ALL yoga centres and yogis will face legal consequences if they as much as hint that their services can cure chronic ailments or address health conditions.
There is, however, a small exception to this ruling — they can do so provided the yogis are qualified and certified by a handful of institutions in India, which are recognised by the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) Council.
The Health Ministry has just begun enforcing the T&CM 2016 Act, and it will be strictly regulating the steadily growing sector.
Deputy director-general of Health (medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said the move to put practitioners under the legal ambit of the T&CM Act was mainly to protect the public from falling prey to unqualified yoga practitioners, who would promise them the moon just for profits.
“Once the ministry begins to fully enforce the T&CM Act, yoga centres or practitioners who claim that they can treat medical conditions must have the qualifications recognised by the T&CM Council.
“Over the last three years, the T&CM division had conducted several meetings with its Indian counterpart, particularly the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, to draw up a list of qualifications, from diploma to post-graduate level, for all Indian T&CM practices,” he told the New Sunday Times.
The growing number of unqualified yoga practitioners, who claim to be able to treat chronic health conditions, had prompted the ministry to include “naturopathic yoga” as part of the practices that need to be regulated, said Dr Jeyaindran.
Naturopathic yoga is an exercise that had been recognised by the Health Ministry to help those with medical conditions.
“There is growing concern over the safety of the public as the number of unqualified yoga practitioners claiming that they can treat certain health condition, is on the rise,” he said.
“There are two forms of yoga practised in the country — naturopathic yoga (yoga for ‘health treatment’ that incorporates the use of natural elements from our nature, such as the sunlight) and yoga for exercise.
“If you do not have the degree, you only deal in yoga as a form of ‘exercise’, and must never claim that it could help address health conditions.”
Dr Jeyaindran also said the T&CM Council was in the midst of drawing up more specific dos and don’ts and other regulatory clauses for the yoga business.
This may include considering other ways of getting those without naturopathic yoga qualifications to be allowed to run the practice if they signed up for the ministry’s “conversion programme”.
Under the T&CM Act, other Indian traditional and complementary medicine and health practices allowed are Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.
He said similar meetings had also been carried out with the Chinese government to ensure that practitioners of Chinese T&CM also conformed to recognised standards of practice.
“A few conversion programmes (for Chinese T&CM practitioners) have been completed and some are ongoing,” he said.
He said the newly formed T&CM Council, as reported in this newspaper last Sunday, would soon come knocking on the doors of yoga centres to check on their operations.
As of now, the only body sanctioned by the ministry to register those practising Indian T&CM traditional practices is the Malaysian Association of Traditional Indian Medicine (Peptim).
Its president, Raggupathi V.R. Somasundaram Pillai, however, was of the stand that all forms of yoga, including those “modern” ones, should be regulated.
“The regular yoga centres, too, need to be governed by a body that can make sure that the instructors are qualified to teach even basic yoga.
“They must be aware of the risks involved with specific poses. For example, the positions that those with heart ailments must stay clear off,” he said.