Yoga Teachers as Public Health Professionals

The yoga teacher community is an untapped source of public health professionals. We reach many people in deep, meaningful ways, but our students don’t know the little amount of training that is required for us to call ourselves yoga teachers.

Students look to us as sources of health related information. We have the power to influence people’s lives by teaching what it means to be at risk for chronic diseases and how to reduce those risks… but many teachers don’t actually know how to answer their students’ questions. We aren’t taught such powerful information. If we were, we would all be correctly responding to our students and helping them enjoy their lives without disease, disability, or loss of productivity.

At this moment in high-income countries, thinness is portrayed as ideal. And despite being the norm in the United States, overweight women are stigmatized… which creates an extra hurdle to lose weight for women who actually are motivated to lose weight. With proper instruction, yoga can increase positive health options for overweight women.

While research shows yoga practitioners are not free of health concerns, most believe their health has improved because of yoga. Yoga is proven to be beneficial for those with chronic diseases. Yoga students agree that yoga has helped them attain or maintain a healthier weight. People do believe that yoga helps their health. Yoga does have the potential to increase healthy behaviors. Why aren’t we tapping into that, taking it for a ride on this crazy yoga craze American has going on, and promoting health for overweight women in America?

It doesn’t matter whether beliefs that yoga improves health cause women to seek yoga or if yoga practitioners develop beliefs after they see the benefits of yoga. Either way, we need to train yoga teachers to disseminate health information to overweight women. Because yoga teachers miss out on this crucial piece of education, there is no way for us to be aware of this population’s special needs. With an increased awareness, yoga teachers would maximize yoga’s impact as a weight reduction, health improvement practice, connect with their overweight female students in an even deeper, meaningful way, AND work to improve the health of the public.