Public health is in crisis, warns the NHS, because of obesity. One in four British adults is obese, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report in 2013, and the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. As a result, the country’s health system is buckling under the pressure of obesity-related conditions including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer, leading to needless deaths and disabilities from avoidable diseases.
Stress has also been described as an epidemic, with a 2010 survey by mental health charity Mind showing that more than 20% of workers phone in sick because of stress. And, according to a Department of Health report, mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK,with its wider economic costs in England estimated at £105.2 bn each year.
There is no doubt about the physical and mental benefits of yoga to the individual, not least in terms of increased fitness, reductions in stress and anxiety and general improvements in wellbeing.
And public health gains in equal measure, not only from specific benefits of regular yoga practice but because yoga generally promotes a healthy lifestyle of eating well and exercising regularly, which is music to the ears of health chiefs.