I spend a significant amount of time thinking, writing, and teaching about the ways in which yoga practice and yoga therapy could have a seat at the table in the conversation about improving health outcomes.
I think it’s warranted because the U.S. Health care system has been in crisis for decades.
In 2017, the cost of healthcare was $3.5 trillion dollars or $10,739 per person. Yes, you read that right, close to $11K. . .per person! I can’t help but think about all the private yoga therapy sessions, massages, acupuncture treatments, psychotherapy sessions, osteopathic treatments, etc. that one could receive in a year with that amount of money – it’s an astonishing figure. However, it’s not that simple. We don’t all get equal shares of that $3.5 T sum because most of it, about 86 percent, is spent on the treatment of chronic diseases.
Oh, and BTW, $3.5 T was 17.9% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017. The U.S. spends up to 2.5 times what other developed countries spend on health care, and yet our health outcomes are stunningly subpar.
We are so not number 1.
Actually, we are 29th when it comes to infant mortality and 26th for life expectancy. Six out of 10 American adults have at least one chronic disease like heart disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases, or diabetes. And 4 in 10 have two or more.
Now, let’s look back 100 to 150 years ago. The diseases of that time that caused the most death and suffering were infectious – cholera, smallpox, typhus, yellow fever, etc. Almost every family lost children to these kinds of diseases and lots of people died young from them.
But, since that time, great scientific leaps have been made to diminish the spread of infectious diseases including sanitation, immunizations, regulations, health education and personal health care. Basically, the whole field of public health emerged because of infectious diseases. And when you’ve had your radar pointed at all that scary stuff for so long, it’s hard to shift your hyper-focus toward what’s killing us now – the chronic disease epidemic.
It was largely school teachers who helped to spread the personal hygiene gospel in the early twentieth century and that cleaned up the unwashed masses and helped curtail the spread of infectious diseases.
So what strategy do we need to employ to spread the gospel of healthy movement practices, mindfulness, stress management, healthy eating, self-care, etc.? Maybe it’s teachers? Maybe school teachers could have a key role.
This article/video inspired me to write this blog today.
It’s just a sweet little story about how yoga at a school in England is helping children cope. No data or research, just an anecdote. I posted this on Facebook 3 days ago and a whopping 141 people have shared it so clearly there are lots of us out there who care about these things.
We do need more data in order to get the juggernaut that is public health to pay attention and start to find ways to implement what mind-body practices like yoga have to offer.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to see mind-body practices instituted across the board as a powerful, foundational response to our current public health crisis? This quote is from a 2015 study which showed that yoga postures, breathing practices, and meditation can reduce the need for medical care by 43%.
“The data suggests that the interventions should be applied to all at risk populations, since the intervention has minimal risk, minimal cost, and yields substantial benefits for patients with a wide variety of illnesses. The long term effect of these interventions on healthy populations is unclear, but the data suggests that mind body interventions should perhaps be instituted as a form of preventative care similar to vaccinations or driver education. Such interventions are likely to be useful in population management and supported self-care, have negligible risk and cost and may help reduce the demand curve in health care.” (you can read the rest of the article here.)
Things can get better. And they will with the collaboration of people with different skills, different expertise, and different passions surrounding the same objective. So let’s work toward making sure that yoga and other mind-body practices get the recognition they deserve and get to the people who so desperately need them.
Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago about how yoga can meet the needs of the Triple Aim, a framework for healthcare improvement.
Check out my free eGuide, “The 5 Secrets All Yoga Teachers Need to Know” here.