Fashion genius and yoga devotee, Donna Karan, has just donated $850,000 to Beth Israel Medical Center in New York to test how yoga can help individuals undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
In 2001, Karan lost her own husband and business partner to lung cancer. From his death, she created the Urban Zen Foundation, a patient-advocacy organization that inspires change and raises awareness of integrative healing.
Yoga has long been close to Karan’s heart, even as she clocked 100-hour work-weeks creating her own signature DKNY line of clothing. She has been a dedicated practitioner of Ashtanga yoga for many years. As she sat bedside next to her ailing husband, she noticed as comprehensive as his care was, he was not treated or looked at holistically. Instead, he became an amalgam of laboratory tests, medications and advanced equipment. Not to say his care was anything less than excellent, but this absence of treating the whole person, stayed with her and prompted the seeds for this very generous gift to one of New York’s premiere hospitals.
This yearlong experiment will combine both Western and Eastern healing methods. Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and feng shui decor will reside next to radiation equipment and chemotherapy IVs. Renowned yoga teachers, Rodney Yee and wife Colleen Saidman Yee, will oversee the yoga instruction as 15 yoga teachers will work with non-terminal patients. In addition, nurses will be trained in relaxation techniques.
While many hospitals, hospices and health centers around the country have developed their own yoga programs in order to help patients improve the management of their care, no medical center has financed and integrated such a large-scale program that will also be researched and potentially used as a model elsewhere as Karan’s Beth Israel Medical Center experiment will in January.
Even though Eastern healing practices have long been criticized for not being able to be researched under Western scientific methods, there is the hope that Western medicine will start to develop and consider a new medical model that regards the powerful effect that healing modalities like yoga and meditation can have in the treatment of illness.