Yoga Professionals: Here’s What’s Going on at the VA
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | April 14, 2023
In the U.S., when it comes to providing health care, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) is on the cutting edge. And there’s really good reason for them to be – 19 million American vets are under their care.
The VA has always been a leader in health care, and while they certainly have their share of problems, they tend to blaze the trails for the rest of the nation to follow. In 2018 they started a pilot Whole Health Care program at 18 sites – and the results were promising. They use coaching, well-being courses, and complementary modalities like yoga to implement health promotion, resilience building, and disease prevention. In fact, the VA’s Whole Health Care program has been so successful that they’re expanding it.
By contrast, the regular US healthcare system is an unsustainable, expensive, hot mess. The US population is increasingly and frighteningly unhealthy. We are aging – and not very well. Baby boomers are the largest growing demographic, but life expectancy in the U.S. is plummeting. Additionally, 90% of the $4+ trillion spent each year on health care is absorbed by the treatment of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease – which are often lifestyle related.
In February, the National Academies of Medicine released an important report calling for Whole Health Care, both within and outside of the VA. The report urges stakeholders to replicate and scale the VA’s system in order to implement whole health care across the country (exactly – pinch me, I must be dreaming). This report found that because the VA’s system is so promising, it should be scaled (you can read more about it here).
This is a herculean task.
But it’s also the future.
If you’re a yoga professional who wants to be involved in changing the health of the US population, you may wish to pay attention.
The first step the report suggests is making the VA’s program available nationwide at all the VAs. There’s a place at the table for yoga therapists and other yoga professionals. The VA has recognized yoga as an important piece of the Whole Health care puzzle. It is one of the evidence-based complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches approved within the VA’s Whole Health System. But whether or not yoga is an integral part of your local VA is something you may want to look into.
My suggestion, if you are interested in what health care is going to look like in the future and how yoga is going to be a part of it, is that you start making contacts at your local VA. Start talking to people about what you do and how it could be integral to their vision for whole health, and about how you want to be involved in this initiative. Start educating your VA contacts about how what you do can help them to meet the goals of whole health care. Start brainstorming with them about how you can be involved.
Even better – do it as a community.
Reach out to other yoga professionals in your area who might be interested in this initiative. Who do you know that understands yoga as health promotion? And can teach yoga outside of the fitness box? Who do you know who understands how to adapt the practices appropriately, so they don’t hurt people? Who would you want to collaborate with for the good of your local vet community?
There is an opportunity here for yoga professionals to step up and be part of a real solution.
The report also recommends that the VA collaborate with the US Department of Health and Human Services to create a National Center for Whole Health Innovation (which would be under the National Institute of Health).
I can’t overemphasize how impactful this could be.
If the powers that be approve this move there will be all sorts of scrambling to make sure that various complementary therapies are represented and get funding. And I, for one, will be banging a drum to make sure that yoga is one of them. I’ll keep you posted on developments in future blogs. Please let me know your thoughts, particularly if you are already working at a VA.
My free, 5 Day Challenge, Subtle Yoga for a Stronger Back is available online until April 22. Please check it out!