Yoga Therapists collaborate with Integrative Medicine

What role does a yoga therapist play in contemporary medicine?  This question is at the core of our specialty. In order to understand collaborative arrangements with conventional medicine and complementary therapies, one must first define Integrative Medicine.

Integrative Medicine combines conventional medical treatments with therapies that have high-quality evidence to support them.  It is medicine that integrates the therapies of alternative medicine with those practiced by mainstream medical practitioners. The relationship between the patient and the practitioner is paramount.  It is focused on the whole person and utilizes all appropriate therapeutic approaches, providers and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.  This system is not limited to the invasive procedures of Western medicine.  It includes holistic interventions from Eastern health practices.

If you are a yoga therapist, is a collaborative role optimal for you as a professional?

Yoga Therapy’s role is to empower individuals to progress towards improved health and well being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga. (IAYT)  For improved health to occur, all aspects of a person must be addressed.  Therefore, approach is structured to the whole person.  According to the New York Times, yoga is offered as therapy in 93 percent of the 755 integrative medical centers in the United States.   Many doctors are now advocating the use if yoga therapy as a complementary treatment.  Integrative Medicine may incorporate patients with heart disease, cancer, and many other medical issues.

Last month a conference was held at MD Anderson Cancer Center that invited acupuncturists, massage therapists and yoga teachers/therapists to learn how their modalities complement conventional cancer treatments with focus on physical, mind-spirit and social wellbeing. The goal of the program was to demonstrate how the roles of the invited professionals could be successfully and safely integrated with conventional medical care when delivered by trained specialists to improve outcomes for cancer patients.

The staff at MD Anderson Cancer Center provided presentations for this oncology training conference that incorporated evidence-based practice in cancer care, recent research findings, recommendations for treating common side effects, ethical and safety issues, panel discussions, and functional demonstrations.

Doctors and patients create bonds under the guidance of integrative medicine and its whole-person approach, which is designed to treat the person, not just the disease.  This takes medicine to a new level.  The guided care by the integrative medical team and oncology team to incorporate patients’ participation with complementary therapies has been personalized and extremely effective for a majority of individuals’ clinical outcomes.

The Integrative Medicine Clinical Model that is utilized at M.D. Anderson may include; oncology consultation, exercises, rehabilitation, acupuncture, massage, psychiatry, cognitive behavior, chaplaincy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, music therapy, nutrition, education, support groups, family/friends, social work, patient advocacy, pharmacy, radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.  All of these unique options offered to the patient help to build a strong comprehensive care plan whose overall dimensions embrace physical, mind-spirit and social wellbeing.

So why do patients and complementary therapists turn to integrative medicine?  The values, beliefs and philosophies about health and quality of life care are more aligned with their way of life rather than a purely conventional medical approach may be.  The personalized and customized program that is accomplished with integrative medicine’s whole person approach is conducive to better care.

As a yoga therapist we understand that the balance and integrative mind, body and spirit educational techniques will augment an energy flow that helps to stimulate, improve or maintain the client’s health and social wellbeing. The convergence of yoga therapy and integrative medicine is a positive development that is on the rise.  As more and more medical professionals and facilities advocate yoga therapy, it will continue to advance and modernize alternative health care.

Therefore, having the opportunity to be a member of an integrative medicine team will promote yoga therapists to offer multidimensional healing at a variety of levels. This may create positive changes when working with a diverse population of individuals who encounter a range of medical issues.


American Association Integrative Medicine

American Cancer Society Glossary

About the Author