The ancient art of Ayurveda and its place in modern medicine

Ayurveda is India’s traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word and literally translated it means “Science of life” or “practices of longevity”. As the translation may suggest, it emphasizes extension of life span, prevention of disease, and rejuvenation of our body systems.

Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. It is based on the view that the elements, forces, and principles that comprise all of nature are also seen in human beings. In Ayurveda, the mind (or consciousness) and the body (or physical mass) not only influence each other – they are each other. Together they form the mind-body. Ayurveda believes that mental health directly impacts physical health and vice versa.

In Ayurveda your whole life and lifestyle must be in harmony before you can enjoy true wellbeing. Lifestyle interventions are a major Ayurvedic preventive and therapeutic approach, this includes what and when you eat, your sleeping patterns, day to day activities and behaviors, your fitness routine and so on. Ayurveda may also prescribe natural herbal remedies to help treat symptoms and to bring the elements back into balance

Despite its ancient roots, Ayurveda (along with many other alternative therapies) is becoming more relevant than ever in helping to treat modern day illnesses. More and more people are looking for alternatives to mainstream ‘Western’ medicine which often prescribes pharmaceutical drugs that can have harmful side effects. We are seeing a move towards patients seeking safe and non-invasive alternative treatments for modern illnesses, whether that’s alongside, or instead of, modern medicine.

To mark the increasing importance of Ayurveda in modern health care, the Indian Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH) has declared October 28th Ayurveda Day. Together with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Indian Traditional Sciences, we are marking this occasion on 27 October by bringing together UK experts on Ayurveda to discuss the principles of this ancient science and to describe how Ayurvedic doctrines and practices can be intelligently applied to modern chronic health problems.

Director of The Minded Institute – Heather Mason – will be speaking at the event and announcing the exciting news that The Minded Institute will be running a 12-month Ayurveda professional training course starting in September 2017 led by Amarjeet-singh Bhamra – a lecturer, practitioner and author of India’s Traditional Sciences. A long time champion of Complementary and Alternative Medicines, Amarjeet recently led a very successful national campaign in the UK to save herbal medicines by launching a million strong petition in direct response to the European Union’s Traditional Herbal Medicines Products Directive. He administers the powerful All Party Parliamentary Group on Indian Traditional Sciences comprising of members of the British parliament from both House of Commons and Lords.

If you would like more information on our 12 month Ayurveda professional training course please contact

Interoceptive Awareness and Attachment in Early Infancy

By Nicole Schnackenberg

Interoceptive awareness describes a lived sense of our bodies from the inside. It includes an awareness of our internal, physiological processes including heartrate, respiration (breathing) rate, body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, feelings of malaise and so on.
Interoceptive awareness is often found to be lacking in people with a wide range of mental health diagnoses, perhaps on account of the links between interoceptive awareness and our emotions. Emotions use the body as their stage and each of the aforementioned physiological processes alert us to the presence of various emotions in the body; i.e. increased heart rate may indicate feelings of anger, excitement or fear. Mental health struggles are often rooted, to some degree, in denied and repressed emotions. As we ignore and push down our emotions, we also ignore and push down our interoceptive awareness and can become cut off from the lived sensations of our bodies in the process.
A return to our emotions, therefore, necessitates a return to the internal processes of our physical organism, which is something the practice of yoga can support us with beautifully. In this post, we shall take a brief look at interoceptive awareness in relation to childhood attachment; a secure attachment to our primary caregiver enables us to more readily recognise, embrace and respond usefully to our emotions.
According to John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst and attachment theorist, children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others since it is these attachments that will secure their survival. Researchers have now repeatedly found evidence to suggest that secure attachments early in childhood are absolutely integral to healthy psychological development. Attachment security has been estimated to occur in around 58% of the population, with attachment anxiety occurring in 19%, and attachment avoidance in 23%.

It is perhaps not difficult to imagine why children with insecure or avoidant attachments to their primary caregivers might have poorer interoceptive awareness. When an infant cries or seeks assurance from, and attunement with, a primary caregiver, they naturally expect to be seen and soothed. Being contained, and having their emotions contained, by their primary caregiver enables the physiological processes related to stress to return to their baseline. The infant can breathe a sigh of relief – fear and stress typically reduces in tandem with the meeting of their emotional, physical and psychological needs.

If an infant’s emotional, psychological and physical needs are not met, their stress remains un-soothed and manifestations such as increased heart rate and breathing rate may persist. Over time, the infant may learn to ignore these physiological experiences of stress, perhaps shutting out their lived experience of them completely. They may become numb and despondent; what use is there in crying (or expressing any emotion) if nobody is going to comfort them anyway?

