While the eventual aim of the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance (YIHA) is to integrate yoga in various health care services throughout the world, our initial focus has started a little closer to home. The expectation is that by focusing on the unique relationship between the National Health Service (NHS) and the public, while taking any learning’s and successful philosophies from other countries, we can develop a successful framework that can then be successfully applied in other nations.

To date, YIHA has collaborated with a variety of dedicated individuals and forward thinking organisations, all committed to preventing the growing epidemic of chronic mental and physical health conditions throughout society.

These include:

Working with the NHS

One of YIHA’s primary objectives is to first understand the unique needs and challenges faced by the NHS.  Only through an innate understanding can we deliver a successful collaboration that’s empathetic, supportive and effective for the National Health Service and the public it serves.

In October 2014 the NHS set out their Five Year Forward View; a new shared vision for the future of the NHS based around new models of care. This evolution was seen as a response to the changing complexities of modern health care, and how poor lifestyle choices and an aging population is putting unprecedented pressure on the NHS.

It’s these principle objectives that have, in part, inspired YIHA’s mode of collaborating with the NHS – a set of shared, common goals that the further integration of yoga into health care can help fulfill.

While the NHS is facing a number of challenges, coping with the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions is one of the most pressing. According to the NHS one in five adults smoke, a third of us drink too much alcohol, and just under two thirds of us are overweight or obese. The end result is that adverse lifestyle choices are having a dramatic impact on the nations health and wellbeing, causing long-term chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Compounding the challenge is that as life expectancy increases, so to does the likelihood that we’ll up living with a long-term condition.  With an expected 25% increase in the number of people who will have age-related disability by the year 2025, the situation has serious implications for an underfunded and overburdened National Health Service.

According to independent health charity The Nuffield Trust, the average 65-year-old costs the NHS 2.5 times more than the average 30-year-old, with 85-year-old costing more than five times as much.

The impact of these statistics is severe, from economic and financial challenges, to bed shortages, overworked staff, increased waiting times and wide spread pain and suffering; but the ‘Forward View’ sets out a clear new direction for the NHS, highlighting why change is so desperately needed, and ultimately what this new approach will look like.



A radical upgrade in prevention


New partnerships with local communities, local authorities and employers


When people do need health services, patients will gain far greater control of their own care


England is too diverse for a ‘one size fits all’ care model


The future will see far more care delivered locally, organised to support people with multiple health conditions, not just single diseases

By working with individuals, local communities and the staff of the NHS, YIHA not only aims to empower individuals to take control of their own health, but also to play an active role in the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions as aligned with these objectives.

Through raising awareness of yoga’s efficacy, and by simply making it easily accessible to people from all walks of life, YIHA can provide a cost effective, non-invasive treatment that will help to reduce some of the burden on the NHS.

Social prescribing with the West London CCG

One area that has already seen the successful collaboration between YIHA and the NHS is in social prescribing, the simple yet effective idea that people who lead active social lives, enjoy better health than those who do not. 

A yoga community, with its shared vision towards health and wellbeing, naturally provides an environment where support and compassion become fundamental attributes of the community – an essential component for helping people recover from a variety of physical or mental health related issues.

Recognising the importance of social networks, the Yoga4Health program is a 10-week social prescribing yoga course commissioned by the West London Clinical Commissioning Group, and implemented by YIHA. It’s been specifically designed for patients registered at a GP in West London, and can be used to support people who need:

  • To lose weight
  • To improve their heart health
  • Lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • To simply feel well, healthy and supported
  • Suffer from stress, anxiety or mild depression

The simple premise is that by encouraging people to practice yoga, they can not only start to address the health conditions outlined above, but they stand a much better chance of preventing them in first place.

While it would be remiss to say that yoga practitioners never have any health related issues, research from the University of Maryland School of Nursing does illustrate that people who practice yoga are much less likely to suffer from chronic conditions.

The prevention of smoking, type 2 diabetes and obesity, compliment the Five Year Forward View by the NHS, ultimately using yoga as a preventative strategy that can lead to healthier lifestyles and habits.

In addition to yoga’s effectiveness on preventing and treating physical conditions, there has been a simultaneous rise in the development of yoga’s application in treating mental health conditions.

With yoga’s historic traditions rooted in psychological development and its widely accepted impact on stress, anxiety and depression, mental health professionals are increasingly collaborating with yoga teachers and therapists in order to prescribe yoga to their patients’.

In order to support this approach, the Yoga4Health program has also been specifically designed to help patients suffering with mental health related issues, helping to lower stress and improve relaxation skills.

As a result of the above, YIHA is currently working with GP practices and social services in order to make the program available to local communities, integrating and delivering care where it’s needed most.

Training in the Yoga4Health is also available for yoga teachers who would like to teach the programme.

Breath training techniques to support NHS staff

Additionally, the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance is providing breath-training techniques to help support the wellbeing of NHS staff. Backed by research that demonstrates the significant correlation between the breath and it’s impact on physiological factors and the autonomic nervous system, YIHA is currently teaching a breathing techniques to staff at Westminster CCG.

As a result, Westminster CCG has commissioned a video demonstrating the breathing technique, currently available to staff members and patients.

Working with the government

Heather Mason of the Yoga In Healthcare Alliance has also been instrumental in developing an All Party Parliamentary Group on Yoga in Society, championed by Lord Andrew Stone of Blackheath. The purpose is to discuss the further integration of yoga not just into healthcare, but education, the criminal justice systems and occupational health.

The overarching objective is to work with a variety of leaders and experts in their respective fields, social government and the NHS, to help form policy and consider aspects of how yoga can be suitably used in a variety of settings.

Honouring the traditions of yoga

The origins of yoga date back to over 5,000 years, and while we’re a long way from its humble origins, its long and rich history contain invaluable lessons that are perfectly suited to the modern world.

Through conferences, symposiums, training, education, partnering with other organisations and working with the press, our intention is to ensure that everyone can enjoy the various health benefits of yoga.

By reverting back to its core tenants of promoting spiritual development, health and wellbeing, we can all play our part in preventing the growing epidemic of chronic mental and physical health conditions throughout society.