stress reduction

Meditation and yoga help bust stress (Minnesota Daily)

Ching Lo, Minnesota Daily, University of Minnesota: A new stress-relief class is helping some students at the University ease their worries through meditation and yoga.

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program teaches participants how to manage stress better. The University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing organized the program, and it is open to the public.

The second group of participants began the eight-week program this week, learning how to relax more, understand stress and find peace of mind.

“It’s about learning to trust your inner resources — healing from within,” instructor Terry Pearson said.

Each course meets weekly for two hours, and participants are urged to practice meditation and yoga techniques at home.

Two sessions are offered this fall, and approximately 25 people are participating. Enrollment costs $325.

Jane Wobken, a University scientist, finished the course this summer and said it’s a good way to release stress.

“I established a routine, and I have the daily reminders to be mindful,” Wobken said.

Practicing yoga or meditation outside the class helped, she said.

“Yoga tries to get people to come into their bodies,” Pearson said. “Meditation tries to quiet the mind. You are practicing to be in this moment.”

Pearson said some participants have told her the course changed their lives.

Some take the course by request of physicians. Pearson said some patients were able to stop taking medications after taking the course.

University student Michelle Trotter said she felt satisfied after taking the first course this summer. It set a strong foundation for mindful thinking, she said.

“As a student, it offered me to be more mindful through the stress of school,” Trotter said. “I learned to turn inwards, to take time for myself and to slow down.”

She said anyone could use his or her time to be aware of occurrences around them.

“The goal is to be aware of the things happening or done, and not just doing it,” Wobken said.

The program began at the University of Massachusetts in 1979. Organizers said the class can help people with challenges varying from mental disorders to fatal diseases.

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Counseling and Psychological Services explores meditation as a stress reduction tool (The South End Newspaper, Detroit, MI)

Candice Warren, The South End Newspaper, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan: Dr. Steven Schoeberlein, of Wayne State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center, talked Wednesday about the importance of keeping stress at bay during a workshop on the fifth floor of the Student Center Building.

Schoeberlein demonstrated in a stress reduction workshop how stress can be reduced and how attention can be enhanced through a practice called “mindful meditation.”

He addressed a group of six people and discussed the benefits of mindful meditation and afterwards led the group in a brief meditation exercise.

In the discussion part of the workshop, Schoeberlein highlighted the importance of calming the mind.

“The idea is you’re going to learn how to slow your mind, be aware of your thoughts and be able to focus your attention somewhere,” he said.

Schoeberlein said that mindfulness was paying attention in a particular way.

“It’s about learning how the mind wanders,” he said.

The wandering of the mind should not be seen as a mistake or a failure, he pointed out. It is normal.

According to the Mindful Living Web site, mindfulness is the cultivation of non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-moment awareness.

The Web site stated that practicing mindfulness includes meditation and present-moment awareness during daily activities.

Schoeberlein mentioned multi-tasking as not being in the present. He said it was likely in American culture for people to have several tasks going on at once.

Schoeberlein also said not to believe everything you think. It could lead to anxiety.

He demonstrated what he called the “raisin exercise.”

He told everyone to imagine that there was a raisin in his or her hand and to imagine what it looked like. He then told everyone to put it up to his or her nose and smell it. Afterward, he said to imagine what it would taste like.

Schoeberlein explained that he was teaching how to bring attention and awareness to what one is doing.

He said that mindful meditation is particularly useful for artists and schoolteachers. Teachers who practice the technique don’t feel as burned out.

He said that mindful meditation helps people to become more connected to one another.

“If you’re not in the moment and paying attention to people, you’re not going to pick up on how people express themselves,” he said.

According to, a Web site that gives information on meditation, mindful meditation can lead to more efficient studying for students, increased ability in problem solving and acquisition of skills such as language.

Schoeberlein said that anyone can meditate.

“Kindergartners can meditate,” he said, speaking from his experience working with them. “They do it pretty well.”

Schoeberlein said that with meditation, there is the common belief that one will have a lofty experience or a great zone of enlightenment.

The group engaged in a type of meditation derived from Buddhist training that he said comes from focusing on the breath.

The meditation started off with Schoeberlein telling everybody to sit quietly, close their eyes, and focus on the abdominal wall.

Mindful meditation requires one to sit in a comfortable position, with the back upright.

“In order to be in the present, you have to have an anchor to that present [moment],” he said.