The research shows that infants with avoidant and insecure attachments experience an increased heart rate when their primary caregivers are not there to meet their needs, just as infants with a secure attachment do. Infants across the range of attachments experience the same physiological responses to stress; yet the securely attached infants cry out for help whilst many of the insecurely and avoidantly attached children fail to cry. Despite the strong messages of fear from their bodies, these tiny babies learn to ignore their physical sensations and refrain from seeking support. Over time, these physiological experiences may become dampened, or physical illnesses and additional mental health concerns may emerge out of the continuous levels of high physiological arousal without soothing.

Whilst the stage of our interoceptive awareness, therefore, may have been set in early infancy, our interoceptive sensitivities are not set in stone. We can increase our interoceptive awareness, and therefore our ability to recognise, acknowledge and assimilate our emotions, at any age. Yoga is one, highly effective, way of increasing this interoceptive awareness as it aids us in engendering a lived sense of our bodies from the inside, noticing physiological sensations such as breathing rate, heart rate, fatigue and so on without panic or fear. Multiple studies have expounded yoga’s efficacy in increasing interoceptive awareness. Here at the Minded Institute, we are pioneering ways of measuring this interoceptive awareness in various poses to enable us to develop truly individualised programs. We shall share our findings with you as they unfold. Namaste.

Clean Eating Versus Orthorexia: Our Responsibility as a Yoga Community


People who practice yoga are also known to be more likely to exercise discernment in relation to their health. They are more likely to eat healthfully, to refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and to generally engage in a healthier lifestyle than other members of the general population.

Looking after the physical health of the body is, of course, deeply important and tremendously commendable. Many of us are leading busy, hectic and stressful lives with longer working hours, less ‘down-time’ and more erratic sleeping patterns than our parents and grandparents may have enjoyed. We are also living in increasingly toxic environments and are exposed to worrisome levels of heavy metals and environmental toxins on a daily basis, particularly if living in big cities as so many of us are. Making considered food, exercise and lifestyle choices can negate some of the negative effects of this stress and toxicity and support our bodies and minds to be healthy and strong.

Healthy eating is high on the agenda for many people who practice yoga. Yoga puts us beautifully in touch with our physical bodies and may ignite a desire within us to take care of this body, this temple of the spirit. As we move towards greater awareness, we often tangentially become increasingly aware of the effects of various foods and nutrients not only on our body but on our ability to think and to be present as well.

Nobody is knocking any intention or action to eat healthfully. To put nourishing foods into our bodies is immeasurably important, vital even. Yet there also needs to be an increasing awareness of the fanaticism and psychological distress that can ensue if certain eating protocols are relied upon and followed to the detrimental of both physical and psychological health. There is a growing concern, particularly around so-called ‘clean-eating’ in the mental health community, around the diagnosis of ‘orthorexia’. Orthorexia, as defined by Steven Bratman in 1996, indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. The term is derived utilizing the Greek ‘orthos’, which means ‘right’ or ‘correct’ and is intended as a parallel with anorexia nervosa. Bratman and a growing number of mental health professionals now recognise the term as identifying a genuine eating disorder.

The primary distinguishing feature of orthorexia is an obsession about purity. People with orthorexia constantly struggle against feelings of being unclean or polluted by what they have eaten, no matter how carefully they monitor their diet. An orthorexic feels compelled to achieve ever great heights of dietary perfection; to feel entirely clean and pure. Sometimes people recovering from anorexia move towards orthorexia, keeping their disordered eating habits and moving the focus from weight to a sense of purity.

Only last month, the BBC aired a documentary entitled ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets’. It explored, among other things, the struggles of people obsessed with clean eating and the intensely negative impact on their lives, including spending hours each day on the Internet researching which foods are the ‘healthiest’ and ‘safest’ to eat, avoidance of socialising due to possible meals being involved, losing vast amounts of weight and becoming malnourished, and spending untold amounts of money on cleanses, colonics and other treatments alongside a plethora of other aberrant behaviours. The psychological impact of orthorexia is often extensive, including obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviours, depression, anxiety and flailing self-esteem. In the documentary, Emmy Gilmour, Founder and Director of ‘The Recover Clinic’ for eating disorders in London, explained that they have seen a massive increase in people requiring treatment for orthorexia and, perhaps even more shockingly, that many of the big celebrity names in ‘clean eating’ are struggling with orthorexia themselves.

