Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Referral to Yoga Therapists in Rural Primary Health Care: A Survey of General Practitioners in Rural and Regional New South Wales, Australia

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Referral to Yoga Therapists in Rural Primary Health Care: A Survey of General Practitioners in Rural and Regional New South Wales, Australia

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon. Wardle, Jon. Adams, David. Sibbritt

Background: Yoga is an increasingly accepted complementary treatment modality for referral in Australian general practice, yet this practitioner group has largely escaped research attention in Australia. Complementary medicine use is highest in rural and regional areas, where a number of primary health care challenges are also more pronounced. Despite the significant role of complementary therapists in rural and regional Australia, and the increasing acceptance of yoga therapy in general practice, there has been little exploration of the interface between yoga therapists and conventional primary health care practitioners in this area. Materials and Methods: A 27-item questionnaire was sent to all 1486 general practitioners (GPs) currently practising in rural and regional Divisions of General Practice in New South Wales, Australia. Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 585 GPs, with 49 returned as 'no longer at this address' (response rate 40.7%). One-in-eight GPs (12.1%) advised their patients of specific yoga therapies and protocols, and 7.2% advised specific meditation techniques. Three-quarters of GPs (76.6%) referred to a yoga therapist at least a few times per year, with 12.5% of GPs referring at least once per week. GPs being in a remote location (OR = 10.95; CI: 1.55, 77.31), being female (OR = 1.85; 95% CI: 1.16, 2.94), GPs graduating from an Australian medical school (OR = 4.52; 95% CI: 2.61, 7.80), perceiving lack of other treatment options (OR = 3.29; 95% CI: 1.61, 6.74), GPs reporting good or very good knowledge of yoga therapies (OR = 18.2; 95% CI: 9.19, 36.19), and GPs using CAM for their own personal health (OR = 4.53; 95% CI: 2.60, 7.87) were all independently predictive of increased referral to yoga therapists amongst the rural GPs in this study. Conclusions: There is a significant interface between yoga therapists in Australian rural and regional general practice. There is generally high support for yoga therapies among Australian GPs, with low levels of opposition to the incorporation of these therapies in patient care. There is a need for increased research into yoga therapies practice, policy and regulation in these areas.

Introduction

Yoga and meditation are two complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) mind-body approaches that are increasingly used in Australia, with large population studies indicating that approximately 17.5% of the Australian general population report using meditation practices and 12% of Australians report using yoga for health. [sup][1] Investigations of yoga and meditation practices in Australia indicate that yoga users are more likely to be female or middle age, and have higher education levels, than non-users. [sup][2],[3],[4] Large longitudinal studies of young and mid-age women indicate that yoga and meditation are used 'often' as a therapy by 8% of women, and 'sometimes' by a further 13%. [sup][5] There is some variability in reported utilisation rates amongst the Australian public, with large differences in utilisation rates of yoga depending on definition as a CAM therapy or as a physical activity, or on meditation rates as distinct from yoga. Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that only 1.7% of Australian adults use yoga, [sup][2] however this study frames yoga use as a physical activity rather than therapy, and similar investigation by the Australian Sports Commission has uncovered yoga use as used by only 3.5% of the Australian public. [sup][3] Meditation, relaxation and breathing exercises are an integral part of yoga therapy practice and account for 39% of practice time of Australian yoga therapists, [sup][6] and yoga and meditation are often included together in analysis of population use [sup][5] , yet meditation forms not related to yoga practice (arising from various traditions) may also be common in Australia. [sup][7] Although traditionally yoga combines physical and meditation exercises with spiritual, moral and lifestyle practices in a holistic therapeutic paradigm, [sup][8] the separation of physical and mental aspects of yoga and meditation in Australia could potentially result in practice in the Australian setting diverging from traditional practices. …

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