In the News
Ease Depression with Meditation and Yoga Healthy Woman October 2010
Everyone feels down at times -- but if you’ve ever experienced the pervasive, persistent, profound sadness that characterizes depression, you know how debilitating this condition can be. Doctors try to help, but often treatment falls short. Therapists may not be available 24/7... and antidepressant medication can cause unacceptable side effects or fail to bring sufficient relief. That’s why I was heartened to learn that there are additional safe, effective options -- namely, meditation and yoga. I spoke with Kelly McGonigal, PhD, an instructor of yoga, meditation and psychology at Stanford University, who has extensive experience in this area. She said, "Certain meditation and yoga techniques have been shown to be particularly effective in restoring energy, enthusiasm, focus and self-esteem to people who are depressed... and you can practice them almost any time."
Befriend the Body: Yoga Can Help Ease the Challenges of an Autoimmune Disorder. Yoga Journal August 2010
"With autoimmune disorders, there can be a sense of betrayal because the body is literally attacking itself," McGonigal says. "Learning how to relate to the body in a compassionate way can be very healing."
Yoga, Self Care & The Dalai Lama: Q & A with Kelly McGonigal, PhD Mind Body Green June 2010
We talked to Kelly about yoga as "self-care," her collaboration with Tibetan monks including His Holiness, and her upcoming book The Science of Willpower.
Video Interview with Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard (I conducted this interview for the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education).
Living Yoga Radio Show. Original air date: May 14, 2010.
In this 1-hour show, I talked with host Robin Rothenberg about yoga therapy for pain relief, my personal path of yoga and meditation, and how compassion (for yourself and others) can be trained through both.
Stanford Researchers Say Yoga Key to Pain Relief Watch video here. CBS Evening News
Yoga Strengthens Mind, Body; Ousts Pain CNN.com May 21, 2010
"The best way to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses is to give the mind and body new, healthier responses to practice," wrote Dr. Kelly McGonigal, in her book Yoga For Pain Relief. "There are yoga practices for relaxation, reducing stress, dealing with difficult emotions, examining your thoughts and beliefs about pain, and training the mind to be less reactive to painful sensations," McGonigal wrote.The self-discipline and awareness can also change the way the body experiences and responds to pain.
The Healing Power of YogaYoga Journal May 2010
"The Western health care model looks at evidence-based medicine," says Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and yoga teacher and at the School of Medicine at Stanford University, and editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. "If you don't have peer-reviewed studies, people think that the modality must not work."
6 Ways to Boost Willpower U.S. News and World Report April 27 2010
Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making. "Paying attention to what's happening in the moment, what's going on in your body, your mind, and all around you, can make it easier to tune in to choices you make several hundred times a day when it comes to eating," says health psychologist Kelly McGonigal who teaches a class on the science of willpower at Stanford University. Click here to try one of her short meditation exercises.
Breathe Through It Women's Health April 2010
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, points to another weight-gain factor that can be regulated by breathing: heart rate variability (HRV), the moment-by-moment fluctuation that can help determine how you response to stress. "Studies show that people with a high HRV tend to have more self-control, and those with low HRV are more likely to give in to temptation."
"Stanford Yoga Instructor Writes the Book on Pain" Stanford Report February 2010
“What I want people to know about yoga is that even if you are on a ventilator in bed you can do yoga,” said McGonigal, who is an instructor for the Stanford Prevention Research Center, which operates the Health Improvement Program. “There’s this image of yoga as a trendy exercise that involves doing crazy things on a mat. That’s not what yoga is. There’s something for people in any type of pain.”
"Yoga as a Tool" American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology November 2009
"The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level," says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD. That's why more clinicians have embraced yoga as a complement to psychotherapy, McGonigal says. They're encouraging yoga as a tool clients can use outside the therapy office to cope with stress and anxieties, and even heal emotional wounds.
