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Avera Center for MindBodySpirit
501 Summit
Yankton, SD 57078
Phone: 605-668-8715

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Avera Center for MindBodySpirit

Empowering Self Care, Improving Overall Health


The Avera Center for MindBodySpirit provides educational resources and experiences that promote the understanding of mindbodyspirit integration. The concept of the whole person with a mind, body, and spirit, not as separate parts, but united aspects of each person, is ancient and had been the central concept behind healing and medical care up until the 17th century. 

Our Focus

Shifting the Focus of Medicine

The technological advances in medicine have shifted the focus of medicine to what the medical practitioner can do for the patient. However, since the 1960’s, there has been a slow, determined trend in understanding and experiencing the crucial role of the patient’s own self-care. Optimal health care is now understood as not only utilizing pharmaceuticals, surgery and procedures when necessary, but additionally empowering the patient to practice self-care. This philosophy which emphasizes the patient’s capacity to actively contribute to their own health, recovery and well-being complements traditional medical care.


The Avera Center for MindBodySpirit promotes the belief that everyone has a largely untapped capacity to improve their own health and well-being through a combination of mindbodyspirit approaches, nutrition, yoga/exercise and group support.

MindBodySpirit medicine is uniquely positioned to help people suffering from stress-related disorders and from chronic pain. Recent research has shown that at least 70% of patients who see their primary physician have complaints in which stress is a major component. Teaching how to manage personal stress is a focal point of the programs at the Avera Center for MindBodySpirit.

Treated with MindBodySpirit Skills

The following disorders have been shown to be successfully treated with mindbodyspirit skills in conjunction with standard medical care:

  • Symptoms related to stress: Mindbodyspirit skills have successfully been shown to decrease the pain/intensity/frequency of tension headaches, chronic pain, insomnia, heart palpitations, hypertension, anxiety, mild depression, irritable bowel, and premenstrual syndrome.
  • Coronary artery disease:  Studies have shown that patients experience less angina (heart pain) and regression of coronary artery blockage, when combined with a low fat diet and mindbodyspirit skills.
  • Hypertension:  Blood pressure can be effectively lowered using mindbodyspirit skills so less medication is needed.
  • Cancer: Mindbodyspirit skills have been very effective in helping reduce the nausea, anxiety and fear associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Fibromyalgia: People who learn mindbodyspirit skills are reported to experience less pain and an increase in a sense of well-being.
  • Asthma:  People with asthma find that when they use mindbodyspirit skills with their prescribed medication that their asthma symptoms are better controlled.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes who have practiced mindbodyspirit skills lower their stress levels and manage their disease more effectively.

Classes Offered

The Living Well classes at the Avera Center for MindBodySpirit

All classes offered through the Avera Center for MindBodySpirit are entitled “Living Well” classes, with a two-fold meaning. The first and most obvious meaning points to the goal of the Center to help each of us learn how to foster a lifestyle of wellness by teaching self-care skills, empowering each person to become aware of their own mindbodyspirit gifts and to more consciously use them in promoting their own health and to cope with illness.

The second meaning reflects the belief that each of us has an inner “living well”, our spirit/soul that offers an inexhaustible source of spiritual refreshment and renewal. Becoming aware of this inner spirit, nurturing its life, promoting quiet/ reflection/prayer are teaching goals of the Living Well classes.

The Living Well classes meet for 8 weeks, 2 hrs. weekly. Participants meet in small groups with one of the professional staff of the Center.

What Patient's Learn:

  • The “Relaxation Response”, which is a state of deep rest that lowers the physical and emotional responses to stress, such as lowering the heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension
  • Cognitive-behavioral skills to manage stress
  • The powerful role of personal faith and spirituality in wellness and coping with illness
  • Gentle yoga stretching exercises
  • The use of imagery, mindfulness, and meditation in reducing stress
  • The ”whole foods” approach to healthy eating
  • The power of positive vs. negative thinking in lowering stress related symptoms

Our Location & Staff

he Avera Center for MindBodySpirit is located on the 4th floor of the Benedictine Center on the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital campus, Yankton, South Dakota. 


Michael R. McVay, M.D., cardiologist, Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C.; Medical director of the Avera Center for MindBodySpirit

Ellen R. McVay, MSW, LCSW-PIP; licensed certified social worker in private, independent practice