The Science behind Mind-Body Education

Peace. Balance. Flow. Harmony. 

These terms, and countless others, have been used to describe the various states of “being” that represent emotional, physical, intellectual, and social wellness.   To date, there is a growing body of evidence that supports different kinds of therapies and approaches for training our brains, our bodies, and our minds to think differently, process differently, and behave differently, all in the name of finding peace and reducing suffering. Cognitive based therapies are widely used in counseling, psychotherapy, and life coaching.  Brain “retraining” based on breakthroughs in the fields of neuroscience and neuroplasticity has changed the way institutions are treating survivors of traumatic brain injuries.  Education research on “visible thinking strategies” is informing the methods teachers use to help students make meaningful connections between ideas they engage in the classroom and the wealth of personal and cultural ideas they offer to the class as human beings in their own right. Meditation programs such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Techniques (MBSR) are being used in hundreds of hospitals, clinics, and medical centers worldwide because of their documented effects on the well-being of people with chronic disorders and diseases.

But are these ideas just limited to the brain and brain functions?

Not if we let our concept of well-being be influenced by the literature that points to specific ways that the body and its movement vocabulary can strongly impact the way we think about our thinking and learning, and ultimately how we think about our well-being.  Research on the effects of yoga, dance therapy, sensory-integration, and the emerging field of embodied cognition supports the concept that using the body for gathering and processing information about ourselves and the world around us is a critical element in retraining our thoughts, our brain.  In studies of yoga practices to manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress, for example, the focus on bodily sensations produced through movement offers a safe way for PTSD survivors to “feel” their bodies anew and associate the body with pleasant sensations.  And leading educational scholars have long emphasized the importance of the body when considering best practices for teaching judgment, discernment, and critical thought.  In The arts and the creation of the mind (2002),Stanford Professor Eliot Eisner wrote that:

Judgment depends on feel, and feel depends on a kind of somatic knowledge . . .The body is engaged, the source of information is visceral, the sensibilities are employed to secure experience that makes it possible to render a judgment and to act upon it. (p. 201)

Below is a list of references and publications that have deeply influenced our programming at Humanity Moves.  Our work in promoting well-being through mindful movement and the mind-body connection is multidisciplinary and multifaceted, which is reflected by the breadth of the fields that we look to for guidance and wisdom.

Bohm, D. (2013). On dialogue. Routledge.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikzentmihaly, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (Vol. 41). New York: HarperPerennial.

Dewey, John. (1985) Democracy and education, 1916. Eds. Jo Ann Boydston, and Patricia Baysinger. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. Yale University Press.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum International Publishing Group.

Hanna, B. (2001). Negotiating motherhood: the struggles of teenage mothers. Journal of advanced nursing, 34(4), 456-464.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (1994) Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. Hyperion.

Kramer, G. (2007). Insight dialogue: The interpersonal path to freedom. Shambhala Publications.

Koren, B. S. (2003). Movement experience (ME): A context of inquiry for professional development. The Humanistic Psychologist, 31(1), 43-73.

Langer, Ellen J. Mindfulness. Addison-Wesley/Addison Wesley Longman, 1989.

Meadows‐Oliver, M., Sadler, L. S., Swartz, M. K., & Ryan‐Krause, P. (2007). Sources of stress and support and maternal resources of homeless teenage mothers. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 20(2), 116-125.

Spear, L. P. (2000). Neurobehavioral changes in adolescence. Current directions in psychological science, 9(4), 111-114.

Stoller, C. C., Greuel, J. H., Cimini, L. S., Fowler, M. S., & Koomar, J. A. (2012). Effects of sensory-enhanced yoga on symptoms of combat stress in deployed military personnel. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy,66(1), 59-68.

