As a student living in the UK's spiritual capital, Brighton, I was very much a part of the budding yogic community, but shortly after joining the working world I thought I could no longer make time for it. However, recently I had the need to let it back into my life - suffering from insomnia I joined a Yoga for Better Sleep course at Islington's The Life Centre, run by New Yorker, Lisa Sanfilippo - in fact you may have read about the experience here
THERE'S A WHOLE MOVEMENT GOING ON....
Amazed by the results, in particular yoga's ability to tame my frantically beating heart and quiet my mind enough to lull me into a sleep that would last the night through, I continued on the yogic path. I noticed that the community had expanded since my student days, and more and more people seem to be turning upside down on their heads due to the pressures and pace of modern life and the ubiquity of technology and social media. Seduced once again by the energy of the yogic community's quest to be healthy, I decided to join them and learn to sleep, eat and live well.
WHY ISN'T YOGA PRESCRIBED BY DOCTORS?
Earlier this month I attended a conference in London, Yoga and Health: Research and Practice, led by Heather Mason, Founder and Director of The Minded Institute.
"Mind-body practices can often help patients where allopathic medicine falls short. Furthermore the cumulative benefit of using both medical interventions and mind-body practices is often greater than either one alone. This conference is an effort to bring the worlds of healthcare and mind-body practice, specifically yoga, together as part of improving healthcare for patients from both the medical and yoga therapeutic perspective"
Heather Mason, Founder of The Minded Institute
Over the course of three days, leading yogis and medical practitioners ran workshops and shared research demonstrating yoga's ability to alleviate symptoms of conditions including cardiovascular disease, immunological, respiratory, metabolic and neurological disorders, depression, stress, pain and cancer.
Dr. Lorenzo Cohen (head of Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson, the world's top cancer hospital) shared the incredible results to his study which proves that yoga can provide health benefits for breast cancer patients; he carried out a study where 191 women with stages 0-3 of breast cancer were analysed to see if yoga practice could help combat the side effect of fatigue that radiation therapy has. The results showed that yoga was able to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, reducing their fatigue and on the whole enabling them to function better. Further research was shared showing that yoga can help lower blood pressure, improve mental health problems and reduce symptoms of many other illnesses, so this begs the question why do doctors not prescribe it routinely? This is what this inspiring group of people are passionately campaigning for.
Goron Boll, the founder of The MediYoga Institute in Stockholm (an organisation
that trains professionals and participates in research on yoga within the Swedish medical system) ran this campaign over there and triumphed - yoga is now a recognised and respected therapy within the Swedish healthcare system. Boll has succeeded in bringing yoga into over 80 Swedish hospitals, thus, providing a potent model for the rest of the world.
Right now, in the UK, if you go to the doctor with a physical pain, you invariably leave with a course of painkillers or for those suffering from mild depression, antidepressants are distributed without hesitance. Rarely would the doctor consider an alternative approach and tell you there is a yoga practice that could alleviate discomfort, or improve your state of mind. I wonder when we will catch up with Sweden.
LULULEMON'S LONDON MISSION
You couldn't miss Lululemon landing in the UK last month - they created the impression that yoga was taking over London. The American sportswear brand set a whole new precedent for clothing launches when they hired the Royal Opera House and had over 350 of us in downward dog in the grand setting.
We practiced an hour of flowing sequences to the magical sound of London's Royal Philarmonic Orchestra. After the yoga session, barefoot we wandered through the opera house to a champagne and chocolate reception.
Lululemon had landed and this was only the start of their mission - in the lead up to the launch of the Covent Garden store they ran a Cheeky Yoga campaign which offered free classes across London's Triyoga studios. If you were lucky enough they had you chauffeured to your class in a funky customised Lululemon black cab.
This was more than just about the launch of a clothing brand - whether they intended this or not, what they did was not only draw together an existing community on a grand scale but introduce many new people to yoga. On their mission I met people who had never tried yoga before but because it was a free experience they thought they would give it a go, and with yoga it can all start from there - just one introduction and you are seduced into a new world with it's own rhythm and a whole other lingo.
JUMP ON BOARD THE YOGA BANDWAGON
If you start looking you'll see it all around you.
And join the real mission - support The Minded Institute on their venture to make yoga a recognised form of treatment within the NHS.