Yoga Is Both Integrative and Integrated Care

Over the past few decades, health care has moved increasingly in the direction of Integrative Medicine. Led by innovators like Dean Ornish and Andrew Weil, Integrative Medicine is now widely accepted. Yoga practices constitute the second, third, and fifth most commonly used modalities.  In fact, Ornish’s Spectrum program for heart disease is largely based on yoga practices and lifestyle (his teacher was Swami Satchidananda).

But while Complementary and Integrative Medicine is well accepted, Integrated Care is something different. It reflects the understanding that, to truly help people heal, mental health and primary care health services must be offered together. The trend toward Integrated Care, including the co-location of mental health and primary care services, has facilitated better access to treatment for people with co-occurring mental and physical health challenges. In Integrated Care settings, mental health care is offered in brief interventions and short sessions – say 15 or 20 minutes rather than the traditional hour.

Trends in Integrated and Integrative Care

The trend in Integrated Care provides a ripe opportunity for Integrative care. This kind of thinking is actually pretty yogic. Yoga means “union” so when the medical community evolves beyond reductive ways of offering care, they are thinking like yogis.

Modalities like yoga, through staff training and/or the hiring of yoga therapists, can add value to care. As reimbursement funds diminish, many behavioral health providers are favoring group work over individual therapy. One of the cost-effective features of yoga practice is that it is adaptable to group settings, can be assigned as client homework, and can be utilized as self-care by the provider/educator as well.

Unlike acupuncture, chiropractic, or other Complementary and Integrative Medicine modalities that require one-on-one interventions, yoga can be provided in group settings and practiced at home. It is accessible, adaptable, low risk, low cost, and has a broad and growing research base. It has the potential to be integrated into any number of services, for example a mental health outpatient program at a community mental health center, a weight loss program in a health department, and an employee wellness program at a hospital.

And while wide-spread adoption of these sorts of programs would signal a significant shift in the thinking around, and the providing of care, we live in a fast paced culture. So health care providers (including complementary therapists) learning how to distill practices and offer short, effective yoga in a variety of settings (e.g. a doctor’s or dentist’s office, during a therapy session, or at a school counselors office) will be increasingly important.

Check out our MAHEC workshop coming up on October 28, Subtle Yoga for Positive Mental Health: Brief Interventions, where we will be teaching a set of simple practices you can start utilizing right away in a variety of settings.

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