Koru is a mindfulness and meditation training program developed by Duke University psychiatrists Holly Rogers, MD and Margaret Maytan, MD for their undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike some mindfulness programs that require an in-class commitment of 8 weeks or longer, Koru meets once a week for four, intensive 75-minute sessions. It is an evidence-based, high-impact curriculum designed to teach a set of core mindfulness skills that include several types of meditation and yoga-derived techniques.

Although it was originally developed for university students, Koru’s approach fits the lifestyles and orientations of a wide range of us, from teenagers, to middleagers, to seniors. In a nutshell, here’s what the Koru Mindfulness program looks like:

  • Four, 75-minute sessions.
  • Classes are small groups with maximum of 12 students.
  • Each session includes:
    • Short opening meditation
    • Check-in
    • Mind-body skill
    • Mindfulness meditation practice

Visit Koru’s website for details on their program and its record of success. Below is an excerpt from the Koru Story:

The idea, says Rogers, is to take age-old techniques— from breathing techniques to visualization exercises and guided meditations—and apply them to the specific context and challenges of the college environment:

“We stripped away anything that felt too vague or wishy washy. We set all of our teaching within the context of student life. We gave the students homework. And we emphasized daily practice in short, manageable doses.”

Rogers and Maytan began developing a class aimed specifically for students and young adults, with a focus on accessibility, practicality, and immediate results. Rogers explains more:

“We started looking at the strengths and needs of our students. They did well with structure. They craved direction. And they needed context to understand the relevance of what they were learning. Yet mindfulness was typically taught in a very open fashion, it lacked context. And it relied on participants’ own discipline and determination. We decided to turn everything on its head.”

Rogers and Maytan named their class “Koru,” a New Zealand Maori word for the spiral shape that represents balanced growth. As word of their approach got out, classes started to fill up – soon they were recruiting more teachers and even having to turn students away. The results, says Rogers, were often dramatic and reached well beyond the academic:

“There’s this grad student, let’s call him John. And he’s having a really hard time. He feels constantly criticized and belittled by his supervisor. He can’t stand him, and finds himself dreading coming to work. Next thing you know, John takes some of our classes. He starts looking at things differently, and understanding his situation as both complex and temporary. He finds he no longer hates his job. Nothing’s really changed about his situation. It’s just how John relates to it that’s shifted.”

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