The Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living is seeking applications for the Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Award. This is the first grant targeted specifically to advance innovations in yoga research, furthering the goal of making yoga more accessible and accepted throughout society as a means for creating health and well-being. A single award of up to $10,000 is presented.

This award honors the spirit and vision of Samuel B. Hanser, a practitioner of the healing arts, who believed that every person holds the wisdom and power to lead a happy and healthy life. Sam’s holistic approach to health integrated meditation, yoga, energy healing, massage therapy, integral psychology, somatic psychotherapy, Reiki, and tantra. After his death at the age of 28, Sam’s family established the Samuel B. Hanser Memorial Trust and, in collaboration with the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, now seeks to support like-minded visionaries.

The Hanser Award is a Mentored Research Award, requiring an applicant to partner with one or more seasoned professionals who have the resources, research expertise, and experience to guide and support the research process. To this end, the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living is seeking dedicated and creative scientist-practitioners in the early stages of their research careers that have the support of an experienced research mentor to work directly with the applicant on the proposed project. Applicants and mentors must be affiliated with an academic institution and have access to an Institutional Review Board.

A $10,000 grant is ideal to fund a pilot study, which can serve as a stepping-stone toward grant applications for larger scale studies. It might also be used effectively to piggyback a larger study that is funded by other sources; for example, enabling the researcher to add a biomarker measure to enhance the study.

In service to Kripalu’s mission of empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga, the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living promotes the acceptance and use of yoga, including asana, pranayama, and meditation, particularly in the education and healthcare sectors. Rigorous scientific understanding, including evaluation and measurement, is a critical part of this mission. Kripalu and the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living are especially interested in supporting at-risk and underserved populations who can benefit from the gifts of yoga.

Applicant Qualifications

Those with the following qualifications are welcome to apply for the Hanser Award:

  • PhD candidates
  • PhDs and postdoctoral fellows
  • Early career assistant professors; defined as no more than two years into their academic appointment at the time when the letter of intent is submitted.
  • A master’s degree is no longer sufficient to apply for this award.

Kripalu requests that NIH biosketches for the applicant and mentor be submitted with the letter of intent to substantiate the team’s qualifications.

Project Criteria

The ideal project

  • Demonstrates visionary thinking on the potential of yoga
  • Has broad impact on the field of yoga research, including potential understanding of mechanism
  • Demonstrates  feasibility, including modeling demonstration project, curriculum, or research experiment
  • Is a replicable, creative, innovative protocol
  • May serve as a pilot for an expanded study
  • Has a sound and rigorous research design, appropriately scaled to the budget
  • Has a reasonable potential to receive IRB approval within six months of award notification
  • Makes a positive impact on society, particularly for at-risk populations.

Letters of Intent

Please provide one document, saved as a PDF, containing the letter of intent (not to exceed two pages) and the NIH biosketches for both the applicant and primary mentor. Format the document with 0.5-inch margins in 11-point Arial font with the filename: [last name] [first name] Hanser LOI 2017.pdf. Letters of intent are accepted by e-mail only and must be received prior to midnight on January 22, 2017. E-mail the letter and any questions to

The letter of intent should state

  • The applicant’s qualifications and rationale for receiving this award
  • The mentor and their commitment to support the research process
  • A brief description of the proposed project, including the rationale for this investigation, and the methodology, including participants, space, resources, procedures, training environment for the researcher, evaluation plan, a broad description of the project’s timeline, and potential impact.

Please submit the following with the letter of intent:

Full Proposals

If selected, applicants will be notified by March 3, 2017, and invited to submit a full proposal by April 17, 2017.

Full proposals must include a proposal overview that is a maximum of five pages and contains the following:

  • Title, background, and significance; literature review and scientific rationale indicating the need and innovative nature of the proposal (1.5 pages)
  • Study aims (0.5 pages)
  • Research strategy—a detailed research design methodology including population characteristics/criteria, research protocol, intervention, outcome measures, statistical analysis plan, and timeline. (2 pages)
  • Applicant qualifications and career objectives, mentoring plan, qualifications of mentors and collaborators, research environment, facilities and equipment available (0.5 pages)
  • Expected outcomes, impact statement, and future steps (0.5 pages)

Proposals must also include

  • A one-page detailed budget with a narrative budget justification (including no more than $10,000 from the Hanser Award)
  • NIH-formatted biosketches for any comentors or collaborators that were not submitted with the Letter of Intent. Please adhere to the instructions on the website.
  • A letter of support from the primary mentor
  • Two letters of recommendation that address the following:
    • Description of creative accomplishments of the applicant
    • Evidence of peer recognition of previous work
    • Examples of creative products, research, and achievements related to the proposed project.

