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An Email from the Director of The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

mental health Sep 20, 2013

August 27, 2013

Dear Dr. Insel,

My name is Brooke West and I am a Yoga and meditation instructor. I work as a Yoga therapist. My interest is in teaching Yoga therapy as adjunctive treatment for bipolar disorder and the research of that.

Recently, your TED talk came across my screen and I was impressed by your tone and compassion, potentially changing the stigmatizing term “mental illness” to a more objective “brain disorder.”

This weekend, you appeared on my computer screen again as I watched a Charlie Rose episode that aired in July on the Brain Initiative.

I thank you for your work, your calm demeanor and for your time.

I am moved to write to you because of the dearth of research in this field.

In my experience, for this population, medication works best in conjunction with lifestyle, breath and movement modifications. My experience is both personal and professional.

Yoga, meditation and any repetitive movement with breath (including Tai Chi, Qi Gong, rosary prayers and exercise)  show changes in neurological activity. This can, consequently, affect one’s behavior, interpersonal relationships, one’s community and society as a whole. I have seen it in my work, in which I include Yoga postures and other techniques from the breadth of the Yoga philosophy.

I will continue my teaching and counseling.

With regard to academic researchers interested in this sort of work, or in collaboration, including individuals or boards furthering their humanitarian missions of easing the effects brain disorders through any means that works, or any other suggestions from your end of the spectrum, I would most appreciate you keeping me – and this approach – in mind.


Brooke West, BS

Ananda Yoga® teacher, Ananda Meditation® teacher

Member, International Association of Yoga Therapists



Dear Ms West,

Thanks for your note.  NIMH has been interested in meditation and mindfulness for some time.  Agree that the combination of approaches will be important, giving people many options for what works best.  Our research portfolio includes a range of studies, from Richie Davidson’s work on meditation and the brain to more applied studies of mindfulness as an adjunct to biomedical approaches.  I encourage you to continue your own journey in this area.  While we have 50 years of experience with biomedical treatments, the tradition of meditation goes back many hundreds of years, with benefits that have been known for centuries.



Tom Insel

Thomas R. Insel, MD


Bethesda, MD 20892

301-443-3673 (ph)


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