From Vinyasa Yoga to Sound Healing: Skidmore’s Mindfulness Program in Action
Breathe in. Count to four. Hold for four and breath out. Take a moment to notice the slowing of your heartbeat, the clearing of your mind, and the calming of your body. No matter where you are, you are here, standing in your shoes, taking in whatever your eyes and ears are seeing and hearing. Take another deep breath and realize that among all that is moving around you, you are still.
Whether you realize it or not, you just participated in a mindfulness practice.
After being on campus a few short weeks, I have noticed how difficult it can be to get a moment of rest in between classes, clubs, making and maintaining friendships, and remembering to connect with family and friends back home. Students however, myself included, often forget to turn inwards and check in. It is counterintuitive to try and balance externally without balancing internally. By simply taking one deep breath, students can ground themselves in one moment and have healthier and happier lives.
Meditation and yoga is a holistic way to address stress and anxiety, but one must commit to practicing. While it seems like these can only help in one small moment, mindfulness practices have greater long-term effects. According to the Washington Post, Harvard University neuroscientist Sara Lazar, in an effort to pinpoint exactly how mindfulness programs can aid the brain, held a study where participants had to go through a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Although different parts of the brain had different positive reactions, it is particularly interesting to note that "the amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general...got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program."
Skidmore’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is aware of these neurological effects and has tried to create effective opportunities for students on campus. Parker Diggory, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, has a goal, "to respond to the various needs of students, which can range from stress-relief to spiritual connection to finding spiritual community…by providing spaces and events that help students learn meditation practices, mindfulness practices, yoga, and other ways of taking care of their whole selves."
The Skidmore Mindfulness Program isn't simply for one type of student, and various students who have taken advantage of the programs can vouch for that. Allie Morin ‘21, who regularly attends Skidmore’s vinyasa yoga classes, said that "the yoga sessions on Sunday nights are something I can consistently look forward to even when the ‘Sunday scaries’ hit. I always leave feeling lighter and with a clearer mindset." Another first-year student, Amal Lomer ‘21, utilized the meditation moments offered and said, "the mindfulness yoga really helped me feel gathered and calm. It was great because it was in the middle of the day, so just as I was getting stressed I was able to collect my thoughts and relax for the rest of the day." Students may attend yoga and meditation classes for different reasons: to decompress, exercise, or simply have an hour without academic or social activity. No matter the reason, there are different types of benefits for different types of classes.
Specifically, Skidmore’s Mindfulness Program offers vinyasa and restorative yoga, sound healing, and meditation classes. Although all of the classes may incorporate similar techniques, each class has a different purpose. Where vinyasa incorporates both the mind and body through a yoga practice, restorative yoga intends on creating a space for self-care and rejuvenation. Mediation focuses on the breath and the mind and allows students to focus on relaxing the brain. But the most unique addition to the program is sound healing. By using bowls, crystals, and other instruments, sound healers fill the room with vibration to balance the mind and calm you down.
Although these services are both free and readily available, many students may feel reluctant to take advantage of them because they feel intimidated. However, the Mindfulness Program stresses that being a beginner is okay. The program has created a community which welcomes students of all levels. Although yoga is meant to be an exercise, Skidmore's yoga teacher and Program Coordinator of Skidmore Mindfulness Jennifer Schmid-Fareed, communicates the importance of listening to your body and making decisions based on your individual needs. It is an essential part of yoga to understand what YOU need and how you can help yourself. Take advantage of the resources on campus and remember that relaxation is only a breath away.
Classes are held Sunday-Thursday at various times in Wilson Chapel. For more information, please check the schedule at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life's website.