Category Archives: Seasonal Health

Why Isn’t Yoga Covered By Health Insurance?

The short answer is, it’s complicated.

We spoke with John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and Courtney Butler-Robinson, stress management specialist and yoga therapist for the Dean Ornish Reversal Clinic at Saline Heart Group in Benton, Arkansas, to find out why yoga therapy is largely uncovered by health insurance companies. Dean Ornish, MD, made headlines in 2010 for convincing insurance companies that yoga and meditation, when combined with proper diet and exercise, could reverse heart disease. To date, yoga therapy is covered only under the Ornish Reversal Program for heart disease, but some affiliated clinics, such as Saline Heart Group, are beginning to offer cancer care.

Yoga Journal: With all of its proven benefits, why is it so hard to get yoga covered by insurance?

John Kepner: That’s the big question. IAYT is a self-regulated organization—it’s all voluntary. We have standards and an accrediting body, continued education, certification, and an enforceable code of ethics, but we don’t yet have a certification exam. All professional health fields have some kind of exam. IAYT has just launched that effort, and I expect it will take another two years to complete. Those are necessary but not sufficient pillars when you’re talking about insurance. In most cases, but not all, insurance coverage extends to licenced health care fields.

Courtney Butler-Robinson: We are a wellness center and offer different programing. We recently extended into cancer care. The Ornish Reversal Program is the only program I know of where the whole thing, including yoga therapy, is covered by Medicare. Oftentimes, people who have cancer or have been given chemo will end up with heart problems, and in that case, we can often bill under that.

JK: One of my personal goals is yoga therapy insurance coverage for people …

How Yoga Is Helping Kids with Cancer

A volunteer yoga program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is bettering the lives of its oncology kids.

Aimee DeLuna practice yoga in her hospital bed. 

The cornflower-blue sleeper sofa. The formica closet. The tea cart clanking by. Jaymee Jiao will never forget the eight months she spent living in this hospital room with her son Savior-Makani Jiao as he underwent around-the-clock treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. But today, the rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old is in remission, and he’s arrived at his former bedroom at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital in a red plastic Radio Flyer. “I had to buckle him in because he was going crazy downstairs,” Jiao says when we meet, exhaling. It’s true: Right now, Savior’s energy could fuel a turbine. The familiar nurses who pass by gush over his vivacity and thick, wavy tuft of black hair. You’d never guess that just last year he was undergoing chemotherapy full time.

Five months post-discharge, Jiao is settling into life back at home with her husband and four children, of whom Savior is the youngest. She is visibly tired, yet cheerful. Atop her left shoulder is a large, tight lump, and she points it out, pulling on it as if it might loosen and slip off. “I carry my stress physically,” she says with a shrug.

Also in Savior’s old hospital room is volunteer yoga teacher Liz Fautsch, a smiling brunette who worked weekly with Jiao to ease tension and stress while she was holed up at Rady. “Your shoulder is looking better!” Fautsch encourages. Jiao nods. “Yoga helped relieve my shoulder and back pain,” she tells me. “And,” she says, lowering her voice a little, “it would take my mind off things when we were having a bad day.” But between school drop-offs and shuttling her …

YJ Tried It: I Followed an Ayurvedic, Dosha-Balancing Diet for a Week


Yoga Journal video contributor Sky Cowans tries following an Ayurvedic nutrition plan based on her dosha (mind-body type).

Yoga Journal video contributor Sky Cowans tries following an Ayurvedic nutrition plan based on her dosha (mind-body type).

Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health system and the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is based on the elements in nature. According to Ayurveda, there are three mind-body types called the doshas. Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. Vatta is air, Pitta is fire and Kapha is the earth. Based on your mind-body type, Ayurveda offers various nutrition, self-care, and spiritual recommendations to bring the mind, body, and spirit back into balance and harmony.

In this video, Sky interviews Sahara Rose, an Ayurvedic expert and nutritionist. Sahara discusses Sky’s Pitta imbalance and advises her how to structure a meal plan to bring her body back to balance.

See also 7 Chakra-balancing Ayurvedic Soup Recipes

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