Researching the impacts of yoga and mindfulness

Fri, Jun 10, 2016

Vancouver, B.C. – Those familiar with yoga may recognize the term Sati, meaning mindfulness or awareness in Sanskrit. It applies in more ways than one to the unique research being undertaken by Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) psychology faculty member, Dr. Kyle Matsuba.

On educational leave in Uganda until August, Dr. Matsuba has been implementing a mindfulness program in northern Ugandan primary and nursery schools called MindUP. The program, designed by the Hawn Foundation and implemented in many schools in the Lower Mainland, instructs local teachers how to teach mindfulness and social and emotional skills to their students.

Most recently, Dr. Matsuba has incorporated self-care and mindfulness techniques into the teacher training to help teachers specifically deal with the stress they face from current impoverished conditions and past traumas.

“The majority of the teachers lived through the war in northern Uganda, and some were child soldiers with Joseph Kony's LRA,” explains Dr. Matsuba, referencing the country’s decades’ long civil war. “We hope that the training we provide will improve teachers’ psychological well-being, which has indirect benefits on the students they teach.”

Dr. Matsuba’s work also involves training local people in Uganda who then instruct their fellow teachers in mindfulness, and help to study the impact it has on pupils and the classroom environment.

Launched in 2012, the program and Dr. Matsuba’s work has been supported by grants and awards from KPU. Recently, the KPU instructor became one of the first researchers and academics in British Columbia to receive an international grant from the Mind & Life Institute. The $15,000 award supports research into the social and relational outcomes of contemplative practice.

“We are very excited about this grant opportunity. To have our proposal selected for funding is a sign of the confidence and hope that the Mind & Life Institute has in our research team. It’s also evidence that researchers from smaller, lesser-known institutions, such as KPU, can compete with better-known institutions in securing funding in international competitions,” said Dr. Matsuba, who is a Vancouver resident when not in Uganda.

“The grant will allow us to train a local, northern Ugandan in trauma care, allowing him or her to help his or her own people who have suffered and lost so much as victims of war,” he added.

Since 2013, the Mind & Life Institute has offered Mind and Life 1440 Awards – in partnership with the 1440 Foundation – to promote research that evaluates whether contemplative practice can promote inner well-being and healthy relationships in a variety of settings, including educational contexts.

With the support of the $15,000 grant, MindUP will run for another two years. The program has been well-received in primary and nursery schools in northern Uganda, and more schools have requested to have Dr. Matsuba and his team implement the program: more than is possible at the current level of funding.

To date, empirical results are positive across pupils in North America. Pupils have reported fewer depressive symptoms and behavioural problems, as well as more empathy.

More information on the Mind & Life Institute is available here.  

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at    

photo of Dr. Kyle Matsuba at work in Uganda is available on Flickr.

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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