Fashionista and longtime yogi, Donna Karan, has made it her mission for over a decade to help usher in holistic wellness to the medical world. When she lost her husband in 2001 to lung cancer DK was inspired to build a program that fostered support and care for patients not just with technology, but with something she found deeply lacking in her husband’s case: the mind-body connection. Establishing the Urban Zen Foundation, Donna Karan moved her designing to the medical setting, opening a yoga program in the cancer wing of Beth Israel Hospital in NYC with the help of Rodney Yee. Its success has been encouraging and has drummed up enough positive results to allow for a west coast version at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, again with Yee’s direction.
“People think yoga as kind of putting your legs behind your head, you know yoga is being. Yoga is being present in your mind and body,” Karan said.
There’s yoga for sure, but this approach is meant to take each and every person, condition and energy into account.
“We train in-bed yoga, reiki, aromatherapy … palliative care … and nutritional work. Holistically, we look at the body, so it’s not just yoga,” says Karan.
These alternative methods may not cure cancer, but we’ve seen plenty of recent studies that show they can improve overall sense of being, decrease pain, relieve anxiety and depression and lower doses of pain medication. We think that’s well worth it.
“I can no longer just dress people on the outside, but it’s dressing them on the inside,” Karan said. “The only way to do really create that change is to create a community of change.”
We applaud the efforts of Donna Karan and of the many yoga teachers, volunteers, hospital nurses, doctors, employees who realize they are people being treated, not just diseases, and who are willing to step outside conventionality to create change and make a difference.
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I love stories like this. I mean she is Donna Freaking Karan! She isn’t just donating clothes or money. She is addressing a need that she identified and in the process revolutionizing medical care for thousands. And she did it outside of her professional comfort zone!