MINDFULNESS has become a fad known for calming the mind but how does it work? Health reporter Kate Liptrot heads to a class in York to find out.

In an airy room at the back of York library a group of people are learning how to live in the moment.

The hustle and bustle of Friday afternoon in the city centre is a distant hum as desks of people sipping cups of tea train their sights on a classroom screen, learning how to focus on the now.

Most have suffered anxiety or depression and many have been referred by their GP or hospital, while others have heard about the free course by word-of -mouth.

From across the room the soothing voice of teacher Mark Willis tells us how we can improve our wellbeing by simply focusing on the moment and not the past or the future. "The present moment is all you will ever have", he reminds his audience.

Mindfulness has become a hugely popular nationally and in York some 130 people a week are now attending the council-coordinated classes - a huge increase on last year. Based on centuries-old Buddhist meditation practices and cognitive therapy, mindfulness is prescribed to thousands of patients on the NHS each year to help prevent anxiety, depression and stress.

This week the class has been tasked to break habits in order to see the potential in life.

The changes are simple - one woman tells how she put honey on her porridge, and a man speaks about how he put his phone and laptop to one side to really concentrate on a programme - but they all agree the changes have been conducive to taking pleasure in life. By making small changes and seeing possibility you can live in the moment rather than simply existing.

Teacher Mark said he came across mindfulness while coping with the pressure of looking after his two autistic children.

"I used to get very stressed about it," he said.

"I was as cynical as anyone else about mindfulness - I had the idea of people sitting cross legged. But then I just found it worked. It's so logical.

"You think 60,000 thoughts a day and it's a bit like ripples in a pool, if you follow all of them, no wonder you feel so stressed."

He relates to his own experiences when taking to the class.

If you wake up in the middle of the night consumed with worries or thoughts bring your thoughts back to focus on the now, he said, consider how comfortable your bed is, where you are, think "I am here and at this moment I am fine".

The group has also been taking part in "mindful walking" in their own time, to walk and appreciate the beauty in life and be curious what is happening around them. This gives perspective on worry, he said.

Speaking after a group meditation session, Mark said he feels he is just brushing the surface with the potential for mindfulness in York.

"There have been so many mental health things closed in York - as a GP you put people on pills or a waiting list. This is an escape valve, it's the most successful thing I have ever done.

"It's easy to say the results are fantastic, but they are. We have had people who could not leave the house, but now they can.

"It simply calms people down."

To find out more about mindfulness classes in York, email angela.whitehall@york.gov.uk or mark.willis@york.gov.uk