By Alex Pogeler
You would be hard-pressed to find a more contentious topic in America right now than the future of our health care system. The current debate is extremely polarizing with lots of emotion and very little rational discussion. Regardless of one’s politics I think we can all agree that medical care is expensive and that we as a nation could be much healthier.
From my perspective there are two types of medical insurance. The first kind is what we typically think of as coverage, we get it from an insurance company and it helps to cover the cost of doctor’s visits, medication, or hospital services. The second kind of health insurance is that which we create ourselves via our lifestyle choices. Those who make good choices in this regard by doing things like exercising and maintaining a proper diet tend to be less reliant on the traditional form of insurance. Conversely, those who chose to eat fast-food at every meal, neglect to exercise and lead an overall sedentary lifestyle are much more likely to have to have health problems. Such people are probably going to require more medical care and will have to rely more heavily on traditional health insurance.
Much of the current debate revolves around the expansion of traditional health insurance to greater numbers of people. While that is a laudable goal, it does little to encourage healthy behavior in the first place. Expanding health coverage makes it easier for people to get treatment once they get sick but it does not necessarily make them healthier individuals. Perhaps the question isn’t “how do we insure more people?” Maybe the question is “how do we promote and encourage the kind of healthy behavior that will make people less reliant on insurance to begin with?”
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a politician and I am definitely not an expert on insurance. I do however have some experience with Yoga and I know the impact it has had on my personal mental and physical well-being. Practicing Yoga has become the single biggest determinant in my own personal health in recent years. For me it is like night and day as far as how I feel with Yoga in my life compared to how I felt when it was absent. I now get sick less frequently and when I do get sick I heal that much faster. Health issues I had been dealing with for years have abated. I fell less stressed out and my mental outlook is much more positive. Those are just some of the benefits I have reaped from my practice and they are all the evidence I need to conclude that I am a much healthier individual with Yoga.
Based on my own personal experience, I am of the belief that others could benefit from Yoga in a similar manner. I also think that if more people practiced Yoga in this country our overall medical costs would decrease significantly. We would have a healthier populace that would require fewer trips to the doctor and less medication. There would be less need for a huge insurance industry because people wouldn’t require as much medical care to begin with.
The tragedy is that anyone with a proposal for government-subsidized Yoga would be derided as a socialist nutcase. Even if such legislation were to pass through congress, in light of recent events it’s questionable if our elected officials could pull off its implementation. It’s a shame because I think such a measure could have a huge transformational impact on the health care of this country. It would also provide a great opportunity to address some of economic and geographic disparities inherent in our current health care system. Furthermore it would not be particularly expensive when compared to the overall cost of health care reform.
Hypothetically speaking let’s say that I have access to the Federal budget and the green light to expand Yoga in America. I would order the construction of Yoga studios in the poorest and most-neglected neighborhoods in America. Not only would this improve accessibility, it would provide a ton of much-needed construction jobs. Once these Yoga studios are up and running they could offer reduced rates or complimentary classes to anyone who wants to try it out. We could provide grants to individuals who want to learn to teach Yoga. In exchange for the grants those people would agree to teach and serve for a period of time at studios in disadvantaged areas. Not only would we have more teachers, we would be providing careers for people who might otherwise be unemployed or involved in criminal activity. I can envision how this process could repeat itself over and over in different neighborhoods and create a self-sustaining movement that brings Yoga to the masses. Maybe this could be the catalyst that transforms health care in America and creates a better and more productive society? It’s an interesting proposition with tremendous potential. Too bad this kind of conversation is not a part of the overall dialogue on health care reform in America.