Project Zero Publications: Harvard Graduate School of Education


Allen, M., Dietz, M., Blair, K., van Beek, M., Rees, G., Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., 
Lutz, A., & Roepstorff, A. (2012). Cognitive-Affective Neural Plasticity following Active-Controlled Mindfulness Intervention. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (44), 15601–15610

Biegel, G., Brown, K., Shapiro, S., & Schubert, C. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial.  Journal of Community and Clinical Psychology, 77, 855-866.

Bowen S., Witkiewitz K., Dilworth T., Chawla N., Simpson T., Ostafin B., Larimer M., Blume A., Parks G., & Marlatt A. (2006). Mindfulness Meditation and substance abuse in an incarcerated population.  Psychology of Addictive Behavior, 2,343-347.

Broderick, P. (2005). Mindfulness and coping with dysphoric mood: Contrasts with rumination and distraction.  Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29, 501-510.

Burke, C. (2010). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field.  Journal of Child & Family Studies, 19, 133-144.

Creswell, J., Way, B., Eisenberger, N., & Lieberman, M. (2007). Neural correlates of dispositional mindfulness during affect labeling.  Psychosomatic Medicine, 69, 560-565.

Davidson, R., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosendranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S., Urbanowski, F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570

Derezotes, D. (2000). Evaluation of yoga and meditation training with adolescent sex offenders.  Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 17, 97-113.

Ditto, B., Eclache, M., & Goldman, N. (2006). Short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of Mindfulness Body Scan Meditation.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 32, 227-234.

Evans-Chase, M. (2013) Internet-based Mindfulness Meditation and self-regulation: A randomized trial with Juvenile Justice involved youth. OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice, 3, 63-79.

Greeson, J. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008.  Complementary Health Practice Review, 14, 10-18.

Holzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Gard, T., & Lazar, S.  (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increase in regional brain matter density.  Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging, 191, 36-43.

Holzel, B., Ott, U., Hempel, H., Hackl, A., Wolf, K., Stark, R., & Vaitl, D. (2007). Differential engagement of anterior cingulated and adjacent medial frontal cortex in adept meditators and non-meditators.  Neuroscience Letters, 421, 16-21.

Huppert, F., & Johnson, D. (2010). A controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools: The importance of practice for an impact on well-being.  The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 264-274.

Ivanovski, B., & Malhi, G. (2007). The psychological and neurophysiological concomitants of Mindfulness forms of meditation.  Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 19, 76-91.

Jain, S., Shapiro, S., Swanick, S., Roesch, S., Mills, P., Bell, I., & Schwartz, G. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of Mindfulness Meditation versus relaxation training: Effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination and distraction.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 11-21.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). A description of Mindfulness Meditation.  Available at:

Ramel, W., Goldin, P., Carmona, P., & McQuaid, J. (2004). The effects of Mindfulness Meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression.  Cognitive Therapy & Research, 28, 433-455.

Semple, J., Reid, E., Miller, L. (2005). Treating anxiety with Mindfulness: An open trial for Mindfulness training in anxious children.  Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 19, 379-392.

Tang, Y., Lu, Q., Fan, M., Yang, Y., & Posner, M. (2012). Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation. Proceedings of the Nat Academy of Sciences, 109, 10570-10574

Williams, J., Duggan, D., Crane, C., & Fennell, M. (2006). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for prevention of recurrence of suicidal behavior.  Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 62, 201-210.


Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

Baer, J., & Maschi, T. (2003). Random acts of delinquency: Trauma and self-destructiveness in juvenile offenders. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 20, 85-98.

Baglivio, M., Epps, N., Swartz, K., Sayedul, M., Sheer, A., & Hardt N. (2014). The prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the lives of juvenile offenders.  Journal of Juvenile Justice, 3, 1-23

Bjerk D. (2007). Measuring the relationship between youth criminal participation and household economic resources.  Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 23, 23-39.

Bullis, M., Yovanoff, P., & Havel, E. (2004). The importance of getting started right: Further examination of the facility-to-community transition of formerly incarcerated youth. Journal of Special Education, 38, 80–94

Carlson K. (2006). Poverty and youth violence Exposure: Experiences in Rural Communities. Children & Schools, 28, 87-96.

