Yesterday evening, Heather Mason addressed the House of Commons, where over 100 other leaders in yoga, health, and politics and the community were present to discuss yoga’s inclusion in the NHS. The Early Day Motion recently passed was also discussed. Below follows Heather’s impassioned speech:
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Good evening everyone, I am deeply honoured that you are all here tonight to celebrate yoga’s contribution to humanity and to underline how its integration into the NHS will foster greater well-being to many while reducing the economic burden associated with non-communicable diseases: According to the department of health England, 70 percent of the NHS’s budget is spent on these chronic conditions, many of which are preventable and are partially or totally ameliorated through improved lifestyle choices.
As someone who healed from years of depression and Post traumatic stress as a result of combined yoga and mindfulness practice, I have long wanted these modalities to be readily available. I think it’s often part of healing, the desire for others to also find relief. When I first came to the UK 13 years ago and then established the Minded institute, I didn’t even dream of what we are discussing tonight. There was not enough interest and not enough evidence.
But look at us now! We stand on the precipice of possibility knowing the time is right for the UK to set an international example – to become the first nation to fully embed yoga into the healthcare system.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has backed a £450 staff well-being drive and explicitly included yoga. Yoga is spreading throughout the nation and Kantar media group reported that in 2015 2.4 people practiced regularly. Research evidence is burgeoning, convincing, and increasingly rigorous. A bibliometric analysis looking at trials conducted from 2003-2013 found that there was a 1000 percent increase in this time frame compared to the previous 36 years combined. In the US, NIH repeatedly finds yoga to be the most popular mind-body practice used in complementary health. Further review papers reveal those who practice possess better lifestyle choices, are happier, healthier, and use the health services less. I am excited to hear Ned Harfiel present his research on a how yoga intervention led to cost savings in the NHS later on this evening.
What is clear is that yoga is good for us, that UK is broadly open to yoga, and that by bringing yoga into the NHS we could alleviate some financial pressure.
The Mindful Nation report published by the APPG expounded a strategy for bringing mindfulness into healthcare estimated that £15 would be saved for every pound spent. These figures were calculated based on the expense associated with using mindfulness to treat depression and chronic pain. Yoga delivers similar health benefits to these two patient groups while also addressing other chronic conditions in a manner that mindfulness cannot such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory conditions, and muscular-skeletal conditions to name just a few. Like mindfulness, yoga improves mood and, as a result, practitioners reap the benefits of stress reduction. However as yoga also involves breath regulation and postures it has wider ranging and more pronounced physiological effects.
Further, reviews comparing yoga to various forms of exercise overwhelming report yoga engenders superior health outcomes and is safer for many clinical groups.
Accordingly, in the USA it is a yoga based program and not a mindfulness one nor an exercise regime that is covered by Medicare for those with heart disease. This is a result of a revolutionary finding that a complete yogic lifestyle can reverse heart disease. The program is economical, imparts wellness in all aspects of a person’s life, and helps patients to play an active role in their own health and healing.
Succinctly, yoga is a comprehensive health strategy of empowerment. And people of all ages, in all walks of life, with or without any health condition can benefit.
This year on International Yoga Day, Ban Ki Moon implored us to consider how yoga can help the world to achieve its health and well-being goals for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN and the WHO recognise what yoga can bring to the world. Let the UK be the bastion of light reflecting this reality to the rest of the nations. Already we have an Early Day Motion passed through the Grace of MP Bob Blackman, and as of last Wednesday, through our collective energy—10 percent of all MPS were contacted by their constituents to sign the motion. Let us continue to mutually spearhead this effort.
I look forward to hearing from all of you, researchers, community leaders, healthcare leaders, and yogis. Thank you for coming, Namaste!