Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Urban Zen Foundation

NBC Nightly News has been running a series called "What Works", a follow-on to their wildly successful series "Making a Difference". Think of it as nothing but positive news to brighten up your days. Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, mostly for the benefit of others.

Yesterday, the segment featured the work of Donna Karan with the Urban Zen Foundation. Urban Zen has developed the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program at Beth Israel Hospital that is providing supplemental care in the forms of yoga and meditation to people with cancer being treated at Beth Israel. It is a year long pilot program that started last fall. The project is being monitored closely to assess results of the integrated program. It could be a whole new paradigm in U.S. healthcare.

You have to hand it to Beth Israel Hospital. For decades now, many U.S. hospitals have paid little or no heed to the power of yoga as a method to help patients heal. Mumbo jumbo, hippy medicine full of nothing but sweetness and light - that won't kill cancer. What we really need to do is burn and chemically treat those cancer cells and hope we don't harm too many of the good cells in the process. I don't doubt the ability of chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer. They are powerful tools.

What I believe, and what the Urban Zen Institute believes, is that yoga is a powerful compliment to traditional medical treatment. They are not a replacement - but rather a helpful, potent supplement that can actually enhance the body's ability to benefit from traditional cancer treatments. It couldn't have been easy for Beth Israel to make the case that this program was worth almost $1B of investment dollars. They were willing to go out on a healthcare limb to run a true, valid, scientific test of yoga's ability to treat cancer. It's courageous.

With Beth Israel's pilot, it seems that the tide may be turning in our country. Perhaps we are coming around to seeing things a different way when it comes to health and wellness. We might be on to a better path forward.

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