Any establishment or centre that promotes yoga as a cure for chronic diseases or health conditions will face legal consequences, unless the instructors or yogis are qualified and certified by certain institutions in India that are recognised by the Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) Council.

“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,” said deputy director-general of Health (medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran.

“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 said.

Unqualified yogis on the rise in Malaysia

The move by the Ministry of Health (MOH) is in line with the recent enforcement of the T&CM 2016 Act, with which the ministry hopes to curb unethical practices by immoral practitioners, according to Jeyaindran.

The decision to regulate “naturopathic yoga” aims to protect the public from falling prey to yoga practitioners who are unqualified and profit-driven, he explained, adding that the number of such unqualified practitioners has grown, and that these unscrupulous individuals have made claims to be able to treat chronic ailments.

“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,” Jeyaindran said.

Raggupathi V.R. Somasundaram Pillai, president of the Malaysian Association of Traditional Indian Medicine (Peptim) has also raised similar concerns over the large numbers of uncertified yoga instructors.

“They come to my class and after three months, I see them running yoga centres and calling themselves ‘teachers’. I have also seen people who sustained injuries, including to their spine, after going to these yoga centres,” he said as he cautioned the public against going to such practitioners to learn yoga.

“Yoga may be dangerous because it can also injure those who perform it improperly,” he added.

“One example is the shoulder stand. A person with anaemia cannot perform this as it can cause them to faint,” he also said, adding that yoga instructors risked injuring themselves and others if they are not properly trained and qualified.

T&CM Council to regulate yoga practices

According to Jeyaindran, “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,” he emphasised.

Just last week, the news covered that the Health Ministry’s T&CM council is reviewing the safety and efficacy of certain practices of alternative treatment. Following the review, certain procedures such as bedah batin (spiritual surgery), bekam lintah (leech therapy) and machine acupuncture, may soon be banned due to the lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.

Similarly, the T&CM Council is in the midst of regulating the do’s and dont’s for yoga practitioners, said Jeyaindran. Under the regulatory clauses, individuals without proper naturopathic yoga qualifications may be allowed to continue their practice if they undergo the “conversion programme” by the Health Ministry.

Although Peptim is currently the only body that is sanctioned by the Health Ministry to register practitioners of Indian T&CM, enforcers from the T&CM Council can act against errant practitioners and operators if necessary, said Jeyaindran. MIMS

Read more:
The complementarity of TCM and Western medicine
A closer look at the evolution of alternative medicine in Malaysia
The rising costs of traditional medicine in Malaysia