Physician, Heal Thyself: CME and CE Programs at Kripalu

There is an ever-growing body of evidence that supports the role of lifestyle in improving health and reducing the incidence and outcomes of chronic disease. A 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that even for people with a genetic predisposition for heart disease, the risk of developing heart disease was reduced by 50 percent for those following a healthy lifestyle. On the flip side, a review of more than 300,000 deaths from heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this spring estimated that more than 45 percent of those deaths could be attributed to suboptimal dietary factors alone.

Our mental and emotional health is also affected by lifestyle, and in particular, by stress. The American Psychological Association reports that more than half of Americans reported personal health problems as a source of stress. Furthermore, individuals who suffer from chronic stress will often use coping strategies, such as watching TV or eating sweets, which hinder, rather than improve, their overall health.  

Physicians and other caregivers are not immune to stress; in fact, rates of stress and burnout in healthcare professions are increasing. Yet an emerging body of literature has shown that practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can significantly improve feelings of resilience and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Clearly, nutrition and lifestyle can play a critical role in improving our health and preventing the development or worsening of chronic disease. But most medical schools do not prioritize the study of lifestyle medicine. Nutrition, for instance, is not a standard part of the medical school curriculum, and many medical schools do not require it prior to graduation. Those medical schools that do include courses on nutrition average less than 20 hours of instruction over the course of four years.

By the time we are in practice, most doctors do not feel adequately prepared to counsel their patients on best practices for diet, exercise, and stress reduction. This makes it very hard for patients to get the information and support they need, and it’s frustrating for doctors and other healthcare providers who want to be able to give their patients the most up-to-date and accurate information available.

The CME programs that Kripalu offers are specifically designed to help doctors and other health professionals understand the latest evidence supporting lifestyle medicine, including nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, meditation, and yoga. These programs provide specific tools and strategies that can be shared with patients, and used for our own self-care.

Perhaps more importantly, Kripalu offers the opportunity to practice these tools in a beautiful retreat setting. This allows caregivers to understand firsthand how beneficial whole foods, adequate sleep, time for reflection, yoga and meditation, and walks in the woods can be. In the words of Amanda Staples Opperman, DO, “It’s a place to restore your vitality for who you are, reclaim why you do what you do, and take care of yourself while expanding your skill set and education.” As Amanda has discovered, it’s much easier to recommend these practices to patients once we have reaped the benefits ourselves.

Find out about upcoming programs with Lisa B. Nelson.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail

Lisa B. Nelson, MD, is a family practice physician, Director of Medical Education for Kripalu programs, and a Kripalu faculty member who has trained thousands of individuals in mind-body practices for health and vitality.

Full Bio and Programs