It is important to be aware of orthorexia as a yoga community as our peers and/or clients may be struggling with these issues as. As with other presentations of disordered eating, it is important to voice our concerns to the person in question and to signpost towards the appropriate psychological help. It is also important for us to refrain from giving nutritional guidance and advice if we are not trained dieticians or nutritional experts. The number of yoga studios now offering fasts and cleanses is growing and is extremely worrying. Let us please not forget the death of Kelly Parisi in 2012 at the age of twenty-one, who died suddenly during a juice cleanse recommended by the yoga studio in which she was practising. Please let us stick to what we know and are qualified to share, and let us be willing to have difficult conversations with people who appear to be struggling with these distressing and life-threatening issues. Namaste.

Mindfulness for Suicidality

Suicide is the intentional ending of one’s own life. It is a serious and growing problem. The highest suicide rate in the UK is for men aged 45-49. Whilst male suicide rates have decreased slightly in the past couple of years, female suicide rates have recently increased. According to the UK’s leading charity for suicide, the Samaritans, the recent rise in female suicide could be an indication of the picture of suicide risk changing. It now appears that male rates are decreasing and female rates are increasing. However, we must be mindful that these changes are based on year-on-year data, which could be natural fluctuations, rather than the beginning of a longer-term trend. This trend, clearly, needs careful monitoring. Men remain more than three times more likely to take their own lives than women across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but we must pay attention to the risks in both genders. Research suggests that social and economic factors influence the risk of suicide in women as well as men, reinforcing the need to address inequalities to reduce suicide.

In the US, suicide ranks as the tenth most common cause of death, and the first most common cause of death in active military personnel. Despite these shockingly high statistics, there are surprisingly few evidence-based therapies addressing suicidality. The development of new treatments is also pitifully limited.

Beginning in 2005 (in no small part due to US military combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan), the incidence of suicide deaths in the US military began to increase sharply. Unique stressors, including combat deployments, have been assumed to underlie the increasing incidence. This long-held assumption by researchers in this area, that specific deployment-related characteristics such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences are directly associated with increased suicide risk, has been contested by some of the more recent research. More recently, risk factors for suicide in military personnel are consistent with civilian populations, including a higher prevalence in males and the presence of mental disorders. Multiple studies have shown a marked increase in the number of diagnosed mental disorders in active service-duty members since 2005, paralleling the incidence of suicide. This would suggest that the increased rate of suicide in the military may be largely a product of an increased incidence of mental disorders in this population, possibly resulting from cumulative stresses both in terms of deployment and home-station environments over years of war. In this way, the stresses of living in and being active in war would appear to lead to mental disorders which in turn make members of this population more likely to commit suicide. This is a very tragic state of affairs indeed.

In this linked paper, a clinical trial testing a novel therapy for reducing suicide risk in military veterans, namely Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Suicide Behaviour (MBCT-S), is planned. The ten-week intervention was adapted from an existing treatment for depression, MBCT, which has been gaining massively in popularity for a range of presentations in recent years. MBCT is rooted in Eastern culture and is characterised by a non-judgemental, purposeful, present-moment awareness as originally described by John Kabat-Zinn in 1990. MBCT is a groups skills training program, usually consisting of eight weekly sessions, which integrates elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for depression into the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training program developed by Kabat-Zinn with others. In MBCT, however, there is little emphasis on changing the content of thoughts; rather, people are taught to recognise that thoughts and feelings are events in the mind and not truths per-se nor aspects of the Self. Such an approach typically de-centres views, leading to new beliefs such as ‘thoughts are not facts’ and ‘I am not my thoughts’. People gradually learn to look ‘at’ thoughts rather than ‘from’ thoughts, thus identifying with the deeper Self beyond these thoughts as opposed to tangling up the thoughts with the sense of who they intrinsically are.

In this study, 164 high suicide risk veterans have been randomised to either treatment as usual or treatment as usual plus MBCT-S. Researchers were looking at whether MBCT-S would impact upon suicide-related events, suicide preparatory behaviours, self-harm behaviours with suicidal or unclear intent, suicide-related hospitalisations and emergency department visits. Measurements of each of these facets have been taken at baseline and will also be taken 12 months after baseline. Whilst the results are not yet in, we harbour a strong hope that MBCT-S could potentially be an efficacious intervention for reducing suicide risk. We will post the results here as soon as they are released. We believe that MBCT may achieve this reduction through increased awareness of internal experience (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations (interoceptive awareness)), an awareness that has been shown in other populations to facilitate a move from automatic to conscious processing and thus allow for increased space to make choices. MBCT has been regularly found to help participants develop a different relationship with the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that would normally ignite a downward, depressive spiral which deepens hopelessness and the sense of entrapment. This change may be particularly relevant for people whose suicidal thinking rapidly evaporates once a crisis is over.

