If there's a theme to Khalsa's life, it's being ahead of his time. He decided to apply his interest in science to yoga in 1976. But he couldn't find an academic venue in which to pursue it. He went back to school for an advanced degree in neuroscience, with the hope of using it to study yoga. In 1985, with PhD in hand, he looked for a post-doc or fellowship position, but could find nothing related to yoga. Biding his time, he trained his focus on biological rhythms such as the circadian and ultradian cycles. By 2001 he still wasn't researching yoga. But now, external events worked in his favor: The newly formed National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was offeringgrants for researchers to train in new areas. "I put together a protocol that matched my skills—yoga for insomnia—and amazingly, it was accepted." Twenty-five years after recognizing an inner pull to study yoga's benefits, his work could finally begin.
Today, the fruits of Khalsa's efforts are increasingly apparent. He has published a half-dozen studies on the effects of yoga for conditions ranging from depression and insomnia to addiction. He has also shown that yoga and meditation techniques can ease performance anxiety in musicians. He brings his expertise to a host of organizations that share a similar mission, serving as the director of research for the Kundalini Research Institute as well as the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, and as a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Toga Therapy. He has organized symposiums on yoga research and serves as a mentor for many who would follow in his footsteps—meticulously maintaining extensive files on yoga research, categorized by topics such as diabetes, sleep, anxiety, HIV, children, cancer, and so on.
"Sat Bir helps so many around the U.S. and around the world—both established researchers and those just starting out," says John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. "He's just a wonderfully generous man with his time and expertise."
He's also eminently patient waiting for his yoga-is-the-new-toothbrush metaphor to catch on. Certainly, yoga has come a long way in mainstream acceptance. But it still has hurdles to clear before landing where he thinks it can have the most impact: on doctor's prescription pads.
continued on next page
Yoga tcachcr Kathryn Budig photographed by Jasper Johal MAY 2010
Was this article helpful?