Yoga is one of the top 10 CAM modalities used in the US today, according to the 2009 Health Status Report, “Costs of complementary and alternative (CAM) medicine and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners in the US.” $6 billion alone was spent on yoga and yoga related products in 2008, while the number of yoga practitioners jumped by 87% to over 16 million from 2004-2008. “Yoga as medicine,” way back in 2008, was said to “represent the next great yoga wave” said editor-in-chief of mainstream yoga mag., Yoga Journal. And the prediction has come true.
More Americans are seeking out CAM than ever, and a large part of that is yoga. The incredible use of yoga, and the science that supports it, is prime for mainstream health care professionals to embrace a powerful tool they have at their fingertips: yoga as medicine.
Mainstream Medicine Support for Yoga as Medicine
Yoga’s “medical model” looks much different from the current medical model in the United States. Driven by compassion and patient-centered care, yoga in medicine, uses an integrative, holistic, eivdence-based biopsychosocial model.
The model is supported by the Institute of Medicine in their 2011 report “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research” states “effective pain management is a moral imperative, a professional responsibility, and the duty of people in the healing professions. We must lead the medical community in embracing integrative pain care. Based on a biopsychosocial model of care, this patient-centered approach has been shown to be the most effective and cost-effective way to address pain. However, policy decisions that limit treatment options can stand in the way of this best practice.”
Scientific Support for Yoga as Medicine
Yoga’s science supports application in health science and medical fields (Bussing et al 2012), especially in the following areas of medical practice:
- Stress-related chronic disease
- Stress management
- Women’s health Prenatal/Postpartum
- Women’s health Oncology
- Mental health
- Pain management
Integrative medical doctor and yoga enthusiast, Timothy McCall, author of Yoga as Medicine , posted a succinct list of 75 Health Conditions Benefited by Yoga, as Demonstrated in Scientific Studies. However it is worth noting that the therapeutic indications and benefits of yoga far outstrip this short list IF and WHEN you apply the current evidence base of rehabilitative medicine to yoga. What emerges is something more clinically useful than just yoga postures used as medicine. It is called medical therapeutic yoga.
Two examples of medical therapeutic yoga include:
- Lumbopelvic biomechanics. Low back pain affects more than Americans that any other illness, other than the common cold. Medical therapeutic yoga provides methodology for managing difficult low back pain. Read Breathing Better (with Yoga) for a Safer Spine
- Studies from pioneers in the field of lumbopelvic rehabilitation, like Diane Lee, Paul Hodges, Carolyn Richardson, Vleeming, Hides, and have others enabled the Medical Therapeutic Program to develop the synergy of yogic medicine, while considering neuroendocrinological variables that influence orthopaedic outcomes. What is even better is that yoga is akin to “minimalist medicine.” Read my post on how yoga is cheap and easy (in a good way) for health maintenance and recovery from injury.
- Neuroendocrinology researchers have found yoga can reduce stress and inflammation, as well as better regulate the autonomic nervous system than walking or simple exercise. (Yadav et al 2012, Streeter et al 2010, Streeter et al 2012) Read Why Yogic Breathing and Mindful Meditation are Powerful Rehab Tools
Neurophysiology (Tsao et al 2010) and lumbopelvic research is put to work in the Medical Therapeutic Yoga program and continuing education courses. Read Yoga In Medicine: An Ancient Solution for Modern Illness
- Büssing A, Michalsen A, Khalsa SB, Telles S, and Sherman KJ. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 165410. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447533/
- Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, Rein T, Karri SK, Yakhkind A, Perlmutter R, Prescot A, Renshaw PF, Ciraulo DA, Jensen JE. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 November; 16(11): 1145–1152.
- Yadav RK, Magan D, Mehta N, Sharma R, and Mahapatra SH. Efficacy of a Short-Term Yoga-Based Lifestyle Intervention in Reducing Stress and Inflammation: Preliminary Results. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2012, 18(7): 662-667. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0265.
- Streeter CC, Gerbarg PL, Saper RB, Ciraulo DA, Brown RP. Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Hypotheses. 2012 May;78(5):571-9.