

The system of Yoga was first compiled by Guru Patanjali somewhere around 5000B.C.In Yog Sutras, he has outlined the steps how a person can find inner peace and knowledge. Dr.Ornish started with simple stretches and became expert in all positions of Yoga to achieve body, mind and the soul’s unity. Every Yoga teacher has his or her own variations. Dr.Ornish liked the method taught by Swami Satchidanada because it is comprehensive yet gentle. In1980 “Yoga Ville” was already established in Buckingham-Virginia state of U.S. People who were highly stressed and had become victims of invited diseases started learning Yoga at Yogaville.

Inspired and influenced by Swami Satchidananda, Dr.Ornish studied Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, Tibetan Medicine and Sufism too. He developed a deep faith in Yoga and yogic exercises for well being and fitness. Yoga helps the endocrinal system efficient, muscles flexible. There is no other comprehensive system which brings unity and harmony in body and mind.

Dr.Ornish started simple stretching exercises, breathing techniques, meditation, relaxation techniques and visualization. though he grew up in Texas on cheese burgers and steaks, he began to eat low fat vegetarian diet. He made stress as his friend than an enemy. He viewed his physical and emotional pains an information about himself. He trained thousands of Americans and made them aware about themselves. He could convinced the western world that “ Yoga is not a drill.” He made millions of people to look inside their body and mind. In this program, simple stretches are done in the beginning to avoid the injury and then the proper Asanas (positions) for his clients. He charted out the scientific intensity and frequency of the exercises.

He knew that all said and done, a mind can not be isolated from body. Who will take care of mind which rules the body? In 1960 and 70’s the disturbed souls thronged mainly towards India in search of peace in the form of Hippies. Dr.Ornish came to conclusion that apart from diet and Yoga the life style plays crucial role in preventing, controlling and curing the disease. According to him the relationship with oneself, with family and society and with the higher self is most important. Loneliness has become an epidemic in advanced and developing countries too. He preferred the old way of counseling where personal problems are discussed under the tree with the elders of the village. According to him eating together, staying together, being a part of a group or an organization, having intimate relationships, power of prayers are extremely important for mental health. Human being should be in “circulation” not in isolation!

Meditation is a part of Yoga. Mediation is an experience of oneness and inner peace. Quiet mind brings harmony in the body and helps in healing. He turned the rich but disturbed and stressed western world to meditation which he had picked up from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The various stretching and relaxation techniques described by Dr.Ornish were first developed for the purpose of enabling people to sit for long periods of time in meditation. But his clients became so flexible that they could easily do “Padmasana.”

Dr. Ornish had been a consultant to the former President Bill Clinton at White House. In 2010, President’s Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts became clogged. Bill Clinton followed his guidance of plant base diet. In 2011, President Barrack Obama appointed Dr.Ornish to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative and Public Health. In short it is nothing but recognition and adoption of the ancient science of Ayurveda and Yoga from American perspective! I can say “Dr.Ornish took best from the east.”
Dr Ornish’s book – Reversing Heart Disease

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