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.   Dr Matt Joslin Yoga Houses of ParliamentOur 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.   Matt Joslin Yoga Houses of ParliamentMy 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. Dr.Matt Joslin   Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save
Popularised by Winston Churchill, the Black Dog metaphor for depression is a powerful image for this most disabling of mental health conditions. With spring nearly sprung, the sun is coming out and there is lightness of step again after the long grey of the Manchester winter. So let’s lengthen the leash a little on the Black Dog of depression and run him around the metaphorical park through the metaphorical daffodils. This blog has been harder to write than my previous one on anxiety. Anxiety is full of energy, albeit misplaced energy with an inappropriate direction. There is a certain dynamism to anxiety, which when redirected can turn around quite quickly. Depression is more like an oil tanker (I know I am mixing my metaphors but indulge me…). It is much slower to react and to readjust. Sitting heavy and low in the water the captain knows to change direction; the steering wheel is on full lock but it is aeons later that the most imperceptible shifts start to happen. So how to make those changes when feeling overwhelmed, sapped of energy and crushed by the weight of depression? Well as a GP I have discussions about depression all the time, perhaps even on a daily basis. People use a variety of strategies to cope. Increasingly they choose to get on their yoga mats. One of my patients suffering with depression, let’s call him Winston, has given the gift of sharing his experiences and talks about how yoga has helped him. Winston’s Black Dog is a heavy, shaggy, energy-sapping mutt. He never noticed him creeping into the room but once the Dog is there he resides resolutely on the mat immovable and stubborn. He is brooding, resentful and passive. His negativity wafts around and is tangible not just to Winston but also to all those around him. So without going into all the gruesome details, Winston has had his fair share of the usual interventions for depression. Medication, talking therapies, self-help materials, boundary setting and hiding under the duvet for weeks on end… They all have their place and sometimes a combination thereof was required. But for Winston, getting on his yoga mat has become his therapeutic intervention of choice. When depression bites the world closes in. He couldn’t imagine coping with all the responsibilities of daily life. But after trial and error with a variety of depression busting methods, he came to understand that what works for him, is to get himself onto a yoga mat. Even the simplest of tasks in this mind state can be daunting. The thought of doing a full session of practice seemed overwhelming. So Winston didn’t approach it with such goals in mind. He just used the yoga as a framework to stand, to breathe then to move through one posture at a time. Soon he’s linking postures together and things start to flow. He gets just as far as he gets, with no self-recriminations.  But as time goes by his motivation to do a deeper practice starts to grow and the sessions get longer. While he is on the mat moving and breathing, his Black Dog depression is temporarily banished. So Winston explains “I feel good when actually doing my yoga practice, but initially my mood slides away and it feels like I am back to square one by the next morning”. But experience tells him that he is not back to square one. As he does his practice day by day, his dark mood lifts little by little, confidence grows and the changes move off the yoga mat into his day to day. For Winston, the act of bashing out a few sun salutations gets him on his way. The discipline of yoga pays dividends over time.  It is by no means a quick fix. Just like the slow-to-turn oil tanker, the practice of yoga can steer you back to a healthy balanced mind and perspective. It might take weeks or months but trust that it always will. The Black Dog can be turned into a down-dog and maybe even an up-dog.