Yoga on Prescription

The importance of preventive medicine is gaining recognition in healthcare. As the first point of contact for patients, primary care practitioners are uniquely positioned to promote and prescribe lifestyle changes that can significantly impact health and wellbeing.

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle medicine includes a range of interventions aimed at addressing certain risk factors through changes in behaviour and lifestyle, including:

  • healthy eating habits
  • regular physical activity
  • stress management techniques
  • adequate sleep
  • avoidance of harmful substances, such as tobacco and excessive alcohol

 The aim is to prevent and manage chronic diseases, improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs. Primary care contacts, in their regular interactions with patients, can establish long-term relationships, understand their unique needs and preferences, and provide personalised recommendations tailored to their lifestyles. They can assess risk factors, provide education on healthy living, set realistic goals, and offer ongoing support to facilitate behaviour change.

Prescribing Yoga

Yoga has gained popularity for its holistic approach to health and wellbeing, offering a comprehensive toolkit for improving physical, mental and emotional health. Research has shown that regular yoga practice can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, improve flexibility, strength and balance, and enhance quality of life. In Scotland, where the prevalence of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity is on the rise, prescribing yoga as lifestyle medicine holds great potential. By integrating yoga into primary care settings, healthcare practitioners can empower patients to take an active role in managing their health and preventing disease. Yoga classes tailored to different age groups, fitness levels and health conditions can be offered in person and online, to ensure accessibility and inclusivity. The benefits are manifold.

More Bang for Your Buck 

Yoga is low-cost, non-invasive, with minimal side effects, making it suitable for most individuals. It promotes holistic health by addressing physical symptoms alongside psychological and emotional wellbeing. Yoga also fosters a sense of community and support, which can enhance adherence to healthy lifestyle behaviours. It empowers individuals to connect with their bodies and minds, cultivating self-awareness and resilience. Integration of lifestyle medicine into primary care moves healthcare towards a more proactive, preventive approach. By prescribing lifestyle interventions such as yoga, primary care physicians in Scotland have the chance to empower their patients to lead healthier, happier lives.

 About the Author

Dr Sinead Bradshaw is a GP at Wester Hailes Medical Practice in the Healthy Living Centre. There is a yoga instructor at the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre, who is accessed via their Community Link Worker based in The Health Agency. The Wellbeing Space at The Wester Hailes Plaza offers community yoga classes for patients and NHS staff.

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