Schoeberlein said focusing on the abdominal wall serves as the anchor.

Attention is to be focused on the rising of the abdominal wall with each inhale, and the recession of it with each exhale.

As the mind wanders from the breathing and one has realized it, then one should reconnect to the present moment. In other words, one should reconnect his or her focus back on the breathing. The reconnecting may happen several times, according to the Mindfulness of the Breath guide.

The meditation can continue up to 15 minutes or longer.

At the end of the meditation, Schoeberlein asked if any of the group members would share their experience.

Kim Werth, who works in CAPS, was one of the group members who shared how she used the breathing as an anchor to the present.

“I threw this mint in my mouth before I sat down here, and I was salivating and salivating,” she said. “I was trying to become aware of my bodily sensations and what was happening and being aware of all the saliva in my mouth and it just stopped.”

“My mind would wander and 30 seconds later, “where’s my breath?” she said.

Schoeberlein said he intends to do more mindful meditation workshops in the future.

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Some women say meditation, relaxation help battle cancer (Kansas City Channel)

Kelly Eckerman, KMBC: Turning Point Offers Free Programs

Fighting cancer takes a lot and modern medicine alone isn’t always enough, which is why some cancer patients are turning to meditation, KMBC’s Kelly Eckerman reported.

Meditation has become a way to relax and relieve stress, but for one group of women it has become so much more. They all share a tremendous bond — they’re all battling late-stage cancer, and so far, they have all beaten the odds.

“When you get a prognosis of cancer, you seek out many ways to help you. You feel a need to encompass everything in life you think might benefit you,” cancer survivor Nancy Holt said.

The stress of battling an aggressive disease can be overwhelming. While they can’t prove meditation prolongs life, they agree it has become an important part of their therapy.

“I just have to stop, check focus and go on. That’s how I’ve dealt with cancer. That’s how I deal with life,” cancer survivor Dee Finsley said.

“Cancer is a series of stressors, especially if you’re dealing with recurrences. That brings a whole new set of stress to the table. What meditation does is help manage the stress of life, not just of having the disease, but the everyday stressors of life,” said Moira Mulhern, Turning Point’s co-founder.

Research shows meditation can reduce anxiety, decrease depression and boost the immune system. But some benefits go beyond measure.

“It helps us get through the day with calmness and enlightenment and a little bit of peace,” Holt said.

The meditation and relaxation class is offered through Turning Point, which offers free programs for individuals and families living with serious illness.

More Information:

  • To learn more about Turning Point and its services, click here.

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The flexible approach (Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)

Jacqueline Maley, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia: Celebrities have embraced it. Bookstores are bursting with literature about it, and converts evangelise about its benefits. The practice of yoga has taken off in the West, 5000 or so years after the philosophy was codified by the Indian scholar Patanjali.

Although many students of yoga report myriad benefits to their physical and mental health, it has yet to be embraced by mainstream medicine as a valid form of treatment.

But Dr Craig Hassed, a senior lecturer in the department of general practice at Monash University, says yoga is “one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive approach to lifestyle management of all the traditional healing systems”.

Yoga is an effective tool in maintaining the mind/body balance, which is integral to general health, he says.

“Positive emotional states are associated with greater resistance to disease, better recovery from illness and a better ability to cope with illness,” he explains.

On the other hand, he says, negative emotional states have been proven to lead to a lower resistance to infection and higher risk of illnesses, such as heart disease, auto-immune disorders and inflammatory arthritis…

As proof of yoga’s benefits, Hassed points to a pivotal 1990 study by Dr Dean Ornish in the United States. Ornish tracked two groups of heart disease patients over a period of five years. The first group took medication only, and the second group took medication and also adopted a lifestyle based on yoga principles – incorporating exercise, meditation, diet and relaxation.

The five-year follow-up study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997, showed the medication-only group had experienced 2 times as many “major cardiac events” (ie heart attack or death) as the yoga-lifestyle group.

“He was the first person to prove heart disease is reversible,” Hassed says.

And he did it using yoga principles.

Professor Avni Sali, the foundation head of the Graduate School of Integrative Medicine at Swinburne University in Melbourne, believes the “stillness”, or meditation part of yoga, usually practised after postures have been completed, is the most beneficial part of the yoga program.

Sali has conducted studies to show yoga meditation can reduce levels in the blood of the stress hormone cortisol.

