Health and well-being issues touch us all, and all those we love. Inspired by the life and courage of the people around them, Donna Karan and Sonja Nuttall laid the groundwork for an unprecedented event that would bring people together in a setting where they could share their experiences, voices and ideas about healthcare. Out of that vision was born the Urban Zen Well-Being Forum.

Ten days in May of 2007 were designed and carefully planned to bring a dream to reality: designing and hosting a forum for the exchange of ideas between patients and world-renown doctors, nurses, yoga instructors and alternative healthcare practitioners. The result was pure inspiration, with a wellspring of ideas, potential initiatives and creative solutions to serious healthcare problems. The hopes and needs expressed by the professionals on the panel and those in the audience underscored that patient care and advocacy is at a critical impasse. Collectively, we sensed we were at a defining moment illustrating can be achieved when science and creativity come together.

The Well-Being Forum not only met our goals, but transcended them: there was one voice, one hope and one intention to move forward with increased energy. Through our combined and continued efforts, Urban Zen is becoming a part of the larger global well-being movement. Our name is becoming synonymous with hope and healing.


Without question, at one point or another in our lifetime, each of us will be a patient as will our loved ones. Before this possibility becomes a reality, we all need to consider what is important in patient care. The voice of the patient should be listened to and heard. Please take a moment to watch this video to learn why Urban Zen was inspired to make healthcare and well-being an initiative of great

importance and passion.


Imagine a healthcare system where the patient is treated, not just the disease. Imagine a system where eastern healing techniques, yoga therapy, essential oil therapy and nutrition are used in combination with western medicine in a holistic approach to patient care. In 2009, the Urban Zen Foundation launched the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (UZIT) aimed toward realizing this vision. The UZIT program includes training in yoga therapy, essential oil therapy, Reiki, nutrition, and contemplative care giving. Most participants – doctors, nurses, physical and massage therapists, dentists, and experienced yoga instructors amongst others – are dual credentialed. The 12-month curriculum addresses the key patient symptoms of PANIC – Pain, Anxiety, Nausea, Insomnia, Constipation, and exhaustion – and includes clinical rotations.



Community Service is one of several unique requirements that the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program students must fulfill to complete training. These fifteen hours have proven to be emotionally, physically and spiritually impactful for therapist and patient alike as the work of the UZIT program is shared with the community at large. From volunteering at events across the nation, such as VDay to the Winter 2009 Special Olympics, Fashion’s Night Out, and the Yoga Journal Conferences, our UZIT students continue to demonstrate the wide scope of applications from hospitals to patient advocacy and crisis situations as well as the athletic arena.


VDAY IN NEW ORLEANS – VDAY weekend in New Orleans brought together more than 6,000 female survivors of Hurricane Katrina. UZ was on hand at the Superdome to treat these special guests to the benefits of yoga therapy and essential oil therapy to reduce the symptoms of panic, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and constipation. READ MORE

WINTER 2009 SPECIAL OLYMPICS – A heartfelt experience for international athletes, trainers, coaches and family members, UZIT therapists shared Reiki, restorative yoga poses and essential oil therapy with more than 400 guests illustrating how effectively these therapies address the needs of athletes. READ MORE

BOSTON YOGA JOURNAL CONFERENCE – Donna Karan introduced Urban Zen Foundation to 60 yogis and the Yoga Journal community through a video presentation and inspirational dialogue. READ MORE

SAN FRANCISCO YOGA JOURNAL CONFERENCE – January 16 was Urban Zen Day at the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference. Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee and Jamie Naughright introduced 35 students to the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program. READ MORE

NEW YORK YOGA JOURNAL CONFERENCE – UZ Day at Yoga Journal Conference, “Caring for the Caregiver,” brought together over 150 guests who gathered to hear Urban Zen Integrative Therapist faculty members, Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee, Jamie Naughright, Reiki Master Pamela Miles and Young Living Essential Oils aromatherapist Tracey Griffith. READ MORE

COLORADO YOGA JOURNAL CONFERENCE – Surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Urban Zen hosted its fourth Urban Zen Day at the 14th annual Yoga Journal Colorado Conference in a workshop that focused on the importance of preventative practice and self-care for knee injuries both on and off the yoga mat. READ MORE

FASHION WEEK – Before and after Donna’s fashion shows, UZIT therapists offered Reiki and essential oil therapy at the Urban Zen Store. READ MORE


The Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program has a yearly enrollment process. For information on the next application process, please email Lisa Ruperti at UZIT2010@urbanzen.org



Donna Karan and Urban Zen Foundation partnered with Beth Israel Medical Center (BIMC) to create opportunities for research on integrative therapies and to develop a pilot program that enhances the care of cancer patients. The goal of this program is to create an Optimal Healing Environment that is built around a menu of complementary healing therapies. READ MORE




“[The Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program] puts me in an emotional pliable state of mind where I can tune out a lot of this disease prone atmostphere because everything you look at here is clincal. But it takes you to another and different emotional and spiritual level. If you can get away from this… for just a few moments or an hour, that is a good thing.”

SHANA KUHN-SIEGEL – Yoga Coordinator / Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program at BIMC

“Working with caregivers and hospital staff initially had a lot of unknowns. I didn’t speak their language and they didn’t speak mine. But by acknowledging their efforts and contributions and offering information about the integrative therapies, it was amazing to see them accept the therapies and me.”

