According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, yoga is one of the top ten complementary and integrative health approaches used by adults in the United States. And patients aren’t just turning to yoga on their own.

The 2007 U.S. National Health Interview Survey revealed that more and more, doctors are actually referring patients to yoga, along with other complementary practices.

Why? There is a growing evidence-base demonstrating that yoga may be effective in reducing chronic low back pain, improving function, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and relieving anxiety and depression (NCCIH, 2013).

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Making a Presence

From coast to coast, hospital systems such as UCLA Health and Mount Sinai Beth Israel are integrating yoga into patient care as a way to address pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation, and exhaustion. Pediatric centers such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Nashville and Children’s Hospital Colorado are pioneering the application of yoga for children and teen patients as well, with programs geared toward improving flexibility, reducing pain, and increasing positive coping and stress management in face of illness and stress.

Through breathing, postures, and relaxation techniques, health care providers can help their young patients develop essential physical, emotional, cognitive, and social skills that can help optimize their health.

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Not Just for Patient Care

The benefits of yoga extend beyond the patient, with ramifications for the entire healthcare team. With compassion fatigue and burnout syndrome becoming widespread among health care providers across different specialties and realms of care, incorporating yoga tools into the mindset of your daily work can be beneficial in easing stress, supporting mental health and in cultivating more positive and authentic relationships with patients.

Yoga also provides ample opportunity to bring families, particularly parents and other providers, more directly involved in care. This is essential in the care of children, especially those who suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses, and for families with other siblings who may be negatively affected by a sibling’s illness in ways that remain unseen.