“If your stress hormones are down and your immune system is working better, you are less likely, theoretically, to get cancer,” he says.

Hassed says the reduction in stress levels, by means such as meditation, can also assist in controlling diabetes, which can be exacerbated by stress. He emphasises, however, yoga can never be a replacement for insulin.

Yoga can also be useful for treating adult diabetes.

“[Type 2] diabetes is very much an illness of modern Western lifestyle, so yoga is a powerful intervention for lifestyle diabetes,” he says.

Yoga meditation is also the basis of research conducted by Dr Ramesh Manocha, a research fellow at the Natural Therapies Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick.

Manocha focused on sahaja yoga, a method of meditation developed by Shrimataji Nirmala Devi in India in the 1970s.

He has just finished a seven-year doctoral research project “aimed at the answering the question: does meditation work in any way – body, mind, spirit, whatever?”

“You have this discrepancy,” Manocha explains, “the public has a very positive perception about meditation but when you actually look at the scientific literature, the scientific literature doesn’t agree.”

He set out to investigate the discrepancy by taking about 60 people with severe asthma and randomly allocating them to two treatment groups. One group underwent a standard, government-approved stress management program, involving counselling, breathing techniques and relaxation. The other group were taught sahaja yoga techniques.

The findings, published in the medical journal Thorax, were that the emotional state of the sahaja group – measured using psycho-metric questionnaires – was two times better than that of the stress management group.

The sahaja group also demonstrated significantly lesser degree of irritation in the lungs. The other group showed no change.

“There was significant evidence indicating that the actual physical disease was . . . influenced, and it wasn’t just the participants’ subjective impressions which were changing,” he says.

At the Sydney Menopause Centre, Manocha has also used sahaja to treat a group of women suffering hot flushes. The women had about a 70 per cent reduction in their hot flushes over eight weeks, he says.

Last year, he tried the technique on a group of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“In six weeks, we had them sitting down for 20 minutes at a time and relating better to their friends and family,” he says. Three of the children were able to stop their medication after attending the clinic.

Dr Luis Vitetta, the deputy head and director of research at Swinburne’s Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, supervised another study involving yoga and children. One group of children was given reading to do and the other was led through yoga exercises.

There was a reduction in anxious mood in the yoga group, but measurements of cortisol levels in the children were inconclusive.

Vitetta says this only serves to show that yoga is not a quick fix. “You need to do yoga over a long period of time,” he says. “You don’t take yoga as you take a pill.”

Practised over long periods, there is some evidence yoga can help people with cancer, anxiety, depression, Vitetta says. It can even help you quit smoking, by “teaching people a unity of mind and body”.

“Yoga exists in the domain of mind/body medicine,” he says. “The mind/body connection is at the centre of health, whether you want to believe it or not.”

But doctors admit the benefits of yoga are not always taken seriously, especially when it comes to meditation and “mental stillness”.

Hassed says although yoga is becoming more widely accepted as a form of therapy, there is still very little about yoga in medical education. “Relative to its potential health benefits and a growing body of research, it seems to be under-represented in the health care system,” he says.

He argues governments should take notice of yoga, if not for the sake of patients, then for the cost savings it delivers.

During Ornish’s yoga/heart disease project, Hassed says an insurance company worked out that $83,000 was saved per patient, three years after they began the yoga treatment.

Avni believes it is the holistic nature of yoga which prevents it from gaining due recognition. That, and the fact that it receives minimal research funding, because there is no “product” and hence no pharmaceutical company, associated with yoga.

“You can’t put yoga in a bottle and sell it,” he says. “It’s the responsibility of the government to fund it.”
What is yoga

Yoga is a Hindu discipline and philosophy that has been practised in India for more than 5000 years. In the West, “yoga” is used to refer to the exercises only, but yoga is actually an entire lifestyle system, involving meditation, diet and good works. It was codified in the second century in a book called the Yoga Sutras.


The generic term for the physical postures and exercise part of the entire yoga philosophy. Hatha is also describe a gentle, traditional style of yoga.


Also called “hot” yoga, conducted in rooms heated to 38 degrees or more to aid muscle stretching. It is very dynamic and involves the repetition of 26 set asanas, or poses. Not for beginners.


A very physical form of “power”, yoga based on the original texts of Patanjali, the founder of yoga. Ashtanga is physically demanding, involving fast movement and breathing.


