RESEARCH: MBSR FOR CHILD ABUSE SURVIVORS
Led by the recently deceased Elizabeth Kimbrough, along with Trish Magyari, and her colleagues at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the researchers have been investigating the mindfulness-meditation based stress reduction (MBSR) program on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for eight years, and are just now beginning to publish their research. In this first pilot study, twenty-seven women met weekly for eight weeks and practiced at home for a minimum of twenty minutes on the other six days. The investigators measured depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and mindfulness, prior to the training and then again at 4, 8, and 24 weeks. At 8 weeks, depressive symptoms were reduced by 65%, anxiety was reduced by 47%, PTSD symptoms dropped by 31% and mindfulness increased by 33%.
Significantly, symptoms of avoiding/numbing were greatly reduced. This is important because as the authors state, “Recent thinking in the field of trauma asserts that avoidance, the effort to escape or hide from traumatic thoughts, feelings, or memories, is the core psychological process underlying the development and continuation of PTSD.” Reduction in avoidance indicates that the participants were able to remain present with difficult memories or emotions without numbing out. Combined with the decrease in depression scores, this is good news indeed and an excellent indication of recovery. Sixteen weeks after completing the program, participants scores remained much improved over baseline.
Journal of Clinical Psychology 66: 17-33, 2010.
RESEARCH: INSURANCE CO. LOOKS TO YOGA TO CUT HEALTH COSTS
Aetna Insurance announced that early results from randomized controlled pilot studies of two stress-reduction programs that included therapeutic yoga (Viniyoga) and mindfulness showed significant reductions in stress as compared to the control group. Aetna’s review of medical claims’ data showed a positive correlation between costs and study participants’ stress levels, suggesting potential health care costs savings could be realized by reducing stress. Additionally, health improvements were suggested in the treatment groups over controls, leading to further studies.
Aetna collaborated with eMindful Inc.’s research team headed by Ruth Q. Wolever, PhD, Director of Research at Duke Integrative Medicine, and Gary Kraftsow, MA, E-RYT 500 of the American Viniyoga Institute, to test whether mind-body approaches, such as mindfulness meditation and therapeutic yoga, can reduce stress and improve overall health. The success of both programs offers evidence that certain mind-body approaches can be an effective complement to conventional medicine, a field broadly known as Integrative Medicine.
“Helping people take control of their health is a critical step in achieving better health and reducing the cost of health care,” said Aetna CEO and President Mark Bertolini. “Stress takes a significant toll on physical and mental health. We want to understand, and also demonstrate, whether integrative medicine can offer our members options that both better suit their lifestyles and can be proven to improve their health. We will continue to build an evidence base for the mind-body approach to health.”
BOOK REVIEW: The Tenth Door: An Adventure Through the Jungles of Enlightenment by Michele Hébert
Review by Amy Weintraub
The Tenth DoorThe Tenth Door is a spiritual memoir that begins in Cleveland, Ohio in the 50’s, where Hébert was an inattentive doodler in her Catholic school religion class. Hébert has written a 21st century spiritual adventure that is in large part “Autobiography of a Yogini” with an ounce of Eat, Pray, Love. There is warm humor in the voice as she describes her Cleveland childhood where her father, William Hébert was a flutist with the Cleveland Orchestra, and she was his pupil. Hébert was also a sister to five brothers, and daughter to a “good-hearted” mother who was often overwhelmed by the management of her big chaotic household. Her teenage daughter escaped the chaos and challenges of family life by falling in love and an early and brief marriage during college to her high school boyfriend.
Hébert moves to San Francisco in the late 60’s and finds her way to Walt and Magnana Baptiste’s Yoga compound on Clement Street that includes the famous Hungry Mouth natural foods restaurant. The building in the Richmond also housed a new age boutique run by Magnana that was way ahead of its time, selling crystals and clothing from the Baptistes’ travels around the world. Magnana’s dance studio, Sherri Baptiste’s health food store, Walt’s body-building gym, and the yoga studio that first drew Hébert to the Baptistes were also within the compound walls. Hébert takes yoga classes with Walt in exchange for shifts as a server in the restaurant. Nobody judges her for smoking outside on her breaks. It’s clear to Norm, the scholar in the community, that Michele is on a serious quest for enlightenment, and they know as she as yet does not, that the smoking will fall away.