"Strike a Pose: Is Yoga Part of Your Pain-Relief Plan? There's Good Reason to Think It Should Be" Pain Solutions October 2009
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., author of the book Yoga for Pain Relief (New Harbinger, December 2009), believes that yoga can “create real and lasting change” in pain sufferers. “Sometimes that means the pain goes away. Sometimes it means you still have the sensation of pain, but it does not get in your way or affect your mood or enthusiasm for life in the same way.”
Perhaps most important, yoga makes it easier to tune in to what’s happening in your body. “People learn to reject the body when they are in pain,” McGonigal says. “They feel betrayed by their body and the fact that the body is getting in the way of their life.”
"Yin Yoga: Yang-Styles' Less Aggressive Counterpart" Los Angeles Times September 21, 2009
The centered and contemplative breathing seems to help release emotion, much like thawing ice, she says. Also, because much of the stretching is done when the body is cooler -- as opposed to yang yoga, in which the muscles have been warmed up -- the resulting discomfort helps train the nervous system to be less reactive to the stress of a stretch, McGonigal says.
"Inner IDEA: A Time-Out to Sample New Mind-Body Workout Techniques" Gaiam Life September 22, 2009
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book Yoga for Pain Relief and a regular instructor at Inner IDEA, and explained the conference’s palpable culture: “Teachers and students return to Inner IDEA year after year for the same reason we return to the yoga mat day after day: to remember things we know to be true but need to be reminded of. Inner IDEA was designed to help attendees remember the value of being in the present moment, refresh their sense of gratitude for life, and reconnect to their own inner strength, inner wisdom and inner joy.”
Listen to Kelly McGonigal and Halle Tecco discuss how yoga can support cancer survivors on public radio (original live broadcast June 26 2009. "Veronica Rueckert and her guests discuss the use of Yoga, meditation, and stress-reduction as a supplement to traditional medical treatments."
"Striking a Pose for Girth" The New York Times May 14 2009
Rather than creating separate classes for plus-size yogis, Ms. McGonigal said, she would prefer to see studios work harder to attract a broader cross-section of students to their open classes.
"Psychotherapy on the Yoga Mat: Talk, Share, Stretch!" Time Magazine April 14 2009
Psychotherapy has historically been an exercise of the mind, but in the offices of more and more modern-day mental-health providers, emotional healing is taking place not just on the couch, but on the yoga mat. The practice is quickly gaining popularity. There are now close to 50 schools of yoga offering yoga therapy training in the U.S. And the International Association of Yoga Therapists more than tripled its membership between 2003 and 2009, to about 2,500 members. "Now we have more licensed health-care providers, including psychologists, coming in who are interested in using yoga in their work," says Kelly McGonigal, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.
The Stupid Cancer Show (a radio show/podcast) March 23 2009
Yoga Bear founder Halle Tecco and mind-body/yoga expert Dr. Kelly McGonigal talk to Kairol Rosenthal (Author of "Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide To Cancer In Your 20's and 30's") and Matthew Zachary (Founder/CEO of the I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation) about yoga for cancer survivors.
"Pushing the Limits" Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor March 2009
McGonigal says that it has taken her years—and her share of "perfection-seeking injuries"—to learn that asanas aren't something to perfect but something to experience. "Always pushing to get better, improve, do more in the rest of our lives is what makes yoga practice necessary in our culture. We shouldn't need yoga to recover from our yoga practice."
"Project (E)motion: How Exercise Can Help You Heal" Fitness March 2009
The exercise-emotion connection is closer than many people realize....Once the body's stress-reducing, mood-boosting chemicals kick in--about 10 minutes into a moderate workout--"negative thinking is more easily pushed to the background, allowing people to put things into perspective," says psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, editor of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.
"The Enlightened Path, With a Rubber Duck" New York Times January 1 2009
“I do think there’s a trend toward lightening up in the yoga community,” said Kelly McGonigal, 31, the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy (found at iayt.org). “Mostly around the rigidity and humorlessness of doing things ‘the one right way’ — always having to get better, feeling like every yoga practice has to be one big self-improvement project.”
