Don’t stress out: How yoga can save millions of dollars — maybe

We’re all familiar with how yoga can save us from the endless cycle of rebirth and get us to samadhi.

Every given thought to whether yoga could save millions of dollars — especially for the government?

That’s the topic of a piece online at Forbes that ties together the growing amount of research into yoga’s positive effects on health, ability to reduce stress and prepare us to handle the vagaries of daily life. This sort of sums things up:

The issues the country is facing – the massive dropout rate of school kids, substance abuse among all age groups, PTSD among veterans, the staggeringly high incarceration and recidivism rates – cost the country volumes in human potential, not to mention trillions in dollars. There are no single solutions, but the evidence suggests that some or all of these problems may be amenable to the practices that have been shown to redirect attention, improve concentration, increase self-control, and endow people with reliable and healthy coping mechanisms in the face of stress and trauma.

The idea here is that we can roughly estimate how much cost there is to society from someone dropping out of school, for example, or ending up in jail, or even being held back a grade in school. If one figures that there is a way to avoid those results, it is possible to begin drawing some lines and adding up some numbers. You might need to spend $30,000 for a yoga teacher to come to a school, let’s say, but that teacher could reach maybe 100 students. (I’m spitballing here.) If just a few of those students end up on a better path, then the return on that $30,000 investment in the teacher begins to grow: if it costs $250,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison, for instance, your investment suddenly looks pretty good.

The Forbes story has an example of a $5,000 program that trains 50 teachers who reach 1,000 kids. The cost per kid is then just $5.

So get every kid some yoga, you’re saying, right?

Now, I’m going to throw a little cold water on this. In my day job, I work on a few issues that draw very similar lines regarding the return on investments of social programs. It is a compelling argument, but it doesn’t close the deal necessarily. And, frankly, yoga — or mindfulness — is probably a bigger stretch for U.S. policy makers than many other, more “established” education or health programs. (To a certain extent, too, because there’s not a broad push for yoga programs, there isn’t a lot of data-based push back. Just, you know, the religious-based one.)

So this all sounds good. But don’t expect publicly funded yoga to pop up near you any time soon. But if someone within the Forbes online universe is writing about it, it may be a beginning.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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