Yoga is about transformation: Lessons from Dean Ornish

by Christina on January 16, 2011

Today I was at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco where Dean Ornish gave the keynote speech (I finally got to meet him!).

He was personal, inspiring, and did an amazing job of getting a big group of yogis excited about science!

Here are some highlights of his talk:

  1. Yoga is about transformation. The doctor-patient relationship is traditionally fear-based, but that does not inspire people towards sustainable change.
  2. When he was young, he was deeply depressed. He got out of this by starting to study yoga and meditation and learning that nothing outside of yourself can bring you happiness – it is already in you.
  3. It is only when we say “No” to things that we really say “Yes.” Choosing not to do something makes what you do choose to do uniquely special.
  4. Trust is at the heart of relationships. To experience any true and deep intimacy you need to be vulnerable… and you need to trust and feel safe in order to be vulnerable.
  5. What is special about intimacy is having uniquely different experiences with the same person. You have the foundation of familiarity and trust, but always new and unique experiences together. He and his wife say to each other:Yet again, and like never before.”
  6. Trust is not a zero-sum game. When someone deeply trusts you, it inspires you to be worthy of that trust so that you actually become more trustworthy.
  7. So much of medicine is “mopping the floor with the faucet still running” (wish I could find the great cartoon he showed). We should really be focusing our efforts on turning off the faucet. Rather than continuing to give more and more blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs, let’s treat the root cause.
  8. Awareness if the first step of change. Science helps raise our awareness.
  9. There’s lots of talk about “Evidence-based medicine,” but in reality we are practicing “reimbursement-based medicine.” Hospitals get paid by doing heart surgeries, not by encouraging lifestyle changes.
  10. We have an epidemic of depression and loneliness. No one is going to make big lifestyle changes if they don’t have the motivation to live.
  11. Our need for love and intimacy is as great as our need for food. This is a huge and unmet need.
  12. We can use the experience of suffering to transform our lives.

He then talked about his research and how yoga and meditation are real things that have real effects on the body: we can see the reversal of heart disease, we can see changes in gene expression, we can make our cells “younger” (longer telomeres).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky January 16, 2011 at 6:07 am

Great post…Very inspirational. Thanks!


Chris palmer January 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Loved this blog post! Dean Ornish is a visionary. Thanks for the inspiration.


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