Fusing Buddhist techniques of awakening mindfulness with yoga practice can be a profoundly enriching experience, one that might well lead us to the heart of yoga, where we can truly be in touch with and accept things as they are, in the body and in the world
Meditation in ActionMindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week programme in which patients attend a two-and-a-half-hour class once a week. Participants come with a wide range of medical conditions, including heart disease, chronic pain, headaches, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and various stress-related disorders. In MBSR classes, heterogeneous groups of adults are exposed to the same intensive training in mindfulness and its applications to daily living. Participants also practice formal meditation techniques at home using guided mindfulness meditation tapes. A day-long silent retreat is held in the sixth week.
MBSR is designed to catch people falling through the cracks of the healthcare system, which is really a ‘disease care’ system, and challenge them to do something for themselves as a complement to medicine. The idea is to use meditation and yoga to tap inner resources for healing. Since 1979, 13,000 people have completed MBSR training in the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA.
Most participants show clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms over the eight weeks of the programme. They also develop a more positive perspective. These improvements are maintained in most from four months to four years, showing that a fairly brief exposure to consciousness disciplines has long-lasting effects on health and quality of life.
The Center for Mindfulness (CFM) has developed an MBSR programme for people without health insurance. We worked for four years with the Massachusetts Department of Correction delivering MBSR programmes to inmates and staff. The CFM also offers training in MBSR for healthcare professionals.
The MBSR approach has been combined effectively with cognitive therapy for use with people with clinical depression, and a new clinical field—Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy—has been established, which has shown to halve the relapse rate of people with a history of clinical depression who had been successfully treated by cognitive therapy.
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