Evans-Chase, M. (2014). Addressing trauma and psychosocial development in juvenile justice involved youth: A synthesis of developmental neuroscience, juvenile justice, and trauma literatures. Laws, 3(4), 744-758; doi:10.3390/laws3040744.

Evans-Chase, M. & Zhou, H.  (2014). A systematic review of the juvenile justice intervention literature: What it can (and cannot) tell us about what works with delinquent youth. Crime & Delinquency, 60, 453-472.

Evans-Chase, M., Kim, M., & Zhou, H. (2013). Risk-taking and self-regulation: A systematic review of the analysis of delinquency outcomes in the juvenile justice intervention literature 1996-2009. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 40 (6), 608 – 628.

Schnittker, J., & John, A. (2007). Enduring stigma: The long-term effects of incarceration on health.  Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 48, 115-130.

Scott, E. & Steinberg, L. (2008). Rethinking Juvenile Justice.  U.S.: President & Fellows of Harvard College

Sedlak, A., & McPherson, K. (2010). Conditions of confinement: Findings from the survey of youth in residential placement.  OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved from

Smith, D., & Ecob, R. (2007). An investigation into causal links between victimization and offending in adolescence.  The British Journal of Sociology, 58, 633-660.



Booth-Kewley, S., Larson, G., Highfill-McRoy, R., Garland, C., & Gaskin, T. (2010). Correlates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in Marines back from war. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23, 69-77.

Cauffman, E., Steinberg, L., & Piquero, A. (2005). Psychological, neuropsychological and physiological correlates of serious antisocial behavior in adolescence: The role of self-control.  Criminology, 43, 133-165.

Hoge, C., Castro, C., Messer, S., McGurk, D., Cotting, D., & Koffman, R. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. The New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 13-23.

Kasai K, Yamasue H, Gilbertson MW, Shenton ME, Rauch SL, Pitman RK. (2008). Evidence for acquired pregenual anterior cingulate gray matter loss from a twin study of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. Biol Psychiatry, 63, 550-556

Montgomery, A., Cutuli, J., Evans-Chase, M., Treglia, D., & Culhane, D. (2013). The Relationship Among Adverse Childhood Experiences, History of Active Military Service, and Adult Outcomes: Homelessness, Mental Health, and Physical Health. American Journal of Public Health, 103 (S2), S262-S268

Veterans for Common Sense, (2012). Iraq and Afghanistan Impact Report. Available from


Adolescent Development

Casey, B., Getz, S., & Galvan, A. (2008). The adolescent brain.  Developmental Rev, 28, 62-77.

Duke, N., Pettingell, S., McMorris, B., & Borowsky, I. (2010). Adolescent violence perpetration: Associations with multiple types of adverse childhood experiences. Pediatrics, 125, e778-e787.  Retrieved from

Ernst, M., Nelson, E., Jazbec, S., McClure, E., Monk, C., Leibenluft, E., Blair, J., & Pine, D. (2005).  Amygdala and nucleus accumbens in response to receipt and omission of gains in adults and adolescents.  NeuroImage, 25, 1279-1291.

Ernst, M., Pine, D., & Hardin, M. (2005). Triadic model of neurobiology of motivated behavior in adolescence.  Psychological Medicine, 36, 299-312.

Evans-Chase, M. (2014). The Neuroscience of Risk-Taking in Adolescence. In H. Matto, J. Strolin-Goltzman, & M. Ballan (Eds.), Social work and neuroscience: Implications for policy, practice, and research (pp 313-333). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Fareri, D., Martin, L., & Delgado, M. (2008). Reward-related processing in the human brain: Developmental considerations.  Developmental and Psychopathology, 20, 1191-1211.

Giorgio, A., Watkins, K., Chadwick, M., James, S., Winmill, L., Douaud, G., DeStefano, N., Matthews, P., Smith, S., Johansen-Berg, H., & James, A. (2010). Longitudinal changes in grey and white matter during adolescence.  NeuroImage, 49, 94-103.

