If you’re reading this, you know how wonderful yoga is and how much it benefits your health – 14 million Americans were practicing as of the last major survey. But what about the people who make up the unhealthy statistics that clutter our nation’s failing health report card? The 27 million with heart disease? The 20 million with diabetes? The 35.7 percent who are obese? The 10 percent who report being challenged by depression and the millions with addictions?
I believe that yoga can help anyone at any point in their lives whether they are dealing with a disease or illness, recovering from it and trying to reclaim life, or enjoying good health and moving towards self-actualization and thriving. I also think yoga is one of the most powerful prevention tools available to young and old alike. I mean who doesn’t need to both move more and find more quiet?
Not only does yoga benefit physically and emotionally, perhaps the greatest benefit is spiritual – an area that conventional medicine is just starting to understand:
“By ignoring the spiritual dimension of health, for whatever reason, we may be depriving ourselves of the leverage we need to help empower individuals and populations to achieve improved physical, social, and mental health. Indeed, unless and until we do seriously address the question—however difficult and uncomfortable it may be—substantial and sustainable improvements in physical, social, and mental health, and reductions in the health gradient within and between societies, may well continue to elude us.” – John-Paul Vader, University of Lausanne Medical Centre, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Lausanne, Switzerland
So how do we reach people who don’t think yoga is for them? How do we bridge the chasm between the yoga world and the conventional health world? These are questions inform my work of getting yoga out into the world. All of our programs are designed to help train teachers who can confidently walk that bridge and interface with community health providers to institute yoga as a key part of truly transformative integrative health care strategies.
I want to introduce our conceptual model to you. Now before you stop reading or your eyes glaze over, take a moment to consider this: The lower right corner is about treatment – what most people think about when they try to help people. But health is a complex web of relationships and individual behaviors. Our model helps to expand our idea about what health is and how yoga can help. The health care world is starting to understand that we have to address all areas, not just treatment.
Things are changing in the yoga world too. The celebrity allure is falling away. Practitioners have a strong desire to share the wellspring of wisdom that yoga offers and to deliver it in a way that meets the needs of the people they are serving. As practitioners and teachers, if we are to see our profession grow and flourish and really make a dent in our ailing nation, we need to learn the language of the medical people and the mental health professionals. We need to offer our practice in community context and perhaps strip if of some of the cultural trappings that keep people away.
Yoga is for everyone, let’s figure out how to bring it to them.