Please save each component of the full proposal submission into one PDF formatted document, containing the five-page proposal overview, budget justification, NIH biosketches, the letter of support from the primary mentor, and two recommendation letters. Format the document with 0.5-inch margins in 11-point Arial font with the filename: [last name] [first name] Hanser Proposal 2017.pdf

Permissible expenses (covered by the award) include

  • Salaries
  • Materials and supplies
  • Equipment (essential to project, not to include computer)
  • Travel (to/from sites)
  • Fees (rental fees, etc.).

Non-permissible expenses (not covered by the award) include

  • Indirect costs
  • Travel (unrelated)
  • Conference attendance

Timeline Summary


Due Date

Letters of Intent submitted to Kripalu


Full proposal invitations issued by Kripalu


Full proposals due


Winner notification


Award Event

The Hanser Award winner and mentor will be invited to attend an award event at Kripalu, where they will be celebrated by Kripalu leadership, the Samuel B. Hanser Memorial Trust, and esteemed members of the scientific yoga community. A travel stipend and complimentary room and board at Kripalu will be provided for the winner and mentor in order to attend the award event. 

Past Winners

Lindy Weaver, 2016

Dr. Weaver is clinical faculty at The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and is mentored by Maryanna Klatt, PhD, professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center. The award will fund a pilot study; Yoga for Anxiety Reduction in Children and Adolescents: A Mixed Methods Effectiveness Study, which aims to understand the psychological, physiological, and daily living skills outcomes in youth experiencing anxiety. The researchers propose that yoga has the potential to improve patterns of stress responses and, in turn, assist in improving physiological arousal, self-regulation, and adaptive responses to stress. The study will compare a controlled trial of students receiving a yoga intervention with an exercise control group.

This study will establish the effectiveness of a yoga-based approach to managing anxiety and examining yoga’s role in school-based mental health treatment. Using an innovative study design, the researchers aim to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data from the students, their parents, and teachers, providing a 360 degree perspective. In addition to collecting measures of anxiety, self-efficacy, daily function, and stress, the researchers will be collecting salivary alpha-amylase (SAA) levels. SAA is a biomarker of activity in autonomic nervous system as it is produced in response to psychological and physical stress. The study will observe if there are shifts over time as students progress through the yoga and exercise interventions.

Ishan Walpola, 2015

Ishan Walpola, a research assistant in cognitive psychology and contemplative neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, was the recipient of the 2015 Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Award for Yoga Research. The award supported Ishan’s study of the impact of an eight-week pranayama (yogic breathwork) training on mindfulness and brain structure, function, and activity in adults aged 50 to 70.

Using fMRI technology, Ishan measured changes in both structural and functional brain architecture, which typically exhibit degeneration during the aging process. The potential impact will be to provide evidence supporting the benefit of yoga-based interventions for aging populations’an issue of great global significance, given that an estimated 76 million people will be suffering from dementia worldwide by the year 2020, and 135 million by the year 2050. Ishan was mentored by Vasavan Nair, MD, and Pedro Rosa-Neto, MD, PhD, through the McGill Center for Studies in Aging at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

Jennifer Johnson, 2014

Jennifer Johnston, LMHC, PhD, E-RYT, was the first recipient of the Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Award. Jennifer is a mental-health specialist with 15 years of experience studying the impact of mind-body practices on neurologic and psychological concerns. A yoga instructor who completed her 500-hour level training at Kripalu, she served as director of yoga and the education initiative at the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine, at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, and has created mind-body interventions for a number of educational, clinical, and research programs funded by federal, Veterans Administration, and private sources.

The award supported Jennifer’s investigation of the effects of an eight-week Kripalu Yoga intervention on patients with epilepsy, which will build on research conducted in 2006 in a Center for Disease Control–funded study. Using measures such as heart rate variability, vagal tone, and GABA activity, she aimed to provide a psychological and neurophysiological basis for the incorporation of yoga-based practices into a medical treatment plan for epilepsy. Chris Streeter, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine,  served as Jennifer’s mentor.