Should Yoga Be Covered by Health Insurance?

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It’s an atypical form of treatment that cannot be picked up at the pharmacy. To experience its therapeutic impact, it must be taken mindfully. And unlike the drugs that big pharma companies market to our PCP’s, it cannot be wholesaled by the batch to earn an enormous profit.
Yoga has been proven to help with insomnia, PTSD, depression, general anxiety, and stress. As it becomes more mainstream, an increasing number of people are recognizing the life-changing benefits of the practice. The cost of practicing regularly at a yoga studio adds up, with an average drop-in being $18 per class, and an annual unlimited membership being around $1,200. The amount of yoga needed for therapeutic benefits is costly and many of us are questioning how yoga can be made more accessible to all.
Could yoga be made more accessible by subsidizing the cost through the practitioner’s health insurance plan?

Less Medication, More Mindfulness

Yoga offers a unique method of action on behalf of treatment and prevention. The meditative focus of the practice reconnects the mind with the body, allowing us to see ourselves from the perspective of our own spirit. With the connection to our highest self, we are able to connect more deeply to our situations and surroundings. Yoga tames and modulates stress response, so we are more equipped to ward away negative thought patterns, anxiety, and negative emotions that cause stress-related illnesses. These stress-related illnesses can be the root issue of physical pain such as fibromyalgia, low back and neck pain, insomnia, headaches, and lowered immunity.


What Significant Studies Have Found

Many studies and reviews are showing a great deal of benefits that a regular yoga practice has for our mental and physical health. Here are just a few examples:
Breast Cancer
Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors. The study relied on laboratory proof and not just self-reports. Blood tests before and after the trial showed that after 3 months of yoga practice, all 3 markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent, showing that there is biological evidence of the benefits of yoga.
Anxiety Disorders
Yoga modulates stress response systems and in turn, decreases physiological arousal – reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration.
Depression and Mood Disorders
Neurotransmitters are our brain’s chemical messengers that send information via nerve cells. Recent studies show an association between regular yoga practice and increased GABA, which decreases depression and mood disorders.
Pain and Stress Response
In 2008, the University of Utah gathered 12 experienced yogis, 14 people with fibromyalgia, and 16 healthy volunteers and presented preliminary results from a study of varied participants’ response to pain. They note that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are also more sensitive to pain. Yoga was shown to improve this.
Cardiovascular Health
Several studies have proven yoga has a positive effect on cardiovascular health. It is likely that yoga restores “baroreceptor sensitivity” which helps maintain blood pressure at constant levels.

Preventative Health Care is Our Future

Developed countries across the world are shifting attention to preventative healthcare as a viable way to curtail the burden of healthcare costs. Research confirms that preventative care saves lives as well as money. A healthy employee will show up to work every day and do their best work; a healthy mother will be fully engaged in the care of her children.

Chiropractic is covered, massage therapy is covered, acupuncture is covered. Yoga needs to be next.

Preventative healthcare technologies and services are trending up, with early detection screenings (i.e., pap smear, blood pressure and cancer screenings), vaccinations (Hepatitis A/B, Flu, Tetanus), and counseling on topics such as weight loss, quitting smoking, and reducing depression all now being covered under the Affordable Care Act. Chiropractic is covered, massage therapy is covered, acupuncture is covered. Yoga needs to be next. With care in 2016 being aimed at preventative health, the rising appeal of using yoga for long-term health benefits conforms to the future of healthcare.

Turn Immediate Benefits Into Lasting Results

There is strong scientific evidence that yoga promotes physical and mental health. Whether it’s after your first class or after your 1,000th class, you can feel the immediate mental and physical benefits of your yoga practice. Yet for lasting results, time and effort must be set forth. Just like a pill must be taken every day to be effective, a yoga practitioner must continually work on pranayama (breath) and asana (poses) for the full effects. Yoga is a life skill.
Pharmaceutical companies currently run the world of Western medicine, and it’s up to us to be our own caretakers to discover more positive ways to better our bodies and spirits. If your health insurance covered it, would you keep a regular yoga practice?

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Jillian is a yogi and recipe developer living in Ann Arbor, MI. She is a Finance graduate from Ohio University and divides her time between teaching yoga and working a part-time office job to support her essential oil habit.

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