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OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of a short-term yoga-based lifestyle intervention on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and markers of inflammation and endothelial function in overweight and obese men. DESIGN: Nonrandomized prospective lifestyle intervention study with pre-post design. SETTING AND LOCATION: Integral Health Clinic, an outpatient facility providing yoga-based lifestyle intervention programs for prevention and management of chronic diseases. SUBJECTS: Overweight and obese men (n=51) were enrolled in the study. Subjects who were physically unable to participate and those participating in other interventions were excluded from the study. INTERVENTION: A pretested intervention program including asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), group discussions, lectures, and individualized advice. OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was weight loss, and the secondary outcome measures were clinical and laboratory correlates of CVD risk, levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), adiponectin, and endothelin-1 (ET-1). RESULTS: Men (n=51, body mass index [BMI] 26.26±2.42 kg/m(2)) were enrolled and underwent a yoga-based lifestyle intervention for 10 days. Of 51 subjects, 30 completed the study. There was a significant reduction in weight from Baseline to Day 10 (74.60±7.98, 72.69±8.37 kg, p<0.001, respectively), BMI (26.26±2.42, 25.69±2.47 kg/m(2), p<0.001, respectively), and systolic BP (121.73±11.58, 116.73±9.00, p=0.042, respectively). There was a significant reduction in plasma IL-6 from Baseline to Day 10 (median 2.24 vs. 1.26 pg/mL, respectively, p=0.012). There was a significant increase in the plasma adiponectin from Baseline to Day 10 (median 4.95 vs. 6.26 μg/mL, respectively, p=0.014). Plasma ET-1 level remained unchanged. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that even a short-term yoga-based lifestyle intervention may be an important modality to reduce the risk for CVD as indicated by weight loss, reduction in systolic blood pressure, an increase in adiponectin, and decrease in IL-6 in overweight and obese men.
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This essay analyzes the performance of dhikr (the invocation of God through prayer, sons, and movement) in Aleppo, Syria, as an embodied practice mediated by specific repertoires of aesthetic and kinesthetic practices. In dhikr, aesthetic stimuli produce an experience of temporal transformation that participants narrate as "ecstasy." Performing dhikr also conditions a musical self, which in turn allows for the habituation of spiritual states. This suggests the importance of investigating the interface of embodied practices, temporality, and the aesthetics of spiritual practice. (Aesthetics, temporality, music, Islam, Syria).
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Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.
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Background Early life stress (ELS) can compromise development, with higher amounts of adversity linked to behavioral problems. To understand this linkage, a growing body of research has examined two brain regions involved with socioemotional functioning—amygdala and hippocampus. Yet empirical studies have reported increases, decreases, and no differences within human and nonhuman animal samples exposed to different forms of ELS. This divergence in findings may stem from methodological factors, nonlinear effects of ELS, or both. Methods We completed rigorous hand-tracing of the amygdala and hippocampus in three samples of children who experienced different forms of ELS (i.e., physical abuse, early neglect, or low socioeconomic status). Interviews were also conducted with children and their parents or guardians to collect data about cumulative life stress. The same data were also collected in a fourth sample of comparison children who had not experienced any of these forms of ELS. Results Smaller amygdala volumes were found for children exposed to these different forms of ELS. Smaller hippocampal volumes were also noted for children who were physically abused or from low socioeconomic status households. Smaller amygdala and hippocampal volumes were also associated with greater cumulative stress exposure and behavioral problems. Hippocampal volumes partially mediated the relationship between ELS and greater behavioral problems. Conclusions This study suggests ELS may shape the development of brain areas involved with emotion processing and regulation in similar ways. Differences in the amygdala and hippocampus may be a shared diathesis for later negative outcomes related to ELS.
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Background and objectives. Cancer-related cognitive impairment has been acknowledged as a substantial limiting factor in quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. In addition to deficits on behavioral measures, abnormalities in neurologic structure and function have been reported. In this paper, we review findings from the literature on cognitive impairment and cancer, potential interventions, meditation and cognitive function, and meditation and cancer. In addition, we offer our hypotheses on how meditation practice may help to alleviate objective and subjective cognitive function, as well as the advantages of incorporating a meditation program into the treatment of cancer patients and survivors for cancer-related cognitive deficits. Findings. Various factors have been hypothesized to play a role in cancer-related cognitive impairment including chemotherapy, reduced hormone levels, proinflammatory immune response, fatigue, and distress. Pharmacotherapies such as methylphenidate or modafinil have been suggested to alleviate cognitive deficits. While initial reports suggest they are effective, some pharmacotherapies have side effects and may not relieve other symptoms associated with multimodal cancer treatment including sleep disturbance, nausea and pain. Several recent studies investigating the effects of meditation programs have reported behavioral and corresponding neurophysiological modulations that may be particularly effective in alleviating cancer-related cognitive impairment. Such programs also have been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, nausea and pain, and improve mood and sleep quality. Conclusions. With the increasing success of cancer treatment and the ability to return to previous family, social, and work activities, symptom management and quality of life are an essential part of survivorship. We propose that meditation may help to improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction, alleviate other cancer-related sequelae, and should be fully investigated as an adjuvant to cancer treatment.

Certain highly emotional experiences have the potential to produce long-lasting and meaningful changes in personality. Two such experiences are spiritual transformations and experiences of profound beauty. However, little is known about the cognitive appraisals or narrative elements involved in such experiences, how they are similar, and how they differ. In a study of emotion-related narratives, these experiences were found to share many features but also differ in their valence. Experiences of profound beauty are almost always positive, but spiritual transformations are both positive and negative. Moreover, spiritual transformations seem to produce long-lasting change, but experiences of profound beauty, although evocative, do not seem to produce long-lasting change. An emotion approach helps to elucidate two understudied but important emotional experiences.
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Contemplative practices, from meditation to Zen, are growing in popularity as methods to inspire physical and mental health. "Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health" offers readers an introduction to these practices and the ways they can be used in the service of well being, wisdom, healing, and stress reduction. Bringing together various traditions from the East and West, this thought-provoking work summarizes the history of each practice, highlights classic and emerging research proving its power, and details how each practice is performed. Expert authors offer step-by-step approaches to practice methods including the 8-Point Program of Passage Meditation, Centering Prayer, mindful stress management, mantram meditation, energizing meditation, yoga, and Zen. Beneficial practices from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic religions are also featured. Vignettes illustrate each of the practices, while the contributors explain how and why they are effective in facing challenges as varied as the loss of a partner or child, job loss, chronic pain or disease, or psychological disorders.

The Buddhist practice of mindfulness is being used more often both to help clients and to facilitate counselor effectiveness. A growing body of research supports these uses of mindfulness. Most authors also emphasize that those who teach mindfulness must also apply it themselves. However, little is known about how counselors and counselor educators incorporate mindfulness into their personal and professional lives. The current study used semistructured interviews to elicit such information from 6 counselors and counselor educators. A constant comparative method was used to analyze the data and synthesize themes. Emergent themes included practices used to cultivate mindfulness and the results of mindfulness practices.

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