Modern medicine: don’t do that, it will make you ill | Yoga: do this, it will make you well

The first Yoga in Healthcare Conference was held in February this year at the University of Westminster, and TSYP was there. Organised by the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance, the lively and upbeat event was attended by an international mix of Yoga teachers, Yoga therapists and mainstream health professionals, with some participants having more than one ‘hat’ on. TSYP was represented by Michael Hutchinson, who presented a poster. 

‘Yoga has a place in Healthcare’

Conference organiser Dr Heather Mason began with a message of support from HRH Prince Charles: Yoga has a place in Healthcare. Dr Mason added that the UK has socialised medicine, which is potentially community-integrated, patient-empowered and cost-effective. However, out of 195 England Clinical Commissioning Groups, only 40 have so far listed Yoga. The priorities should be to 1. align with the greatest burden of disease (which includes anxiety, depression, back and other musculoskeletal pain and respiratory disorders) 2. check out research on Yoga & those diseases and 3. educate health professionals about yoga and its benefits. Furthermore, we need to ‘do away with the yoga body movement’! 

Social prescribing

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, pointed out that the impact of Healthcare on clinical outcomes is only about 10%. Lifestyle matters more, so the UK is to commit £100Ms to Social Prescribing. Later,Dr Michael Dixon, the National Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing, said that by the end of 2019, there will be a GP trained in Social Prescribing (SP) in every practice. An SP pilot in Rotherham has seen a 20% drop in hospital admissions and GP consultations, with £4 saved for every £1 spent. The system will be GP → Link Worker → Menu of Activities – including Yoga. According to Dr Dixon, the two main challenges are GP scepticism and the fact that the patients who most need to make changes also need the most help to do so! However, the UK is one of the few countries in the world that provides free health care, so if the NHS can make Social Prescribing work it will be ‘a beacon for the world’.

‘We need to change GPs’ understanding of yoga’

Dr Sat Bir Khalsa, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, underlined the need for Social Prescribing. We have an epidemic of Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) in the general population and burnout among health practitioners. He proposed more Yoga in schools, growing a future population with less NCD and more personal effectiveness. Dr Tina Cartwrightadded that, while chronic conditions are consuming 70% of Healthcare costs, we need to change attitudes towards yoga in the NHS. In particular, we need to change GPs’ beliefs, address their safety concerns and their lack of understanding of Yoga, so they come to see Yoga as broad and adaptable. At present there is a stark contrast between modern medicine, which is too much based on guilt and fear – don’t do that, it will make you ill, rather than (as in Yoga) do this, it will make you well.

Clear certification

However, first we as yoga practitioners need to make clear to the medical profession that there is a difference between those people calling themselves yoga teachers, while not conforming to any national standards, and those who are properly certified, either as general Yoga Teachers, teachers with further specific training, for example to teach yoga for specific problems such as anxiety, back pain or breathing disorders, or those who are fully trained Yoga Therapists. We will then be in a position to support healthcare in the UK through Social Prescribing. Watch this space!

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