Mental health and wellbeing among teachers is the focus of a brand new two-part campaign by US-based Yoga Alliance, the largest nonprofit association representing the international yoga community.

It follows a rise in mental health concerns across the globe in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and the challenges of lockdowns and quarantine.

“The pandemic fuelled the need to address mental health around the globe — especially among individuals in helping professions,” says Dani Hayes, vice president of community engagement.

In response, Yoga Alliance has initiated two new initiatives designed to help both members and non-members alike. The Member Assistance Programme is now a benefit included as part of the Yoga Alliance membership package, offered at no additional cost, and designed to assist members and their households with access to comprehensive wellbeing resources, guidance, and support.

The Eka WellBeing Services is a separate, specialised programme providing free mental health support to eligible yoga professionals and their families worldwide, regardless of membership, who face economic, racial or geopolitical challenges to receiving mental health care. Both schemes have been put together in partnership with employee assistance programme provider Lytle AllOne Health Company.

“We are proud to partner with Lytle to offer the Member Assistance Programme and Eka WellBeing Services as a step toward a more integrated approach to mental health, especially when yoga professionals continue to shoulder and navigate elevated levels of emotional exhaustion and burn-out,” adds Hayes.

Both initiatives are available to yoga professionals working around the world. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, less than half of adults in the United States who need mental health services and treatment get the help they need. And, in 2021, the American Psychological Association reported increased demand for treatment of anxiety and depression as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The launch of the two new assistance programmes also seeks to bridge the gap between traditional mental health treatments and yoga, says Hayes.

“Scientific research has long shown yoga’s multi-faceted ability to improve depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, illustrating that yoga should be part of the options available to address the complexity of mental health access around the world. Many individuals understand the positive impact yoga can have on one’s mental health, but they are often reluctant to seek out traditional mental health treatment. At the same time, individuals more familiar with traditional treatment, may not consider yoga. With the launch of this programme, we’re saying ‘sometimes both are needed, and that’s okay.’”

In the most recent Yoga Alliance member survey, nearly half of its members expressed an interest or a need for mental health and comprehensive wellbeing support.