The emergence of yoga therapy in the United Kingdom began about 45 years ago with the emergence of yoga therapy organizations that offered both treatment and training. The integration of yoga into the National Health Service (NHS) is gradually happening Because: (a) yoga research supports its efficacy as a cost-effective, preventive and complementary treatment for a host of non-communicable diseases; and (b) the escalating economic burden of long-term conditions is overwhelming the NHS.
The NHS is actively developing ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ that include yoga. Chief among these is ‘social prescribing,’ which empowers patients with complex health needs through activities groups. These activities reduce sedentary habits and social isolation, while helping patients to be more self-reliant. The NHS has allocated £450 million in funding to implement a variety of programs for its own staff, in which staff yoga classes were expressly mentioned. The yoga community is mobilizing forces and applying for funding to pilot relevant NHS staff yoga courses that can support the service in achieving its vision.
Research shows that integrating yoga therapy for the treatment of low back pain (LBP) into the NHS would result in significant cost savings as compared with usual care. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines on LBP and sciatica include yoga as one of the recommended treatments for these conditions. Three groups of yoga teachers, using different yoga practices, have gained traction with the NHS for the application of yoga therapy to LBP. Many regional hospitals in England have yoga classes. The NHS Choices website, which conveys information to the public regarding treatment options, has a page dedicated to the health benefits of yoga. Several institutions offer comprehensive training programs in yoga therapy and yoga therapy is recognized as an official profession.
The Yoga in Healthcare Alliance has been established to help integrate yoga therapy into the NHS. This consists of parliamentarians, leaders in the NHS, yoga researchers, health professionals, and representatives from leading yoga organizations.