Is Yoga Medicine? Part 1 of 2
As part of our 500-hour training, I co-teach a course that I called Yoga and Mind Body Medicine. It’s a course I spent years dreaming up. My vision for it was to offer a Western science-based perspective on understanding the gross and subtle benefits of yoga on our body-mind physiology. I enlisted a colleague Dr. Lawrence Cheng—a Harvard trained integrative medicine doctor and yogi who teaches Mind-Body Medicine in medical communities—to present with me. I knew this was going to be groundbreaking.
However, when we listed this course under our Blissology Yoga school’s 500-hr training program on the Yoga Alliance website, we immediately received an email, telling us not to use the words “Medicine” or “Healing” in conjunction with Yoga.
Why is this an issue? Yoga Alliance explains that “the risk comes from suggesting that a yoga teacher or school is diagnosing and/or treating a mental or physical health condition. The words ‘heal’ or ‘healing’ imply this. These claims are within the scope of the practice of medicine and/or licensed health care professions.”
As an alternative to the word healing the phrases “improving health” and “increasing well-being” are suggested.
This meant we had to get creative with what we called the course on Yoga Alliance’s website. Eventually, we settled on “Yoga and Western Science.”
I understand that the medical community does not want people who have graduated from a 200-hour yoga training to describe themselves as healers, or treat someone with a sore back or cancer without the proper medical training nor does anyone want to be legally liable for endorsing someone as capable of healing issues for which they are not qualified.
Yet, the data about the evidence-based healing benefits of yoga and meditation is increasing with each year. The benefits are so real that it is getting harder to dismiss all yoga as a “quack science.” I would love to see a day in the future when well qualified yogis (and doctors) will be able to claim that yoga is both “healing” and “medicine.”
Will this ever happen? Skeptics do not think so and go to long lengths to tell us why yoga is not healing, or medicine. In his article titled “Yoga Woo“, Stephen Novella, a clinical neurologist at the Yale School of medicine writes, “Yoga is simply exercise plus a lot of ‘Woo.'”
“Yoga, if practiced responsibly, seems to be a reasonably effective form of stretching and exercise. There is insufficient evidence, however, to conclude that it is any superior to any other form of exercise of the same duration and intensity. There are concerns about the safety of yoga, as it often involves extreme stretching or poses that the average person might find not only difficult but physically harmful.”
I’ll share more of my thoughts on this topic in Part 2 of this blog. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you, what is your opinion? Is Yoga Medicine or not? Should the word healing be used by some practitioners of yoga?