in this issue
program highlight: yoga and weight loss
personal story: yoga and weight loss
get to know the staff: Dr. Lisa Conboy
research highlights
IEL budget report
quick links

In order to keep you up-to-date on the progress of our superb research team, we have developed a new reporting strategy. Three times a year, you will receive a report like the one that follows, detailing the highlights of each of our research projects and introducing you in more depth to one of our studies.

In this first report, we are delighted to introduce you to our important study of the effects of yoga and Ayurveda on weight loss. This is the Institute’s first major study examining the combined effects of yoga and Ayurveda, and we’re delighted to be collaborating in this project with our forward-looking Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

We hope you enjoy our new reporting format. It is designed to help you feel included in the important work that we’re doing here at IEL. We are changing lives in tangible ways through our programming and research, and we know you want to be a part of this effort, too. We hugely appreciate the many ways in which you have supported our work—financial, intellectual, and moral—and we warmly invite you to continue your contributions. The IEL needs your help—particularly over the next few years as we rely heavily on private donations to keep our research moving toward the massive amounts of public funding that will be required by our innovative projects.

Together, we can really make a difference. Thank you, my dear friends. The IEL simply could not do this work without you.

All warmest wishes, as always,
Stephen Cope, Director
Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living

PS If you prefer not to receive these e-mail updates, please contact Jess Frey at
The IEL has just completed its first 10 week outpatient program, Yoga for Weight Loss (YWL), with great success. Twenty-three local women participated in this program, which is based on Kripalu Yoga and Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations. The program integrates yoga, pranayama, mindfulness and mindful eating, lifestyle recommendations, regular group shares, and stress-reduction techniques. Participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with a number of women losing weight, and supports what years of anecdotal evidence and recent research has suggested: yoga for weight loss is a refreshing antidote to the guilt and judgment-based paradigms created around eating and the body that have so infiltrated our cultural psyche.

Our next steps continue in three stages. First, we are running two developmental iterations of the program, one just completed, the other to take place September to November 2010. For Stage 1 we have set in place mechanisms to evaluate the program. Stage 2 will use the lessons of Stage 1 to prepare for a larger scale randomized controlled trial working with lower-income women; this is scheduled to begin in March 2011. A number of outcome measures are being utilized for these programs: weight, food and mindful eating, positive and negative affect, self-compassion, mindfulness, eating efficacy, locus of control, and others. We are also collecting participant feedback through focus groups and questionnaires to further refine the program curriculum and research. This summer will be focused on data analysis and a YWL summit to discuss the research and acquire feedback from experts in the weight loss field. Stage 3 includes the submission of a grant to fund a more scientifically definitive randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of the program in a sample of women with low incomes.

The scientific design and evaluation of Yoga for Weight Loss is headed by Lisa Conboy, ScD, of the Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School.
The most surprising part of my experience in the weight loss program has been the self-acceptance and contentment that are at the center of it and that constitute, I think, both the power of the program to effect weight loss and its distinctiveness from other weight loss programs. The Kripalu program welcomes and embraces the experience of eating as a positive, self-nurturing activity that, with mindfulness, becomes satisfying in moderation. With calm and mindfulness, the emotional reasons for eating fade; being fully present with experience gives us what we really need, and when we get what we really need we don't have to compensate with food for what we feel deprived of.

My weight loss has been gradual but palpable. During the 10 weeks, I’ve had absolutely no cravings, which surprised me, since I love chocolate and used to look forward to breaks in my work for snacks. Because my moods have been even and contented, I haven’t yearned for anything that isn’t happening now!

—YWL participant Roberta, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Lisa Conboy, MA, MS, ScD, is a social epidemiologist published in the areas of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and research methodology. Her research goal is to examine the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits of yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and other holistic and mind-body therapies. She is a research scientist at the Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School, as well as the director of research at the New England School of Acupuncture. Dr. Conboy has acted as co-investigator on six National Institutes of Health-funded grants at the Osher Research Center and as principal investigator on two privately funded grants.

As a founding member of the Kripalu research collaborative, Dr. Conboy has worked with Kripalu professionals for the last five years and has acted as principal investigator on two projects. She has published two peer-reviewed manuscripts with Kripalu collaborators based on Kripalu programs, including a manuscript on the effects of the Ayurvedic cleansing technique panchakarma and a second manuscript describing the salutogenic effects of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training program. She has presented her work at national and international scientific conferences and is dedicated to determining the effectiveness and exploring the mechanisms of CAM practices.
  • yoga in the schools: The IEL has finished the second year of working at Monument Mountain Regional High School. Senior Kripalu Yoga teachers continue to perfect and standardize the curriculum to fit the specific needs of 9th and 10th grade students. Researchers have recently submitted an updated manuscript for publication in a highly regarded scientific journal and will present the results at a research education conference later this month. In September 2010, the IEL will expand this project to a Boston area school where we will evaluate subjective, cognitive, and performance measures. Leah Kokinakis, a postdoctoral student from the University of Michigan, recently joined our team and will be writing her dissertation on the Boston Yoga in the Schools research project.
  • improvement of brain function: The IEL is in the process of hiring a postdoctoral student to assist Dr. Sara Lazar in research data analysis and writing publications. This fall Dr. Lazar will be planning the second MRI scanning project with participants from the IEL Standardized Yoga Curriculum to determine how this program leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain.
  • standardized yoga curriculum: Senior Kripalu teachers and Harvard researchers just completed the first iteration of the Yoga for Extraordinary Living (YEL) program with Kripalu staff, including employees from Food Service, Marketing, Programming, and Finance. The second iteration with Kripalu employees will begin in September 2010 and will run for eight weeks. Edi Pasalis will also launch the YEL program in Boston with yoga naives beginning in June 2010.
  • PTSD: Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa and his research team have been successfully recruiting veterans with PTSD to participate in a 10 week yoga intervention taught by senior Kripalu Yoga teacher and licensed mental health counselor Jennifer Johnston. Due to the success and interest in the project, Dr. Khalsa has received an additional $300K to add a control group to this study. By the end of 2010 the PTSD team hopes to recruit a total of 26 veterans into the research study.
stay connected
Angela Wilson,
IEL Assistant Director


Kelly Baxter-Spitz,
Director of Development


Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to teach the art and science of yoga to produce thriving and health in individuals and society.

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