The Science Of Yoga And Healing

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn spoke with Dr. Kelly McGonigal last night in San Francisco in the Herbst Auditorium on The Science of Yoga and healing. The conversation was both entertaining and exciting.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

I was extremely impressed by the humility of the speakers, especially Jon Kabat-Zinn. I had seen him speak twice before and didn’t get the same feeling.

When he spoke at the University of California Medical Center, I had a chance to mention Mindfulness in Healing and he provided a lot of encouragement.

Last night’s event was co-sponsored by The California Academy of Sciences and City Arts and Lectures.

The Science Of Yoga And Healing

The evening began with a short mindfulness meditation of mostly being in our bodies – our left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, whole body, etc.

Then Dr. McGonigal asked Jon to talk about the evolution of his idea for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Jon told an interesting story about the origins of MBSR and this led into a discussion on yoga and healing.

He wanted to demonstrate that MBSR could help people falling through the cracks of the medical system. He urges us to get involved in what he calls “participatory medicine”. Jon suggests tapping into our inner resources embedded in our DNA.

Kelly McGonigal

Dr. Kelly McGonigal

This is just like the premise of Mindfulness in Healing in which we encourage people to take charge of their own healing through investigation into what is commonly known as alternative medicine or complementary medicine.

It also resonates with my own healing objective which was to be my own medical advocate and rely on advice from trusted friends and practitioners.

Kelly then commented that there are certain kinds of depressed patients that are prescribed yoga for treatment. This is recommended as the first line of treatment – before therapy and before medication This is not a joke. This is a bona fide medical treatment.

Other type of patients suffering from depression are prescribed MBSR training. This is taking place in England.

While there have been many studies on the neuroscienctific benefits of MBSR, there have not been any studies of yoga. He hopes to see this happen in the next 10-50 years.

The MBSR studies show that there can be significant improvements in only eight weeks. Participants have been taught to treat mindfulness like a  muscle and continue to practice mental fitness like they would physical fitness.

Jon said that more than 20,000 people have taken the MBSR through the University of Massachusetts program and probably hundreds of thousands to millions have taken some form of mindfulness training all over the world. It is clear mindfulness training is going mainstream.

When the discussion turned to the mindful society in our culture, everyone perked up. Jon said, “The country needs more mindfulness!”

Kelly wanted to talk about this issue. She is concerned about the ambivalence of our culture towards the qualities and values that yoga teaches.

After The Event

After the event, I introduced myself to Kelly McGonigal. She was very warm and friendly and seemed to recognize my name. I had tweeted her to see if she had any tickets for the event. Her response was, “Nope — sorry, they’re sold out & I don’t have any.”

I invited her to lunch with me and my daughters, who are both interested in yoga. One of them is already a certified teacher. We’ll see if it happens.

So that’s enough for today. If you enjoy this post, please share with your friends and I’ll write more about the event.

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