Why should yoga be part of the international healthcare system?
Prior to the discovery of antibiotics and advances in modern medicine, the biggest threat to human health was infectious diseases. But as medical technology and pharmacology continue to progress rapidly, a new danger has emerged: diseases derived from lifestyle habits.
Regardless of region, ethnicity or social class, chronic health conditions (otherwise known as non-communicable diseases) face an unprecedented rise. The abundance of processed food packed with sugar, salt and preservatives, the work pressures eating into our relaxation time, an absence of sleep and elevated stress are all too common, and erode both our physical health and general sense of wellbeing. In many countries, the healthcare infrastructure set up to cure traditional ailments has failed to keep pace with the needs of the modern populace.
As the World Health Organisation and United Nations seek a solution to the crisis, yoga has come to the fore. Yoga is inexpensive, is correlated with positive lifestyle habits, improves wellbeing, and can be done by all ages and stages of health. Those who practice yoga regularly are less likely to exhibit chronic mental and physical health problems, making it highly attractive as a means to promote global wellbeing, while reducing healthcare costs and affording individuals greater autonomy over their health.
Recognising yoga’s potential to address mental global health crises and encourage a world-view of peace, sustainability and responsibility, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an international day of yoga to the General Assembly of the United Nations. 175 UN member states supported his resolution in record time, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ppubliclypraising its promotion of “development and peace”. Ban Ki-Moon also cited yoga’s role in helping the world research its 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, for health and wellbeing around the world.
What are some of the most notable benefits
- Decreases stress, anxiety, and depression
- Has potential to improve cardiovascular health
- Reduces resting glucose (important for people with diabetes)
- Reduces inflammation (relevant to numerous conditions)
- Associated with better overall physical fitness
- Reduces lower back pain
- Improves sleep
- Associated with improved eating habits and lifestyle
- Improves balance and cognition in the elderly
- Stimulates concentration and calm in the young
- Enhances a sense of connectedness and social support (consistently found to improve healing rates and promote overall health)
The International Influence of Yoga
Scholars believe that the seeds of yoga emerged over 5 000 years ago with the Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley. From yoga’s very beginnings it was shared with other civilizations and transport across Asian nations adapting to various ways of life. Yoga is an ever-changing spiritual discipline that continually evolves in order to meet the cultural needs and belief systems of both the country and era it finds itself within. It is believed that Alexander the Great took the wisdom of yoga through the Middle East and beyond disseminating its message far and wide. Since the late 19th century the international interest in yoga has been growing, gaining greater and greater momentum. In our age of instant and global communication and with the need for healthy and relaxing practices ever growing; the practice of yoga is being spread more widely than ever, and as this process reaches a critical mass the nations of the world are stopping to take notice and inquire how yoga can help improve the health and well-being of their societies.