Integrating Yoga Therapy into the Medical Industry

Integrated Yoga Therapy

Article from written exclusively for Syphon Fitness

With costs of medical care spiraling, a shortage of doctors and specialists, an increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases, and an aging population, the health care situation looks pretty grim. The crisis that is upon wasn’t inevitable, however, and it certainly isn’t unsalvageable. Our focus needs to shift solely from medication and the treatment of illness to disease prevention and rehabilitation using natural methods that are proven to be effective. Most notable among these is yoga, which is gradually moving from the realm of ‘alternative’ medicine to ‘complementary’ medicine. As a growing body of evidence supports the use of yoga as a therapeutic tool in health care, more doctors and hospitals are beginning to incorporate the discipline into rehabilitative programs.

The Efficacy of Yoga Therapy

Medical yoga or yoga therapy is not the same as regular yoga, but is a form of therapy. While a regular yoga session will benefit healthy adults, patients suffering and recovering from injuries, chronic pain, conditions like osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer require specialized guidance. This is where yoga therapy comes into play. Yoga therapy incorporates a wide range of yoga practices, including poses, breathing techniques, and mindfulness or meditation to achieve specific goals that can vary among patients. This is why yoga therapy is more like physiotherapy and usually involves individual care, rather than group sessions. Yoga has emerged as a therapeutic tool because of numerous study findings that show that the practice can offer benefits for blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, also helping recovery and management of musculoskeletal diseases, anxiety disorders, and depression 

The Integration of Yoga Therapy into Mainstream Medical Care

Treat mental health ailments

The mental health benefits of yoga are most well established and yoga and mindfulness-based meditation techniques are now routinely employed in clinical settings. Most of us recognize the effectiveness of yoga at relieving stress and anxiety, but a review of over 100 studies reveals that the benefits are far more extensive. Not only is yoga effective at relieving stress and anxiety, but it was also found to help with sleep disorders, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Today, yoga is commonly used in veterans’ health care facilities across the country and its therapeutic use is supported by research from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reduce postoperative complications & chronic pain

Yoga and mindfulness meditation practices are known to alter the stress response, reducing sensitivity to pain. This is not surprising as a poorly regulated stress response is associated with higher pain sensitivity. However, Research suggests that restorative yoga practices can do more than reduce pain, also improving recovery time. Pre- and postoperative distress is known to increase the risk of complications and delay recovery. This makes yoga therapy useful in postoperative care, whether patients are recovering from surgery for minor conditions like appendicitis or from more serious conditions like cancer. 

Management of musculoskeletal ailments

Because of its stress reduction and pain-relieving effects, yoga is also helpful when it comes to the management of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. Yoga has in fact been a part of treatment programs in facilities like the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM) for over a decade now. The efficacy of yoga for orthopedic rehabilitation extends beyond stress and pain reduction, with research showing that the practice can increase range of motion and improve mobility, significantly improving quality of life in patients who suffer from debilitating degenerative conditions like osteoporosis. The pain reduction benefits of yoga can also reduce dependence on pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs that pose a risk of dependence and other side effects.

Prevent age-related cognitive impairment and dementia

Yoga therapy is already widely used in some assisted living facilities and senior care programs like Sunnybrook Hospital’s ‘Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors’ program. While the physical benefits in terms of improved mobility and flexibility are fairly obvious, yoga’s mental health benefits are most valued here because of the higher risk of dementia or degenerative brain disease among seniors. Aerobic exercise, which can include anything from walking to yoga, is known to increase brain volume in areas that support cognitive function and memory. Such yoga programs are also backed by studies, which show that yoga interventions can improve sleep quality, cognitive function, and quality of life in aged populations. 

Perhaps the biggest indicator of yoga therapy’s integration into mainstream medicine is the fact that some health insurance providers now cover or subsidize membership in yoga programs. Only 10 years ago that was unthinkable! 

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