Therapeutic Yoga:

Convincing Health Care


 “The stated ideal for this new world of integrative medicine should be broad enough to include the full range of yoga philosophy, practice, and experience, integrating the subtle wisdom of yoga with specific knowledge from the scientific domains. In the meanwhile, yoga teachers and studios, like their counterparts in health care organizations and educational institutions, will likely benefit from exploring some of the conceptual frontiers of this new map for integration.”

                           -Michael Cohen, Harvard Medical School

As Integrative Medicine becomes increasingly popular and considered best practice, the search for cost-effective, person-centered, evidence-based modalities will increase demand for modalities like yoga.  According to the National Institute of Health, yoga is the sixty most commonly used CAM therapies (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) – deep breathing and meditation (aspects of yoga) rank second and third.

The integration of primary care, behavioral health and public health, as well as the drive for cost-effectiveness and efficiency in health care delivery, will create more opportunities for therapeutic yoga teachers. This is the context within which therapeutic yoga needs to be understood by yoga and health care professionals. This is the way we frame therapeutic yoga in our Subtle® Yoga RYT500 Therapeutic Teacher Training program in order to give our students the most cutting edge perspective on their profession. Our students graduate with the skills necessary to thrive in the transforming Health Care market.

How can you build a bridge between your yoga skills and the health care professionals in your community? Here are four important points you should understand when selling yoga to health care professional:

  1. Using appropriate health care language to describe yoga
  2. Describing yoga as an evidence based modality
  3. Explaining how yoga can reduce costs
  4. Describing how yoga can improve patients experience of care

The Affordable Care Act pushes for formal collaboration between three different health systems which have traditionally been separate: primary care, behavioral health and public health. This is about saving money, but it’s also about improving patient outcomes and increasing the quality of care. Yoga has been proven effective, although much more research is needed on cost effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses. Given the astronomical cost of hospital-based treatment, the cost benefits of evidenced-based, low risk modalities like yoga are obvious.

The Institute of Medicine’s landmark study, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century (IOM, 2001), suggested that we need health care that emphasizes these qualities:

  •  Safe
  • Effective
  • Patient Centered
  • Timely
  • Efficient
  • Equitable

Does that sound like therapeutic yoga to you?

Using this kind of language with health care professionals in your community will help them to see that you have done your homework and are interested in the concerns of their profession. Additionally, you can describe therapeutic yoga as:

  • Affordable
  • Accessible
  • Facilitating Patient Self-Management

According to Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco, the Affordable Care Act provides greater opportunities for yoga in medicine because it offers preventive aspects that help offset or even defer much more costly surgical procedures. The cost benefits of prevention are well known, but unfortunately, hugely underfunded and underutilized. Here are some facts to emphasize when communicating with health care professionals in your community:

o   In 2008, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report showing that an investment of $10 per person annually in proven, community-based public health programs could save the United States more than $16 billion within five years—a $5.60 return for every $1 invested.

o   A review of more than 120 studies of comprehensive health management programs offered by employers as one approach to curtailing health care costs showed that in 2005 the employers experienced an average 26% reduction in health care costs and an average $5.81 returned for every $1 invested in worksite health promotion initiatives.

o   According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the CDC, for every $1 that is spent on prevention programs for kids, $18 are saved in tax costs.

A recent AETNA study demonstrated that yoga can help lower health care costs. As more and more of these studies are published, companies will begin to recognize the cost benefits of therapeutic yoga and offer reimbursement for yoga interventions.

We still have a long way to go. But the evidence is growing, the interest is increasing, and the need is glaring –therapeutic yoga offers a cost-effective, evidence based, person-centered solutions to the tsunami of health care issues we face. Let’s get it out there!

Learn more about our Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training here. 


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