"Lessons from the Being Yoga Conference in NYC" Yoga Bear Newsletter Winter 2008
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, and Matthew Taylor, PhD, outlined the principles of yoga therapy and their approach to yoga as a healing practice. Kelly emphasized the true purpose: to end suffering....Kelly's approach takes the viewpoint that everything is as it should be in this moment. You are a being that is whole and not in need of changing in this moment.
"Interview with Kelly McGonigal, PhD." Integral Yoga Magazine Fall 2008
As editor of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy (published by the International Association of Yoga Therapists), Kelly McGonigal is on the cutting edge of the Yoga therapy field. Here, she shares, from her unique vantage point, her views on the field of Yoga therapy and professional development for Yoga therapists.
"Off the Couch and on to the Mat." Common Ground November 2008
Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, has noted a recent shift in psychotherapy as therapists turn to yoga for more effective ways to treat clients, especially those with long-standing issues. “What psychotherapists are beginning to realize is that the body has been left out,” says McGonigal.
"The Debt-Stress Connection." Web MD August 12 2008
Debt or money is such a pervasive and difficult kind of stress because it's so interconnected with other areas of our lives, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD.
"Your Health Depends on Friends and Neighbors." MSNBC June 17, 2008
Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University, said she’s not surprised that stronger social bonds play a big role in better health regardless of a person’s genetic makeup. “People who do not view the world as a supportive place are far more likely to have a fight-or-flight emergency response to minor stressors and challenges,” McGonigal said. “Over time, this chronic heightened stress reactivity makes the body vulnerable to a wide range of health problems, from the everyday cold to cardiovascular disease.”
"The Power of Connection." Fit Yoga June 2008
Yoga teacher and psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, reports that Americans are more socially isolated than ever before. In 2004, the average American had just two people to talk to about important matters; research shows that socially isolated individuals are 25 times more likely to die over a nine-year period than more socially connected people. Further, low levels of social support are associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other infectious diseases.
McGonigal suggests these meditations to help you feel a deeper sense of connection with yourself and others....
"Blogging for Health." Health June 2008
The impulse to write your way through a crisis is very healthy, according to Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a Stanford University psychologist. Writing about a stressful experience is one way to feel in control of it, which in turn lessens stress. "It's one of the most effective ways of making sense of what often feels senseless and overwhelming."
"What to Do with 20 Minutes." Women's Day April 15 2008
Try a simple yoga pose, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, health psychologist and yoga teacher at Stanford University: Set a timer for 20 minutes. Lie on your back, facing a wall, and slide your legs up the wall until they can rest comfortably. Support your neck with a small rolled-up towel. Close your eyes and place your hands on your belly to feel it rise and fall as you breathe In 20 minutes, you¹ll be surprisingly refreshed.
"What to Do Besides Eat [While You Watch TV]." My Family Doctor March/April 2008
Stretch! A single commercial (about 30 seconds) is the perfect length
of time to hold a stretch, and after several commercial breaks you'll
have reduced stress and tension in the whole body.
—Kelly McGonigal, PhD, health psychologist, yoga instructor, Stanford
"Mind & Body: The Cold War." Runners World February 2008
Problem: You're stressed. As a result, your body produces hormones that slow disease prevention. Deep breathing and yoga can help you have a healthier stress response, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a yoga instructor and Stanford University psychologist. Solution: Try this breathing technique....
"Got Debt? Financial Stress May Be Making You Sick." Money Matters February 2008.
If handled improperly, debt can quickly spiral out of control and lead to financial and emotional distress.... However, there are some conscious steps individuals can take to help reduce stress and chip away at debt, according to Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist and at Stanford University.
"Music Mellows ." Heart-Healthy Living Winter 2007
“The primary health benefits of music come from its mood-boosting effects,” says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist and educator at Stanford University who teaches people how to use music to improve their health. “A positive mood triggers a wide range of physiological responses: lowered heart rate and blood pressure, improved immune response, and reduced experience of pain,” she says.