Walt himself is fascinating. Before immersing himself in Yoga, he had been a champion body-builder who Hébert says is the architect of practicing repetitive sets in a workout routine. He teaches his followers yogic philosophy, the principles of yoga as therapy, the benefits of natural foods and good nutrition, and appears from these pages to have learned this himself-a natural autodidact without his own guru. We get glimpses of family life with the ten-year-old Baron, the youngest of the Baptiste children, who is now, along with sister Sherri, well-known in the world of Yoga.
Hébert’s deepening attachment to Walt and the community is accompanied by a subtle change in her writing voice. There is not an ounce of irony in her description of her growing love for her guru. In an age where it’s cool to practice yoga at your local gym but where devotion of any kind, much less to a guru, is often viewed with skepticism, it takes courage to stay true to the authentic expression of what it means to be a disciple in modern times. There is a purity and innocence to the writing voice that takes us through four years on a beach near the jungle in El Salvador, where Hébert managed Walt’s retreat. Her clarity and her loyalty are tested during those years as the revolution in that country touches her life in frightening ways. Throughout the memoir, there is that glimmer of the seeker’s clear vision. Hébert never conceals the depth of her spiritual commitment, nor does she mask her longing to awaken.
On her first visit, the twenty-eight year-old Hébert is unexpectedly left alone to manage the retreat center for a month, with little command of the language. Her companions are Walt’s dog and a local hired couple, the husband of whom takes to howling at the full moon and waving a loaded gun in Walt’s absence. But Walt has given her a deep asana practice to sustain her. He names ten postures, in each of which she is to spend an hour. After asana practice, she is to use her kriya breathing practice to contain the awakened sexual energy and move it up to her higher chakras.
With devotion and deep trust, Hébert assumes her duties and deepens her practice and grows to love her life in El Salvador. The memoir follows her home through the adjustments she makes when the war in El Salvador forces her return to the U.S. Hébert lives through dangerous and even potentially life-threatening experiences, but as she puts it, “because I trusted my guru more deeply than I have ever trusted another living being, I was at peace with everything that was and was to come.”
Whether or not you have a teacher on your own spiritual path, Hébert’s story of devotion to hers, told with such clarity and kindness, will touch your heart. You may even question your assumptions about the guru disciple relationship. Self-inquiry is a good thing.
BOOK REVIEW: The Antidepressant Antidote: Five Steps to Get off Antidepressants Safely and Effectively, by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D
Reviewed by Rose Kress
The Antidepressant AntidoteMillions of Americans find themselves needing the support of antidepressants each year. Some people begin taking SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to lift their depression and can end up on medication for far longer than intended or needed. This is what Bethany Butzer believes happened to her. During her college years, Butzer began to feel depressed and sought out a therapist for support in dealing with what the therapist believed to be dysthymia. On the recommendation of the therapist, she went to the doctor at her university’s health center for a prescription for an SSRI. This began a period of six years in Butzer’s life where she was on medication. Butzer believes that people, including herself, often fall into the pattern of prescription antidepressants usage as a quick fix, finding it easier to take a pill than psychotherapy or other means of treatment. Her purpose in writing this book is to help the reader to feel supported and empowered as he/she begins the process of stepping down from their prescription support.
In this easy to read book, Butzer offers five steps: 1) Get Help; 2) Kick the Habit; 3) Let Go; 4) Choose Wisely; 5) Blend Thoroughly and Repeat as Necessary. Each step/chapter includes a portion of her personal story, an easy explanation of the step, and resources that can help you. In step one, she stresses the importance of getting help. For Butzer this means professional and personal support. Many people feel ashamed that they need to take medication, the author included. For many years, she suffered in silence, feeling alone and ashamed. One day Butzer found the courage to tell her boyfriend that she was on SSRIs and about to begin to “go off” her medication. Her fear was that he would run from the room, horrified by her revelation. Instead, he asked how he could help. She accepted his support and is now married to him.
In the chapter on Step 3: Let Go, Butzer discusses the importance of practices that help to let go. She gives examples of meditation practices, Yoga, and Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques). The author shares her experience of how important Yoga was/is in her life-every class calms, relaxes, and helps let go of what is no longer serving. It is worth noting that in addition to having a PhD in psychology, Butzer is also a certified Yoga Instructor.
Butzer sets out to provide the reader with the support needed to get off antidepressants. If you, or someone you know, needs a little extra support in what can be a difficult process, this book is a practical list of techniques that is easy to follow and easy to understand.