Although health insurers don’t currently reimburse individuals for yoga and meditation instruction, mounting clinical evidence may convince insurers that these mind/body practices provide significant therapeutic benefits in the treatment of chronic disease. In a recent 410-participant study reported by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, hatha yoga stretching and breathing exercises improved sleep, reduced dependence on sedatives and helped cancer patients resume their routine activities. “Clinicians should now feel pretty comfortable prescribing gentle hatha yoga or restorative yoga for their patients,” said Karen Mustian, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The data from this study is one of the first steps in the direction toward insurance coverage.” In the Rochester study, half of the patients were assigned to yoga classes twice a week for one month. By the end of the trial, 31 percent of yoga patients no longer had sleep disruptions, twice the recovery rate of patients who didn’t take classes. Yoga practitioners also reported a 42 percent reduction in fatigue, compared with a 12 percent reduction for the control group. Yoga users decreased the use of sleep medication by 21 percent, while the control group actually increased reliance on sleeping drugs by 5 percent.