Focuses on ideal body alignment and posture. It is rigorous but gentle. Practitioners use props such as straps and wooden blocks to aid flexibility.
Roma’s a picture of health

Roma Blair spent three years in a Japanese prison camp in the Dutch East Indies in World War II. In that time, she gave birth with no doctor present, was given stitches without an anaesthetic and contracted two types of dysentery. Sometimes, she coughed up worms.

After the war, Blair was living in South Africa when her doctor referred her to a local yoga swami to help her with her ongoing health problems.

“I was nervous and in pain,” she says. “I was a very sick lady, but I’m very, very healthy today,” she says.

Blair believes yoga cured her. She was so impressed that when she returned to Australia in 1957, she established the Roma Blair yoga clubs in Sydney.

From 1959, she began filming yoga exercise shows for Channel Nine and featured in magazine lift-outs.

In 1966, she went to India and was made the first female Australian swami by Swami Satyananada.

Since then Blair, 80, has published six books on yoga, made two videos and four records.

Swarmi Sarasvati is also one of the longest-practising yoga experts in in Australia.

Sarasvati practises what she calls “complete lifestyle yoga” which is an integrated yoga, combining meditation, physical exercise and karma yoga (self reflection and doing good works).

She believes yoga can be useful in treating a range of illnesses, from stress-related complaints such as headache, insomnia and heart problems, to breathing difficulties and people with musculoskeletal pain.

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Soulful stretch

Meghan Moran, The Cavalier Daily, Virginia: Yoga offers stress relief, wellness and ‘peace’ of mind to college students.

I was driving to my first yoga class ever. Visions of peace, balance and spiritual health danced in my head.Suddenly, I heard a bang, and my vision-filled noggin snapped toward the windshield. I’d been rear-ended on Rugby.

Although I left the scene unscathed, my heart was racing and my stress level had skyrocketed. Peace and balance seemed miles away. This yoga class had its work cut out for it.

I cautiously drove the last few blocks to Body-Mind-Spirit, Center for Life Enhancement, a Charlottesville yoga studio located just off of Preston Ave.

According to my yoga teacher, Surya Lipscombe, yoga is the “best stress management technique on the planet.”

I was ready to test this ringing endorsement out for myself.

The classroom was a small, windowless space with crème walls and wine-colored carpet. I entered, laid down my towel and tried not to look like the novice that I was.

Waiting for class to begin, I glanced over at the one wall that was not bare. Its decoration consisted of a small wooden shelf holding a candle and a crystal. Above hung two framed images.

One, Lipscombe explained, was a Yantra –- a design that serves as a meditation tool and is made up of, among other things, symbols of many different religions and a six-sided star representing the male and female energy. The other image was a photo of Satchidananda, the founder of Integral yoga — the form of yoga Lipscombe teaches — which combines several techniques, including pranayama (control of breath), meditation and postures.

Four other students arrived, mats or towels in hand, sporting comfortable cotton clothes and bare feet. We arranged ourselves in two seated, parallel lines facing each other. As the last student entered, Lipscombe dimmed the lights and began class with a set of chants.

Following along with the short chants was simple enough; keeping up with the next step of the class was a little more of a challenge.

Lipscombe proceeded to lead us through a series of poses that stretched the spine, lower back, legs and even stimulated the thyroid gland. As we manipulated our muscles into the cobra pose, bow pose and fish pose, among others, he spoke of the benefits and purposes of each position.

The back is one of the many parts of the body yoga can work wonders for. Lipscombe said many of his students suffer from back pain.

“Yoga is the cheapest and I think the best way to reduce back pain,” he said.

In fact, Lipscombe said one of his fellow teachers at Body-Mind-Spirit initially discovered his love for yoga while he was searching for an alternative to going to a chiropractor twice a week. Lipscombe reports that Yoga has helped this teacher’s back pain, as well as his golf game.

As class continued, the poses became more difficult, and I found myself falling into a deeper level of concentration as I worked harder to stay balanced and in correct form.My mind was forced to drop the worries it had been mulling over.

Lipscombe is familiar with this effect.

“No matter what’s going on [in your life], it’s pretty much impossible to hang on to it for the length of the class,” he said.

Lipscombe added that a regular yoga practice helps improve focus, noting that the Pittsburgh Steelers practice yoga and meditation together to improve their awareness and focus while on the football field.

