Hawking yoga in the halls of congress

By Kristine Weber

“Low back pain? Neck and shoulder issues?? Come try some yoga therapy!”

I’m standing in a white marble hallway on the second floor of the Rayburn Building attempting to entice passersby to stop in and sample a yoga therapy session. Just behind me are tables covered in boxes of arnica gel and acupuncture brochures. Occasionally, someone agrees to my pitch and comes into to our “integrative therapy room” for a bit of yoga therapy.

The March 2019 Capitol Hill event was organized by the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC), a group of practitioners and policy wonks dedicated to bringing integrative therapies into healthcare. Their work is particularly urgent in light of the opioid epidemic and the consequent need for effective alternatives and adjuncts to pharmaceuticals.

IHPC organized this day of treatments and presentations to bring attention to the potential for integrative treatments to address the chronic pain/opioid epidemic and make headway toward integrating these therapies into the healthcare system. The consortium is committed to promoting collaboration among all modalities, so there’s a friendly, supportive feeling in the room.

“We are looking to put together examples of models of care to present to Congress,” said the event organizer, Kallie Guimond, IHPC Director of Government Affairs. “The new Congress is highly interested in integrative therapies.”

According to Guimond, these models include acupuncture, massage, and homeopathy. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have their place here, too, although yoga and yoga therapy are tricky because they are yet not licensed professions—meaning they’re not generally reimbursable by health insurance.

“If we can reimburse yoga by offering it through licensed providers,” she said, “then it becomes one of the most important tools in the toolbox.” Efforts by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, which already include accreditation of yoga therapy training programs and certification of individual practitioners, are a step toward increasing the professionalism of the field.

Yoga therapy has become part of the national conversation, and awareness of its promise is growing. The chance to participate in that discussion alone was worth spending half a day hawking yoga therapy in a bustling, noisy hallway.

Kristine Weber, MA, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, is the director of the Subtle Yoga Teacher Training for Behavioral Health Professionals program at MAHEC in Asheville, N.C. She presents workshops and trainings internationally.

Read Kristine’s take on why it’s useful for therapeutic yoga practices to be available in diverse settings, including as part of treatment from licensed healthcare practitioners.