"Gym-goers and Clubs Realize the Rewards of Fitness Friendships." MSNBC November 2007
Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University who teaches yoga and group fitness, wrote an article earlier this year in the IDEA Fitness Journal, a trade publication, urging fitness instructors to promote social connections with their clients. She says the benefits of fitness friendships are many. "Social connection amplifies the health benefits of exercise," she says. "It strengthens the immune system, protects the cardiovascular system, improves mood and makes you more resilient to stress. Social connection boosts motivation to work out and makes the experience more fun."
"Health & Wellness: Relax and Renew Yourself." Martha Stewart Weddings Fall 2007
Perhaps you can't avoid frayed nerves when you're planning a wedding, but you can use mind-body techniques such as yoga or meditation to keep from being overwhelmed. Try these examples from Kelly McGonigal, a yoga instructor and health psychologist at Stanford University....
"Between Poses." The New York Times August 23, 2007
The question is: What responsibility does a studio or a teacher have if one student is making another uncomfortable? Some instructors like Kelly McGonigal, 29, who teaches at Stanford University and at the Avalon Art and Yoga Center in Palo Alto, Calif., take matters into their own hands.
The Washington Post. July 24, 2007.
Live online discussion (60 minutes) with psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Topic: Stress, Debt, and Health. Full transcript available.
"In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body." The Washington Post July 24 2007
Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University who studies stress, called debt a "toxic version" of stress, the kind that "feels uncontrollable, is chronic in time, [and] is the most difficult kind of stress." Constant worrying over debt causes a "lingering feeling that something bad is going to happen to you, so you're having this brain-body experience of stress all the time. It can lead to catastrophizing" -- worsening a situation by imagining bad outcomes -- she said.
"Forgive Yourself."Yoga Journal December 2006
“Guilt and shame are destructive emotions," says Kelly McGonigal, who teaches yoga and is a research psychologist at Stanford University. "They may consume us, but they don’t do any good for the suffering of the other person.” Then why do we get so attached to these negative, destructive feelings? "Much of our identity is tied up in narratives about our past," McGonigal says, adding, "'We cling to emotional experiences that are familiar to us."
"Online Yogis." November 2006 issue of Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor
For some, the right book can serve as therapist and cheerleader. For others, the search for the perfect book becomes a way to avoid action and personal growth, says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, psychologist at Stanford University. "Some books are so comforting that reading them becomes a substitute for thinking about what needs changing," she explains.
"An Attitude of Gratitude." Yoga Life Summer 2006
Dr. McGonigal believes that it’s really through this cultivation of connection to others that we create thankfulness. As she puts it, “You sort of sneak up on the experience of gratitude.” All methods for gratitude practice are designed to remind you that you are not alone, and “they” are not out to get you. Says Dr. McGonigal, “Gratitude is essentially that deep knowing that we are dependent on others and finding comfort, not anxiety, in this.”
"Yoga Therapy." Pacific Sun Magazine May 2006
"In my own experience as a yoga teacher and psychologist, I see the greatest impact on emotional suffering. Many of my own students are dealing with depression, anxiety, and body-image issues. When yoga is helpful for psychological issues, it seems to be because the practice of yoga interrupts patterns of both the body and mind. We’re challenged to experience our bodies in a different way – as strong, as powerful, as able to feel pleasure and ease - and to pay attention to what is actually happening in the moment, instead of letting our minds run off on typical patterns of self-criticism or worry."
Yoga Peeps Podcast February 2006
Follow the link to listen to a 60-minute audio interview with Kelly McGonigal.
"Already Stressed?" The Stanford Daily, January 13 2005
McGonigal believes that the key to reducing stress is a matter of changing one’s perception of life. “Keep in mind the big picture — your goals, dreams and values, and how your actions now relate to them,” she said. “Keep your focus on the things that matter most to you.”
She also warned students not to sacrifice their current health and sanity to worry about a hypothetical future. “The best way to prepare to be happy in the future,” McGonigal said, “is to practice being happy now.”
"How to Create a Home Yoga Practice." Every Woman Magazine
Yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD, provides tips for personalizing your yoga practice and sticking with it.
To request an interview, contact kmcg @ stanford "dot" edu.