Mind Over Matters

student in front of poster explaining meditation study

Six weeks of yoga and meditation proved a potent prescription for students who participated in a recent College of Pharmacy study.

Conducted by pharmacy student John Hoolahan ’19, Virginia Lemay, clinical associate professor of Pharmacy, and Ashley Buchanan, assistant professor of Pharmacy, the study, titled “Samyama: Stress, Anxiety, Mindfulness: A Yoga and Meditation Assessment,” found students reporting increased mindfulness coupled with decreased stress and anxiety levels after a month-and-a-half of weekly practice. Seventeen students participated. About half of those were pharmacy students.

The students undertook a one-hour vinyasa yoga class, led by Lemay, a registered yoga teacher, followed by guided meditation, facilitated by Buchanan, who is interim director of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Providence. Students completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of the program, assessing their stress, anxiety, and mindfulness levels.

“This aspect of our lives shouldn’t be independent of our work and school lives.” Ashley Buchanan, assistant professor, pharmacy

“Samyama” is a Sanskrit word describing a state in which the mind and body are unified in focus on the present moment, i.e. mindfulness. Hoolahan, who is also a Reiki master, said the study evolved out of conversations he had with Lemay about integrating his spiritual life with his academic and professional pursuits. “I was coming out of a time when I was very unsure as to what I wanted to be on this earth for,” Hoolahan said. “This showed me I’m capable of merging these two worlds that I’ve found.”

Lemay presented the study findings in poster form at the midyear conference of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. Attendees were enthusiastic. “I can’t tell you the number of people who took pictures of the poster,” Lemay said.

Another conference presentation and a paper are planned. The popularity of the study — and a spin-off weekly meditation class — have the trio considering what they might do next. Hoolahan would like to do more research and find a larger space to make yoga, meditation, and Reiki available to more people.

The need is real, the three agreed.

“This aspect of our lives shouldn’t be independent of our work and school lives,” Buchanan said.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect of the students. I thought, they may not take it seriously,” Lemay said. “I was so impressed by their maturity and poise. They were there because they wanted to be there. We need to continue to support these students.”