Yoga is more than just a trendy fad; research has shown that yoga helps people change poor lifestyle habits that have led to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. Yoga also improves heart health in both healthy individuals and those with diagnosed heart disease. However, while yoga has been shown to help improve health, it is not typically covered by health insurance as a prevention or treatment. Given the findings about yoga, should it be covered by insurance?


The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit term that means union. Yoga aims to join body, mind, and everyday challenges of life into a unified experience. How does yoga improve your health? Getting into the various postures during a yoga session exercises the muscles, which is good for your heart and blood vessels. The deep-breathing exercises help slow the breathing rate, which helps lower blood pressure and calms the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for generating stress hormones.


Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California has proven through years of research that lifestyle changes that include practicing yoga can reverse serious chronic health conditions. The Ornish program, which teaches a plant-based, meatless diet, meditation and regular exercise, was officially declared an intensive cardiac rehab program in 2010. Due to the positive reversal of heart disease in patients in the yoga therapy program, Medicare, the government health insurance program for Americans 65 and older, now covers the Ornish program.


More insurance companies now reimburse patients seeking to improve health through preventive lifestyle programs such as yoga therapy. Hospitals can now bill Medicare for their patient’s yoga and group discussion sessions because the Ornish program is an approved intensive cardiac rehab program, which is a new class of cardiac rehab created by Congress in 2009.


In the near future, yoga therapy may be considered one of the best treatments for chronic diseases, and will hopefully be covered by all health insurance providers. Until then, those without Medicare will have to pay for their yoga sessions out of pocket.