“They say the Steelers used to know intuitively where everyone was on the field,” he said.

Athletes can also utilize yoga’s physical benefits. Along with relaxing the heart, lowering blood pressure, increasing metabolism and boosting the immune system, yoga lengthens muscles and prevents athletic injury, Lipscombe said.

Non-athletes, however, need also apply. “Yoga can be for people who are overweight or stiff,” Lipscombe said. “It’s a gentle exercise … we have a more spiritual element than any other yoga technique, more than just body, body, body.”

The spiritual element Lipscombe spoke of became very obvious as the class came to a close. After having stretched, reached and breathed for about 45 minutes, we moved into the corpse position for five minutes of silent meditation.

It may sound morbid, but the corpse position is simply a term to describe the comfortable pose of lying flat on one’s back, legs flat and about three feet apart and arms resting alongside the body with palms up. Lipscombe dimmed the lights even further, and the five restful minutes began.

I loved every second. Finally, a class in which closing your eyes was the assignment, not the unfortunate side-effect.

As the silent meditation (sadly) drew to a close, we were brought back to class with a quiet chant from Lipscombe –- a sound I found much easier to wake up to than the obnoxious “BEEP…BEEP” of my alarm clock.

Class ended, and I emerged feeling refreshed and energized. I had a bounce in my step and my back thanked me for having treated it to “half spinal twists” and “bow” poses. I hadn’t necessarily forgotten about the bumper bashing earlier that afternoon or tasks that stood between me and my bed, but these were now challenges I was ready and willing to take on, not looming worries. My schedule hadn’t changed, but my perspective had.

I felt the positive effects that Susanna Nicholson, yoga instructor and therapeutic yoga specialist, said yoga could produce.

Nicholson, who runs her own yoga studio, Union Yoga Loft, near the Water Street Parking Garage and the Downtown Mall, said that a student of yoga “should feel as though, yes, they’re becoming more aware of themselves; they feel more mentally and emotionally in control, that’s the goal.”

Many of the students Nicholson teaches come to her for therapeutic yoga, or yoga that is adapted to special conditions, she said. These conditions include anything from breast cancer to colds.

“I’m very careful to say that this is not a form of purely medical practice,” Nicholson said. “There’s always a spiritual aspect … we can’t say that it’s as simple as taking a pill.”

Still, Nicholson has had personal experiences with yoga as a path to improved physical health. In the mid-80s, she became severely ill with Lime and Epstein-Bar disease. She tried traditional western medicine to cure her illness, and doesn’t regret it, she said, but became panicked after a year-and-a-half of much pill-popping and missed work.

“I thought I’ve got to try something else,” she said. “Finally I did a combo of Chi Gung and Yoga, and I’m telling you that’s what got me well…I’d always loved yoga, and I’d always dug it but I never thought it would heal me on that level.”

Although Nicholson does use therapeutic yoga to deal with some serious illnesses, she said yoga practices are just as effective on students dealing with stress. She’s worked with University undergrads, and even Darden students who were in need of stress-reduction.

“We can deliver anything from better sleep, better digestion, to ‘I need to get more work done in a shorter amount of time’,” she said.

Before students head to a yoga studio, however, Nicholson has one piece of advice.

“The one thing I would say to a college student is…please do not try to turn these poses into competitive goals, because you’re losing the depth and the quality of your own experience in the pose,” she said.

An additional word for those seeking Jennifer Aniston-like litheness from yoga: “Try to make this an experience that’s about your heart and not about how you look.”

This advice might be tough to follow in a time where pop-culture is embracing yoga as fashionable fitness. Mainstream clothiers like J.Crew and Old Navy sell Yoga pants, and Christy Turlington has graced the covers of Vogue holding a yoga pose in couture.

Nicholson, however, sees promise in the newly established trend status of the practice she’s been doing since the age of 13.

“It’s really kind of exciting I guess.” she said, “To be in this situation where you trip over yoga teachers is sort of cool.”

But there’s still the worry that yoga as a fad will lead to fizzle, not a true public appreciation of the practice.

“I guess we’re all hoping, being the cunning old things that we are,” Nicholson said, speaking for herself and fellow yogis.”We’re concerned that in this marriage of yoga to fashion, that it doesn’t just become a fad, that we let yoga seep into our hearts and our minds.”

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