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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Do you live in one of the top 10 U.S. cities for yoga?

Forbes is out with a list of the top 10 cities for yoga in the U.S.

How’d they figure it? Well, we’ll let them tell you:

To determine the top U.S. cities for yoga, we turned to data from the marketing firm GfK MRI, which conducted surveys in 205 markets last year, asking participants whether they practiced yoga, and if so, how frequently and for how long.

Based on that, they seemed to come up with some formula that suggested a certain percentage (like 36%) more people in a given city practiced yoga than the norm for America. That appears to be the bottom-line for this survey.

So, which city is No. 1? True to form of these not-always-so-perfect-feeling lists, the top city is actually three: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Credit the yoga rooms at Google HQ for pushing it over the top.

The rest?

No. 2: Seattle-Tacoma

No. 3: Philadelphia

No. 4 (tie): Washington, D.C. and New York City

No. 6: Baltimore

No. 7: Boston

No. 8: Portland, Oregon

No. 9 (tie): San Diego and Boise, Idaho

How LA didn’t make the list, I can’t even begin to guess.

Posted by Steve

Yoga’s changing. And that’s a good thing

At the heart of my posts about dog yoga and yoga with (and for) horses is a serious issue: What’s becoming of yoga in the West?

It’s not a new question, obviously. And each time another million people are “counted” as being among those who are doing yoga, the question rises again.

I hope, and expect, that the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence’s teachers will address Ashtanga’s particular struggle with this issue, especially in regards to how the practice evolves (or doesn’t) now that Guruji has passed. The loss of the sole “authority” figure is, really, only a part of the larger question of how Ashtanga will shape and be shaped by its spreading throughout the world.

It’s an interesting question, although also one that easily could be ignored — for now. I believe there will be some ramifications on everyone’s practice, eventually, but I can see how a person doing First, Second or even Third series could continue on his or her merry way and not let it be a worry.

The same is probably true of the broader question as it relates to yoga. But Forbes has a piece online from last month’s “Being Yoga” conference that tackles this question and gives some of yoga’s big names a chance to say their piece.

It’s here.

Among the yogis and yoginis includes are Seane Corn and Rodney Yee; they are set somewhat in counterpoint to each other.

Here’s Corn:

“Sometimes,” she says, “the spiritual message is diluted, but this can draw people to the practice in the first place. It’s offered in churches and synagogues and schools. That’s incredible.” In other words, the dilution of its spirituality may be its hook. Once they’re in, says Corn, people then begin to see what the practice is all about, and can move around within it. “People come to yoga for one reason and realize that they’re there for another reason. They begin asking very big questions of themselves.  What is truth, love, god?” Anything to lessen the initial hump of resistance is probably a good thing.

And Yee:

While he acknowledges that the natural evolution of yoga adds to its vitality, he says in most ways we’re getting a little too far away from its core. He reminds us that yogis were asking the hard-hitting questions 2,000 years ago, ruminating on the meaning of life, one’s personal purpose, what it even means to be human. While in many ways yoga does “surf the wave” of how these questions apply in the modern day, he is concerned for the overall thinning of the philosophy. He says that he and his wife and fellow teacher Colleen Saidman are routinely amazed at the fact that “people are continually trading the more valuable things for the more superficial things. That’s astonishing. Why are we trading most valuable aspects of ourselves for most transient, which keep us constantly craving?” Distilling it even further, Yee sums it up well: “It’s great to get a nice yoga butt, but peace and stability in one’s personal life are important too.”

I have to admit, I always get nervous when people throw the “1,000s of years” descriptor onto yoga. The yogis Yee refers to weren’t doing the types of asanas with which yoga is now mostly identified. And the influence of many cultures and many people are in even the oldest Hindu texts. (Check “The Hindus” book for a really deep dive into this, if you want.) That isn’t meant to minimize their value, just to act as a reminder that nothing is simple and there are no straight, direct lines between our down dogs and age-old tapaysa.

I also wonder just how “sacred” a lot of the people who disparage “yoga” (as opposed to Yoga) would find it if they recognized how many of its roots are closer to 150 than 5,000 years old.

That said, I am not discounting yoga’s value or equating it with Spin classes or climbing a Stairmaster. It obviously is something more — and, I’d argue, it’s even more than the neatly wrapped package of a “5,000-year-old system” makes it appear. It’s both old and new, contemporary and ancient. And it’s evolving, which I think is its greatest strength and truest value.

Posted by Steve