Should Health Insurers Cover Yoga as Treatment

Health insurance is a life and bank account saver that allows customers to pay for their health care, whether they need it or not. The odds are that having paid for health and preventive care insurance will prevent, delay or defray the costs of a serious and costly illness. But should yoga be included as “treatment” under a person’s health insurance plan?

Western health insurance is planned around western medicine, where standard treatments and procedures are applied to the prevention and treatment of illness. A growing part of the population and more than a few doctors, nurses, physical therapists and specialists, however, have come to value in other types of medicine, including folk and non western medicinal practices. As such, if a medicinal practice is proved to be an effective therapy, then it should be considered for addition to the medical coverage list.

According to US News Money, About 14.3 million people in the United States practiced yoga in 2010. That is a 10 million person increase over 4.3 million who practiced yoga in 2001. 

Of course, the Alternative and Complimentary medical field can be a profitable one, depending on the overhead and other costs. As a result, of course yoga teachers are pushing to get insurance companies to help their clients pay for the classes. That is just good business, and as with any other business that grows in popularity, quality can be variable and Yoga is no exception.

In fact, Yatan Ayur outlines several medical problems that would not happen if the person had proper yoga training and practice, including torn ligaments and a host of other ailments.

But as to whether yoga has actually proved to be a medical benefit or whether popular demand is driving the increasing coverage remains to be seen. This Mayo Clinic report is one of many examples where the word “may” and “can” abound, but there need to be more studies that definitively confirm the medical benefits of Yoga. Otherwise, Yoga is just another good and beneficial form of exercise.

But going off to any yoga center and taking any person’s yoga classes might lead to more body damage than body benefits. People get injured in gyms and by playing sports, too. This is why insurance companies need to treat Yoga as any other exercise program by providing discounts and help with memberships and classes, but classification as an exercise should be the limit of the relationship between yoga and insurance coverage.

According to Of 18 major insurance carriers, 14 of them covered 11 alternative therapies. There are 34 commonly known alternative therapies and a growing number of insurances do include coverage. The most common coverage is for chiropractic, massage therapy and acupuncture. Naturopathic medicine is covered on a lesser basis. Herbal remedies, homeopathy, meditation and mind-body stress management (biofeedback and yoga) are the least covered by medical insurance.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describes practices that are classified as Alternative and Complimentary medicine, and yoga has competition from meditation, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, deep-breathing exercises, tai chi, qi gong, prayer for health reasons, and energy healing therapy/Reiki.” 

Yoga is not treatment, but belongs under insurance coverage and discount programs as a beneficial way to get exercise, as Secure Horizons explains,

“Yoga in particular is a great exercise for seniors who are trying to maintain stress levels, increase strength and flexibility as well as improve circulation.  Modified Yoga for senior citizens is a unique way to keep exercises simple and safe.  Exercises are often completed in a seated position, and are done very slowly and deliberately.  Yoga strives to improve breathing, balance, range of movement as well as flexibility.  The relaxing effect does wonders for stress levels which can contribute greatly to one’s overall health.”

So, as a form of exercise (not treatment), Yoga is a good alternative that should be included in health care plans.

According to, it is up to the individual to check their policies, to check with their insurance providers, to find quality yoga instruction. Also, check to see if yoga classes are available through the job, local community services, and other cost effective routes. 

The good news is that, while no insurance company should be forced to cover fraudulent or ineffective medicine, many of them are accommodating their customers with access to the more functional and popular types of alternative and complimentary medicine.