Suicide is a growing problem yet is infrequently talked about in Western society. Perhaps it is time to take our heads out of the sand and commit to research and openness in this vital area. We invite you to share your comments and be willing to engage in this most difficult, yet most important, of discussions.

The Science of Yoga: Why we need to bridge the worlds of medicine and yoga

According to a recent 2016 survey, one-in-ten people in the US are currently practising yoga, which is double the amount of just a few years ago. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular across modern, Western society whilst concurrently being increasingly subjected to rigorous scientific trials. Yoga has been shown by over 3,000 scientific studies to have a far-reaching range of benefits for both physical and psychological health. As study after study demonstrates yoga’s tremendous and unparalleled benefits for a wide range of ailments, both scientific researchers and the medical community at large wish to determine the exact mechanisms that enable yoga to soothe so many physical and psychological complaints. This ‘how?’ is on the lips and in the hearts of many of those who wish to expound yoga’s benefits and ensure that it reaches the people who need it the most. As countries across the globe begin and continue to seek ways of embedding yoga into healthcare we are called as a yoga community to delve into these connections between modern scientific innovations and yoga. Concurrently, we are invited to utilize this knowledge and employ these innovations with compassion and tenacity.

In our new Science of Yoga training, conceived of and delivered by Heather Mason, we open our arms to the findings gleaned from the scientific and medical communities and delve into ways of creating individualised yoga therapy for each client seeking our support. Heather Mason, who is a medical physiologist and yoga teacher with a background in neuroscience, has conducted extensive research into breathing practices and techniques and will share with us how precise breathing assessments can give us a unique and sophisticated picture of a person’s particular needs and the specific yoga practices that will be of most benefit to them. In addition, Heather uses heart-rate monitors to assess which yoga poses are best suited to each client’s needs; a skill she will also share with us in the course of this training.

By measuring the alterations in a person’s breathing and heart rate whilst in different poses, we are able to determine both which poses most effectively calm and soothe their nervous system and how long would be optimum to hold them in each pose. From these innovative techniques, which are not currently being used in this way anywhere else in the world, we are equipped to meet every person’s unique physiology and needs and, thus, provide them with an evidence-based and personally-tailored practice to support their physiological and physical health needs and propensities.

We are extremely excited about our Science of Yoga training, which will be held across five days in London next year, April 2017 (dates to be announced). Practitioners will leave brimming with new techniques and assessment tools alongside a wide range of yogic practices for a host of physical and psychological health conditions.

Yoga and Exercise: The Benefits of Yoga Above and Beyond that of Common Forms of Exercise.

Yoga is a spiritual discipline with its roots in India. The word ‘yoga’ is found in India’s earliest known scripts, the Vedas, which date from the Vedic period which began in 1500 BCE. Composed in Sanskrit, the Vedas are the oldest writings of Hinduism.

The word ‘yoga’ is most commonly translated as meaning ‘to yoke’ or ‘to bind’. For many years, yoga was more of a notion of meditation and a religious practice as opposed to the postures (asanas) we typically associated with it in current Western society. It was around the 5th century that yoga became an established practice among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. Importantly, these ancient versions of yoga were spiritual practices with the primary aim of yoga asana being to prepare the body for an extended period of meditation. During the medieval period (500-1500AD), different schools of yoga emerged. Hatha yoga appeared in Buddhist texts around the 8th century; a combination of asana, breathing and meditation and possibly the closest to what we, in the Western world, most commonly associate with yoga today.

Much more could be written about the origins of Yoga – we haven’t even mentioned Patanjali, Swami Vivekananda or the eight limbs of yoga… perhaps a deeper exploration is warranted within another blog post at another time. For now, suffice to say that yoga itself absolutely and undeniably sprang from roots of an intensely spiritual nature. We shall bear in mind yoga’s roots as a spiritual discipline as we explore its physical and emotional benefits above and beyond exercise in this blog post.

