• Irina Sheftel

What can yoga do for healthcare?

Doctors under stress

According to a report by the Dutch National Register of occupational disorders, healthcare providers in the Netherlands experience more mental distress than professionals from any other sector. At the same time, the British Medical Association talks about a mental health crisis in healthcare professionals. Chronic stress, mood fluctuations, and sleep disturbances put doctors at risk for health problems. A survey of thousands of doctors and medical students shows worrying levels of burnout, a high prevalence of psychological and emotional conditions, and a concerning number turning to alcohol, drugs, or medication(British Medical Association 2019).

“While there is no denying that being a doctor is a challenging and demanding role, too often the line of what can be considered routine pressures of the job has most definitely been crossed and the consequence is a workforce that has been pushed to literal breaking point.”BMA

Good care starts with yourself

At Network Yoga Therapy we believe that yoga-based practices should be included in the healthcare sector, as a lifestyle management tool both for doctors and patients. Yoga is a tool for transforming mind and body patterns and working to improve health and wellbeing. In a world where most diseases come from poor lifestyle choices, yoga can be seen as a “lifestyle therapy”.  

A study that came out in January 2020 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that yoga improves psychological and occupational health in frontline professionals. The study participants took part in a 5-day course, including yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises. A series of psychological tests showed an improvement in stress levels, mindfulness, empowerment, and self-compassion immediately after the course. Practicing yoga brought sustained improvements in the long-run: the study shows that the positive changes lasted for at least 6 months.

In what way can yoga or yoga-based lifestyle interventions be integrated in healthcare? Do you know of any ongoing projects anywhere in the world?

Personal empowerment and holistic lifestyle management

This year I teach at the ​Svastha 200 hours yoga teacher training and professional development program for healthcare professionals, in collaboration with the Amsterdam School for Integrative Medicine & Health. During this training, we work towards personal optimal balance through an intensive yoga and meditation program. We investigate the original holistic wisdom from the yogic tradition and the basic principles of Ayurveda for optimal health balance. We show how to develop yoga and meditation classes for groups and in a 1-on-1 setting, for example in the consultation room. 

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