Written by Laura Roe Stevens | Photographed by Vincent Rios
Reducing stress is paramount to good health and wellbeing. This is why
“mindfulness” has become a popular catchphrase in our country.
Mindful living, or present-state awareness best reached via meditation,
yoga and other practices, is for anyone who’d like a healthier life.
Studies conducted by Harvard University, UCLA and the Centers for Disease
Control showed a reduction of stress, depression, insomnia, anger and
reactivity among its participants who meditated. Studies also show how
meditators increased compassion levels, patience, empathy, focus and gratitude.
For these reasons Torrance Memorial Medical Center offers mindful learning
opportunities via drop-in meditation sessions for physicians and staff;
beginner yoga and meditation classes; healthy living workshops for patients
and community members; and outpatient meditation, massage and holistic
Daily meditator and mindfulness expert Albert Grabb, MD, a radiologist
at Torrance Memorial, feels as if his life has improved significantly
due to his regular meditation practice. “It has been of extraordinary
benefit to my life,” Dr. Grabb says.
The physician, who has become certified in mindful awareness practices,
unified mindfulness and compassion cultivation training, has helped start
weekly drop-in meditation sessions for Torrance Memorial staff. Why? Because
he knows the transformation that can come from starting a daily practice.
“I have much less anxiety. I can more easily regulate my emotions.
I can focus on what I need to do,” he explains. “My relationships
with family, friends and colleagues have improved. I have more gratitude
for everything in my life. Food, movies, music and sex are all a lot better.”
The Science of Relaxation
Scientists are now studying how mindfulness practices aid in patients’
recovery. Clearly, lowering stress hormones such as cortisol and glucagon
can only aid in one’s quality of life. Scientists quantified this
specifically by observing breast cancer patients participating in a collaborative
study between the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
(NCCIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
“There is evidence that mindfulness-based stress reduction—a
type of meditation training—can help cancer patients relieve anxiety,
stress, fatigue and general mood and sleep disturbances, thus improving
their quality of life. Most participants in mindfulness studies have been
patients with early-stage cancer—primarily breast cancer—so
the evidence favoring mindfulness training is strongest for this group
of patients,” says Miriam Sleven, RN, director of the cancer survivorship
program at Torrance Memorial.
Other research has linked awareness training with a boost in long-term
memory and focus. There are studies showing meditation’s benefit
to overcoming addiction. Athletes who meditate before games claim it helps
them “see” the win and increase drive and motivation while
reducing fear and doubt.
Being Present In the Real World
A mindful mind, one that openly observes one’s physical, mental and
emotional experiences without judgment, allows for the cultivation of
gratitude, acceptance, reliance, response verses reactivity, and love
in all its forms. How does that work?
Experts like David Ji and Deepak Chopra explain how practices such as meditation,
Tai Chi and yoga help us break free from the ego, our nonstop thinking
mind that drives thoughts of fear, cravings, criticism and feelings of
longing or lack. When we pause during meditation and find stillness, we
connect to the observer mindset. We can then see without judgment that
we are not our thoughts, not our feelings, not our body—we are the
observer. (Find free guided mediations at
I’ve been teaching yoga and meditation since 2013. In my 650 hours
of yoga trainings, I’ve been introduced to many types of meditation.
Many beginners are surprised to know they don’t have to sit in lotus
pose and that they can even practice mindfulness while brushing their
teeth or running (see
Mindfulness Tips for Beginners).
If you have never meditated and have a hard time sitting still for lengths
of time, try a guided meditation. Why? Because you can put on earphones,
listen and let go. Experts like Chopra offer free 21-day meditation challenges
(chopracentermeditation.com) where beginners can meditate the entire month
for free, in the comfort of their home.
Nicole Alexander, MD, a family medicine practitioner at Torrance Memorial
Physician Network, also likes the guided Chopra meditations but reminds
her patients they are 15 minutes in length. Some may need to start out
with just deep breathing, then move up to three- or five-minute meditations.
“I struggled with meditation and was restless when I first started,”
explains Dr. Alexander, who now meditates twice a day: once in the morning,
once in the evening. “I’m a type-A multitasker, so to slow
down was a hard sell. But I’ve noticed that meditation levels my
stress and I’m able to do more with the pause, as creative thoughts
come with solutions and I have a higher mindset.”
Dr. Alexander studied integrative Ayurveda medicine at the University of
Arizona with well-known integrative physician Andrew Weil, MD, so she
can offer other healing modalities to patients who are interested.
Mind-Body Therapy Offerings
Torrance Memorial also offers mind-body holistic healing therapies for
patients, staff and community. Recently its Urban Zen Integrative Therapy™
program received a four-month pilot project grant to expand services within
the oncology department, says Vickie Hershberger, MA, coordinator of the
Health & Healing Program at Torrance Memorial.
The program is trademarked as it is affiliated with Donna Karan’s
program, inspired by her husband’s notice of stressed staff workers
when in the hospital for cancer treatment. The idea behind the program
is to offer stress-reducing therapies, incorporating mind-body approaches
to traditional medicine. This program began in February with patients
in the hospital; however, Torrance Memorial has been offering a full range
of complementary wellness treatments for patients, staff and community
for years, aimed to “reduce stress, decrease pain, boost relaxation,
mood, blood flow and circulation—while stimulating the body’s
ability to heal,” says Hershberger.
Therapies include yoga, meditation, Reiki, healing touch; lymphatic, pregnancy,
oncology massages; reflexology and acupressure; and craniosacral. For
an appointment, call Community Health Education at 310-517-4711.
Torrance Memorial Medical Center is dedicated to promoting wellness in
all its forms. Laura Roe Stevens teaches beginning yoga and meditation
classes Mondays at 4:15 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Please visit
the website for a full list of yoga, dance and tai chi classes. Here is
a list of events that may also be of interest. (Dates are subject to change.
For more information, or to register when required, go to
TorranceMemorial.org/classes or call 310-517-4711.)
HOW TO BEAT EVERYDAY STRESS
$55 for a 5-week series ($50 ADV/emp/vol), 6:30 to
8 p.m. Wednesdays, August 28 to September 25.
A TASTE OF MEDITATION
$22 ($20 ADV/emp/vol), 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 13 & 20 / June
5 & 12 / October 16 & 23.
Free, Tuesdays, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Weekly drop-in support group of people
coming together to meditate. Not a class but a chance to practice meditation.
Hoffman Health Conference Center, Room 3.