A systematic review due for release next month (Larson-Meyer, August 2016) has looked at the energy cost and metabolic intensity of yoga. Seventeen studies were reviewed, concluding that few yoga sequences/poses, including Surya Namaskar, meet the criteria for moderate to vigorous-intensity activity in accordance with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) physical activity guidelines. Our fear here at the Minded Institute is that these results may inhibit medical professionals from recommending yoga to their patients, which could certainly be the case if yoga is viewed in a one-dimensional way as an exercise practice aimed at achieving the daily recommendations for moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity. As we hope will become clear as we move through this article, yoga as a physical, psychological, and spiritual discipline is so very much more that this and has a wealth of benefits above metabolic intensity to offer.

A growing body of research suggests that yoga has the potential to improve both physical and mental health through a range of mechanisms, including the down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic (‘fight or flight’) nervous system (SNS). Physical and/or psychological stressors trigger the HPA axis and SNS resulting in a range of physiological, behavioural, emotional, and psychological effects, primarily as a result of the release of stress-related hormones including cortisol. Such a response leads to the classic ‘fight or flight’ response which, over time when repeatedly stimulated, can cause a state of hypervigilance leading to a dysregulation of the system and, ultimately, health challenges including anxiety, depression, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease to name just a few. It is also particularly worthy of note that yoga has been found to increase brain GABA levels, which are associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety. In research by Chris Streeter and colleagues in 2010, for example, a 12-week yoga intervention was associated with greater improvements in mood and anxiety than a metabolically matched walking exercise.

Given yoga’s clear benefits to physical and psychological health, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is often viewed purely as an exercise practice by people in the Western world. Indeed, some yoga classes in gyms do not allow the spiritual elements of yoga to be part of the programme, forbidding elements such as chanting. Interestingly, in research involving the health benefits of yoga, exercise is the most common intervention used as a comparison. Ross and Thomas (2010) conducted a review of studies on yoga and exercise and found twelve studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise, nine of which focused on adults and three on seniors. 597 of the 873 subjects who participated in the twelve studies were women. Exercises used as a comparison included aerobics, walking, running, dancing and cycling. Overall, in these reviewed studies, yoga was found to be equal or superior to exercise in relieving symptoms associated with diabetes, multiple sclerosis, menopause, and kidney disease. Yoga was found to have beneficial effects on blood glucose levels in people with diabetes and other chronic health conditions, on oxidative stress, and on cholesterol. Furthermore, yoga was found to be relieve the symptoms of mental illness including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Comparing yoga and exercise groups, yoga groups often score significantly better than exercise groups on social and occupational functioning, and psychological, social and environmental measures of quality of life, suggesting that yoga has something to offer above and beyond exercise. In research exclusively on healthy individuals, yoga has been shown to be as effective as or superior to exercise on nearly every outcome measured

Why is yoga able to offer additional benefits to exercise such as aerobics, walking and jogging? The answer is both simple and clear. Yoga is an embodied practice of mindful movement, incorporating movement with the breath. By bringing attention to and coordinating the breath with the movement of the body, a profound sense of embodiment can be fostered which can facilitate improved emotional health and a transcendent sense of self. In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, asana is described as ‘Sthiram Sukham Asanam’, meaning that which gives steadiness, stability and joy. Yoga is a practice for unifying body, mind and spirit. Meditation, which is a limb of yoga, also provides additional spiritual, physical and psychological benefits which have been highlighted extensively in the mindfulness literature in particular.

From a physical perspective, exercise stimulates the SNS, raising plasma levels of ‘stress’ hormones such epinephrine and norepinephrine. Yoga on the other hand, has been shown to lower sympathetic stimulation, significantly lowering levels of plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine. Given its linkage to the breath, yoga can also be thought of as a ‘training ground’ for the nervous system; whilst the sympathetic nervous system may be stimulated by the asanas (particularly in more arousing forms of yoga like Vinyasa or Kundalini), balance can then be restored by marrying the movement with long, deep, mindful breathing. In this way, yoga can teach us how to regulate the nervous system in a way that other forms of exercise cannot.

It is undeniable that exercise can have profound benefits for physical and emotional health. This is without question and not the argument being presented here. Rather, the desire is to highlight the additional benefits that yoga can have for both mental and physical health over and above what exercise can offer us, whilst keeping in mind that yoga is not, at its core, an exercise practice but a spiritual discipline. It is important to educate medical professionals about the additional benefits of yoga, who may otherwise simply view it as a practice synonymous with typical exercise and fail, therefore, to make a particular recommendation of yoga to their patients.