Kambam, P., & Thompson, C. (2009). The development of decision-making capacities in children and adolescents: Psychological and neurological perspectives and their implications for juvenile defendants.  Behavioral Science and the Law, 27, 173-190.

Luna, B., Padmanabhan, A., & O’Hearn, K. (2010). What has fMRI told us about the development of cognitive control through adolescence?  Brain and Cognition, 72, 101-113.

Nelson, E., Leibenluft, E., McClure, E. & Pine, D. (2005).  The social re-orientation of adolescence: A neuroscience perspective on the process and its relation to psychopathology.  Psychological Medicine, 35, 163-174.

Nelson, T., & Nelson, J. (2010). Evidence-based and the culture of adolescence.  Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41, 305-311.

Somerville, L, Jones, R., & Casey, B. (2010). A time of change: Behavioral and neural correlates of adolescent sensitivity to appetitive and aversive environmental cues.  Brain and Cognition, 72, 124-133.

Steinberg, L. (2008). A social neuroscience perspective on adolescent risk-taking.  Developmental Review, 28, 78-106.

Steinberg, L., Albert, D., Cauffman, E., Banuch, M., Graham, S., & Woolard, J. (2008) Age differences in sensation seeking and impulsivity as indexed by behavior and self-report: Evidence for a dual systems model.  Developmental Psychology, 44, 1764-1778.


What is Mindfulness?

Existing in the here and now, moment by moment without judgment.

There are many definitions for mindfulness.  Diana Winston of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center defines mindfulness as:  “Paying attention to present moment experience with open curiosity and a willingness to be with what is.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR)  program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center offers this definition:  “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.”

Mindfulness is a practice. It is a conscious, intentional slowing down of our thoughts, words, and actions to counter the harmful effects of habitual mindlessness. It is practice of observing our own sensations, feelings, thoughts and mental narratives as they arise, but without judgment.  Mindfulness techniques can be found in ancient traditions and religions, such as Buddhist meditation, Christian devotional prayer, and Hatha yoga.  Certain mindful meditation instruction is done seated or lying down, as to promote mental and physical stillness.  Other mindfulness techniques, such as Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR, promote a complementary relationship between the mind and the body, without privileging one over the other.  In other words, paying attention to our bodies and our movements opens up new possibilities for how we gain insight into the causes of suffering and how to free ourselves from those causes.


Stress Reduction and Well-Being

There is a growing body of evidence that suggest that mindfulness techniques employed in MBSR and mindful movement programs such as yoga are extremely effective in reducing symptoms of hyperarousal and emotional reactivity.  When done without judgment or in a quest for physical “perfection”, these practices restore decision-making power lost from trauma-induced learned helplessness.

What is mindful movement?

Mindful movement is the practice of using your own body to gently become aware of your internal and external states.  It is non-judgmental, and free of any rules that define what your body should or shouldn’t look like.  Simply put, it is “mindfulness in motion.”

There are many forms of mindful movement.  It can be done seated in a chair, on a yoga mat, or in a vigorous dance class.  It can be as simple as going for a walk while noticing the sensations of your feet as they make contact with the ground.  While there are various movement disciplines that incorporate elements of mindfulness, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Gyrokinesis, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Ideokinesis, and many kinds of modern dance, nobody owns “mindful movement”, and as such it can be accessed and practiced freely by anyone seeking to deepen their awareness of their thoughts, sensations, physical and emotional states by fully inhabiting the body.  Mindful movement is not about “turning off the brain”; rather, it embraces the totality of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations while we are in motion.


Thich Nhat Hanh demonstrates Ten Mindful Movements, which he designed as a way to break up long periods of sitting meditation.


From 2009 to 2010, Suzie Verdin organized various creative movement workshops for the children of Casa Hogar Elim, an orphanage in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Humanity Moves is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.