After the overwhelmingly positive response to my “Open Letter to the NHS” earlier this year, I have some exciting news. You shared my message far and wide and it got both local and national attention in the press. After the Guardian article I was invited to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 27th June for an “Early Day Motion“.
The motion is “That this House celebrates the 2nd International Day of Yoga, on 21 June 2016, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015; … recommends yoga to be included as part of mindfulness and well-being initiatives for NHS staff and for yoga to be integrated within treatment for patients; and urges the Department for Education to introduce yoga in the school physical education curriculum.”
Quite rightly there is growing interest in the benefits of yoga as a healthcare intervention. Many of us have personally experienced the physical and psychological benefits of our yoga practice. Now there is an opportunity to spread this message yet more widely and bring this idea to mainstream debate. Where better to do this than the mothership of debate, the Houses of Parliament.
So on Monday afternoon, I fought my way through the frenzy of tourists, protesters and journalists in Parliament Square. My resolve did waiver from time to time but thankfully I brought the well informed and tenacious Charlie Taylor-Rugman, one of the UK’s leading Ashtanga teachers, with me for support. As we crossed the Central Lobby, Lords to to the right and Commons to the left, the frenetic activity of Parliamentarians responding to a Labour leadership crisis and the fall out of the EU referendum made me wonder whether anyone would be interested in hearing about yoga.
Our allocated space for debate was to be the oak panelled, green-leather cushioned Committee Room 10, upstairs overlooking the Thames. It holds about 100 people and to my surprise it was packed. The mood was celebratory. After all this was a coming together of individuals and teams across the world who are passionate about yoga and health care. The event took the opportunity to mark the second International day of Yoga. MPs sat shoulder to shoulder with yoga researchers, practitioners and therapists. Presiding was High Commissioner of India Shri Sarna. After introductions and an opening mediation, we had presentations about yoga in healthcare systems in India and Sweden. Data on pilot studies and some health economics was shared. One energetic and articulate young man emotively shared his story of cancer survival and passion for yoga practice.
My time in the spotlight was brief, but hopefully memorable. I had been asked to talk about prescribing yoga as a GP. So proudly representing our great city of Manchester I stood up, cracked a joke or two and realised that my allocated five minutes was nearly up! My key message was simply that an endorsement of yoga by a health care professional under the banner of the NHS is a powerful message to patients. Patients trust their GPs, practice nurses and physiotherapists and the more of us healthcare providers there are who can confidently signpost to quality yoga classes, the more effectively we can roll out the benefits of yoga in the NHS.
This meeting is a first but very significant step on a path towards closer integration of yoga into NHS healthcare. Let us see where this network takes us.It has been such an honour to represent Yoga Manchester and the wider UK yoga community at this event. I will continue to do my best for you.