Mindfulness, Yoga, and Modern Medicine

By contributing writer, Karen Fabian, Certified Baptiste Yoga teacher, founder, www.barebonesyoga.com.

I was recently at a yoga training and the teacher asked for feedback on how a regular yoga practice has effected our lives. A woman shared how she was diagnosed with a severe case of Lupus and had to undergo chemotherapy treatments as well as take many other medications. Despite a grim prognosis, she began practicing yoga even more diligently than before. Over time, she was able to get her disease under control and now only takes 2 medicines a day.

While this experience may seem like an outlier, the fact is many physicians are incorporating mindfulness techniques, like yoga and meditation, into their treatment regimens for everything from high blood pressure to cancer to chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain and depression.

Many of us were raised under the assumption that if we got sick, we needed to go to the doctor and take whatever oral medication and other treatment was given to us. We may know someone older than us that is living with the affects of hypertension, menopause or osteoporosis and may not think that our yoga or meditation practice could have a positive affect on their illness. But more and more, doctors are using mindfulness in treatment plans and many hospitals have created entire integrative medicine programs to focus solely on how alternate therapies and treatments can blend in with more traditional medical programs. Here are some highlights:

  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, PH.D., is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic. He has used Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques to address psoriasis, on patients undergoing bone marrow transplants and on employees in various corporate settings suffering from stress-related conditions.
  • Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital did ground breaking research on the effects of meditation, yoga, tai chi and other mindfulness activities (even knitting) on overall health.
  • Yoga can be part of a treatment plan for osteoporosis. Research has shown that yoga can stimulate the bones to retain calcium through weight-bearing poses.
  • A study at Yale monitored participants who used yoga, meditation and guided imagery and found that all 3 practices positively affected (decreased) blood pressure.
  • A study at MIT and Harvard found that when study participants meditated, they were able to tune out distractions and turn down the intensity of chronic pain.
  • A small study done in the United Arab Emirates found that patients who completed a gentle style of yoga, including breathing techniques, showed significant improvement in disease activity scores.

For those of us that have an already established mindfulness practice, be it through yoga, meditation or both, we know the overall benefits we receive from our practice. But it’s never too late to begin these techniques and to reap the benefits of mindfulness practice on your health.

To get started with a mindfulness practice, search our data base for mindfulness basics.

We wish you 20 minutes of mindfulness each day!

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