We would additionally like to highlight that people uninterested or even adverse to the spiritual facets of yoga can indeed engage in yoga as a purely physical practice should this be their desire at the current time. It is also worthy of mention that people sometimes come to the spiritual aspects of yoga ‘through the back door’ so to speak, perhaps signing up to their first yoga class in order to increase flexibility or decrease body mass, only to find so very much more. Here at the Minded Institute, we meet every person at the stage of their journey they are at, whether their desire be to improve their physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual health or, in our opinion, optimally, all of these.


Larson-Meyer, D. (2016). A systematic review of the energy cost and metabolic intensity of yoga. Medical Science Sports Exercise, 48(8), 1558-1569.

Ross, A. &, Thomas, S. (2010). The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 16(1), 3-12.

Streeter, C. et al. (2010). The effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomised controlled MRS study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(11), 1145-1152.

Heather Mason’s Speech at the House of Commons on 27th June to Discuss Yoga in the NHS

Yesterday evening, Heather Mason addressed the House of Commons, where over 100 other leaders in yoga, health, and politics and the community were present to discuss yoga’s inclusion in the NHS. The Early Day Motion recently passed was also discussed. Below follows Heather’s impassioned speech:

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Good evening everyone,  I am deeply honoured that you are all here tonight to celebrate yoga’s contribution to humanity and to underline how its integration into the NHS will foster greater well-being to many while reducing the economic burden associated with non-communicable diseases:  According to the department of health England, 70 percent of the NHS’s budget is spent on these chronic conditions, many of which are preventable and are partially or totally ameliorated through improved lifestyle choices.

As someone who healed from years of depression and Post traumatic stress as a result of combined yoga and mindfulness practice, I have long wanted these modalities to be readily available. I think it’s often part of healing, the desire for others to also find relief. When I first came to the UK 13 years ago and then established the Minded institute, I didn’t even dream of what we are discussing tonight.  There was not enough interest and not enough evidence. 

But look at us now!  We stand on the precipice of possibility knowing the time is right for the UK to set an international example – to become the first nation to fully embed yoga into the healthcare system. 

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has backed a £450 staff well-being drive and explicitly included yoga. Yoga is spreading throughout the nation and Kantar media group reported that in 2015 2.4 people practiced regularly. Research evidence is burgeoning, convincing, and increasingly rigorous. A bibliometric analysis looking at trials conducted from 2003-2013 found that there was a 1000 percent increase in this time frame compared to the previous 36 years combined. In the US, NIH repeatedly finds yoga to be the most popular mind-body practice used in complementary health.  Further review papers reveal those who practice possess better lifestyle choices, are happier, healthier, and use the health services less. I am excited to hear Ned Harfiel present his research on a how yoga intervention led to cost savings in the NHS later on this evening.

What is clear is that yoga is good for us, that UK is broadly open to yoga, and that by bringing yoga into the NHS we could alleviate some financial pressure.

 The Mindful Nation report published by the APPG expounded a strategy for bringing mindfulness into healthcare estimated that £15 would be saved for every pound spent. These figures were calculated based on the expense associated with using mindfulness to treat depression and chronic pain.  Yoga delivers similar health benefits to these two patient groups while also addressing other chronic conditions in a manner that mindfulness cannot such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory conditions, and muscular-skeletal conditions to name just a few. Like mindfulness, yoga improves mood and, as a result, practitioners reap the benefits of stress reduction.  However as yoga also involves breath regulation and postures it has wider ranging and more pronounced physiological effects.

Further, reviews comparing yoga to various forms of exercise overwhelming report yoga engenders superior health outcomes and is safer for many clinical groups. 

Accordingly, in the USA it is a yoga based program and not a mindfulness one nor an exercise regime that is covered by Medicare for those with heart disease.  This is a result of a revolutionary finding that a complete yogic lifestyle can reverse heart disease.  The program is economical, imparts wellness in all aspects of a person’s life, and helps patients to play an active role in their own health and healing. 

Succinctly, yoga is a comprehensive health strategy of empowerment.  And people of all ages, in all walks of life, with or without any health condition can benefit.

This year on International Yoga Day, Ban Ki Moon implored us to consider how yoga can help the world to achieve its health and well-being goals for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The UN and the WHO recognise what yoga can bring to the world.  Let the UK be the bastion of light reflecting this reality to the rest of the nations.  Already we have an Early Day Motion passed through the Grace of MP Bob Blackman, and as of last Wednesday, through our collective energy—10 percent of all MPS were contacted by their constituents to sign the motion. Let us continue to mutually spearhead this effort. 

I look forward to hearing from all of you, researchers, community leaders, healthcare leaders, and yogis.  Thank you for coming, Namaste!