DR. MARTIN KARPEH – General Surgeon, BIMC

“I was a bit skeptical at first myself, but to see a patient who got nausea after a major abdominal surgery and they take part in [essential oil therapy] or acupuncture and you begin to see some of that nausea be relived. It truly is a compliment to what we use.”



Co-Director, Integrative Yoga Therapy Program
Rodney Yee has been curious about the mind and body for as long as he can remember. Upon taking his first yoga class in 1980, he knew it would be a lifelong passion. Now that his mind and body are going through midlife, he is much more curious about the spirit. His spirit is fed by his wife, Colleen Saidman and his four children. Teaching is still a main vehicle for Rodney to understand union. He has created dozens of DVDs through Gaiam and two books, “Yoga: The Poetry of the Body” and “Moving Toward Balance,” both written with Nina Zolotow. Rodney is also co-founder, with Colleen

, of the Gaiam Yoga Club.


Co-Director, Integrative Yoga Therapy Program
In 1994, after enduring back surgery, Colleen Saidman Yee’s commitment to yoga practice deepened. Upon graduating from Jivamukti’s Teacher Training program in 1998, Colleen began her career as a yoga instructor. Her passion for working in health care started at a geriatric center while still an adolescent. Certified in Shiatsu, Colleen traveled throughout Europe and Asia studying complementary medicine and spiritual healing. She has lived in Calcutta, India working with Mother Theresa at the Home of the Destitute and Dying. Currently, Colleen serves as a co-chair of the Urban Zen Foundation’s Wellbeing Initiative, dedicated to bringing yoga, essential oil therapy, Reiki, nutrition and contemplative care to hospitals. Colleen has been featured in both “The New York Times” and “New York Magazine,” on a cover of “Yoga Journal” and has been featured in several best-selling yoga DVDs. Colleen is the owner and Director of Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, N.Y. She also leads national and international retreats and teacher trainings, many with her husband Rodney Yee.


Director, Contemplative Care
Joan Halifax Roshi is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and author. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. For the past twenty-five years, she has been active in environmental work. Roshi Joan Halifax is a distinguished invited scholar to the Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist to be on the Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Foundation. She is Founder and Director of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She is founder of the Ojai Foundation, was an Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University, and has taught in many universities, monasteries, and medical centers around the world. Roshi Joan Halifax studied for a decade with Zen Teacher Seung Sahn and was a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism.


Director of Essential Oil Therapy
Tracy Griffiths, who teaches the aromatherapy component of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program, passionately shares her knowledge for natural healing principles to students all over the world. Tracy utilizes and weaves her training in the martial arts and polarity therapy offering a diverse, integrative and practical approach to the field of energy medicine. Tracy co-founded and directs the Life Energy Institute, an integrative educational center for proper use of essential oils in conjunction with other therapies such as Polarity Therapy, Cranial Sacral Unwinding and Somatic Trauma Resolution. She is greatly devoted to sharing her knowledge with others for the purpose of personal deepening and connection to their own inner wisdom.


Director, Integrative Reiki
Reiki Master Lena Falth’s healing mission began with a near-death experience in 1995, which was followed by her Reiki training in the revered, traditional Mikao Usui-Hawayo Takata Lineage.Her background includes developing clinical research trial results of the University of Chicago into educational material and training doctors and hospital staff in new technology. Today Lena’s private healing practice serves many prominent figures in the arts and entertainment, politics and business fields. Her practice includes sacred training workshops to awaken the mind, body and soul connection in order to heal and improve the quality of our stressful lives. Having begun her 15-year Reiki practice in hospitals and hospices, Lena’s current mission is to educate and meet the needs of professional health care providers, nurses and community members with evidence based knowledge about the importance of Reiki energy therapy in integrative healthcare.


Thank you to all our guest speakers. We are honored to learn from you.



Financial support is critical to any philanthropic effort. Urban Zen’s future depends in part on contributions made by our community. Any monetary contribution will assist in the continued programming and events that gather us together to learn, become inspired and create change.

By making a donation to the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program, your contribution can be used to assist funding for:

* Continued research on the impact of integrative therapy for patients
* Creating paid integrative therapist positions at clinical sites
* Tuition scholarships to train future integrative therapists
* Purchasing equipment and tools for training

Contributions are not limited to monetary donations. Urban Zen is a community for collaboration. If you have services or products that you believe will assist Urban Zen in raising awareness of our initiatives and inspiring change, please contact Gabrielle Frackman gfrackman@urbanzen.org


Donating online is fast and easy. Make a gift that will help the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program accomplish its mission.



Rodney Yee and his family have generously established two scholarships dedicated to assisting students of integrative therapies to acquire their training and participate in the movement to raise the profile of integrative therapies. Your donation to these scholarships makes it possible for students to be a part of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program.


For more information about sponsorships opportunities, please call 212.414.8520 or email info@urbanzen.org


As a nonprofit with limited resources, we are dependent on volunteers. We are always looking for great people who can provide invaluable support. Please email UZIT2010@urbanzen.org for more information on how you can help.


705 Greenwich Street, 3rd floor
New York,
NY 10014

Lisa Sunshine
Program Adminstrator


Frequently asked question about the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE