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Fashion designer launches Zen Therapy at UCLA

November 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Fashion designer Donna Karan helped care for her husband, Stephen Weiss, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. But it distressed her to find out there was no alternative therapy - like yoga or acupuncture - offered along with the traditional medical treatment to help with pain and anxiety.

After he died, she was motivated to do something about it. Karan launched the Zen Therapy program at UCLA from her Urban Zen Foundation, and it's about healing at the bedside.

"We train in-bed yoga, reiki, aromatherapy ... palliative care ... and nutritional work. Holistically, we look at the body, so it's not just yoga," she said.

When you meet Karan, you can see firsthand her passion for this program, and it's success.

She first launched it in New York at Beth Israel Medical Center and had such great results, she was asked to bring it to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Yoga master Rodney Yee helped create the program.

"Now we get to really work hand in hand with the hospitals to really bring it to the place where it's most needed," Yee said.

Lyndsey Harhay, a cancer patient, said it was hard to be comfortable in the hospital.

"I think this Urban Zen will help. If you have the 'do not disturb' sign, and you're able to actually get a few moments to yourself, then get this treatment because it just helps you relax," she said.

"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.

Ernesto Vargas says learning to breathe has helped him tame anxiety and pain. He's on his second liver transplant.

"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."

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