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Improving access to yoga: barriers to and motivators for practice among health professions students
Advances in Mind-Body Medicine
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2015
Pages: 6 - 13
Source ID: shanti-sources-33116
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Yoga is gaining momentum as a popular and evidence-based, integrative health care and self-care practice. The characteristics of yoga practitioners are not proportional to the demographics of the general population, especially with respect to gender and ethnicity. Several access barriers have been implicated (eg, time, cost, and access to teachers). No studies have explored the barriers to practice among health professions students. Their participation in yoga is deemed important because they are future health professionals who will make referrals to other services. Research has shown that providers who practice yoga refer more patients to yoga. OBJECTIVE: To increase yoga practice among health professions students, an understanding must be developed of factors that interfere with or facilitate a regular yoga practice. The current study intended to identify such barriers and motivators. DESIGN: This study was a small population survey. SETTING: The setting was a private university in the northwestern United States, including students in 3 of its colleges and 10 professional programs. PARTICIPANTS: All students (N = 1585) in the programs of the 10 health professions received e-mail requests for participation. OUTCOME MEASURES: The Acceptability of Yoga Survey was developed for purposes of a larger yoga perceptions study and implemented with health professions students. Participants were solicited via e-mail; the survey was administered online. The current study used data from that survey. RESULTS: Of the 498 usable, completed surveys (ie, a response rate of approximately 30%), 478 were relevant to the current study. The sample's demographics--78% women and 79% white--did not differ significantly from the population's demographics. The findings revealed the existence of common barriers that were related to (1) time; (2) cost; (3) lack of pragmatic information about access to yoga classes and teachers; and (4) stereotypes related to flexibility, athleticism, and typical yoga practitioners. Motivators included athleticism, health promotion, and emotional well-being as well as the seeking of pain relief and a sense of community. A referral by health care providers was the least-frequently cited motivator. CONCLUSIONS: The findings have implications for strategies that may help motivate health professionals toward a yoga practice, because having done yoga personally may be related to a willingness to perceive the benefits of and to refer patients to yoga as a viable integrative treatment for patients. Improved access can be developed in 3 ways: (1) integration of yoga research into health curricula to acquaint care providers with yoga's benefits to patients and care givers; (2) have yoga available as close to the workplace as possible to obviate some of the larger access barriers; and (3) societally, project yoga as a healing art and science, not simply as a weight loss strategy or athletic endeavor.