Low-pressure practices improve student, faculty health

AQUINAS PHOTO / KAYLA SHEA / BUDDHIST MONK Kelsang Samatha leads a meditation session in the Heritage Room of the Weinberg Memorial Library Nov. 5. Monks from the Kadampa Meditation Center travel from New York every week to lead sessions at The University and the AFA Art Gallery in Downtown Scranton.

AQUINAS PHOTO / KAYLA SHEA / BUDDHIST MONK Kelsang Samatha leads a meditation session in the Heritage Room of the Weinberg Memorial Library Nov. 5. Monks from the Kadampa Meditation Center travel from New York every week to lead sessions at The University and the AFA Art Gallery in Downtown Scranton.

Published: November 13, 2015

KELLY ROSS
News Correspondent

Every month brings a new weight loss trend that helps busy workers and students lose weight without the time commitment. Except, every new trend comes with new side effects that pose dangerous short-term and long-term consequences.

When things seem hopeless, some people turn to two of the oldest disciplines — yoga and meditation.

Practiced for thousands of years, yoga and meditation have proven their importance and benefits as physical and mental activities. As a Jesuit community that supports the education of the whole person, the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Weinberg Memorial Library have teamed up over the past couple of years to sponsor yoga and meditation classes on campus. The benefits suggested by research and noticed by faculty and students prove the usefulness of these disciplines.

Katherine Purswell, Ph.D., a professor in the counseling and human services department at The University and a yoga participant herself, attended the Pennsylvania Counseling Association Conference over the weekend.

She said one of the topics for a workshop at the conference was how yoga can be used to treat clients with trauma.

“They were saying and presenting some research that indicated that yoga really can help to heal the physiological effects of trauma that cause stress,” she said.

Because of the integration of the mind and body, the presenters claimed that yoga could act as therapy for trauma-related effects, such as anxiety and stress or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Something about the movement, the physiological results and breath can really help to heal some of the issues that happen within the nervous system due to trauma,” she said.

And, even for those who have not experienced any trauma, yoga and meditation still prove to be beneficial. Purswell commented on other research she has come across that highlights the health benefits of yoga.

“Some of the research shows that the way we breathe in yoga actually slows down your heart rate and decreases stress, anxiety, all of those things at a physiological level,” Purswell said. “It basically balances out some parts of your nervous system.”

Even in herself, Purswell notices the mental challenge, mindfulness and physical improvements she has experienced from her four-year yoga kick.

“It’s easier to do normal tasks in life because I feel more limber,” she said.

Assistant director for CHEW, Cathy Mascelli, sees the importance of practicing yoga and meditation together. It is something she says is “beautiful together.” Mascelli, who personally practices both yoga and meditation, attended a workshop with a world-renowned meditation expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

“He often recommends that people who practice meditation should try yoga as well,” Mascelli said. “The two complement each other. Yoga is kind of like a moving meditation.”

Mascelli, like Purswell, has come across research about the health benefits of meditation. She noted that studies have shown that meditation can help with many health conditions including high blood pressure and sleeping problems. Mascelli has been practicing meditation for years and can see the improvements in herself too. She sees the benefits day-in-day-out of a quieter mind and an inner peace during crazy days.

“It can help with perspective, like ‘Is it really that important to be upset about that?’” She chuckled. “Probably not!”

Although the meditation and yoga classes sponsored by CHEW and the library will soon be over, Mascelli said that CHEW is happy to help people find not only a place to do yoga and meditation, but a style they like.

“There’s a lot of different kinds of yoga, and you need to find the class that fits you,” Mascelli said.

Senior Tricia Leavy, an instructor of yoga at The University teaches classes every Monday in the Bryon Recreation Center. As a college student, she has noticed her ability to stay more focused on school work due to her involvement with yoga.

“It’s important to be able to just be present in what you’re doing,” Leavy said. “Yoga’s definitely helped me to be able to focus on the moment and to stop worrying about the future or the past.”

Contact the writer: kelly.ross@scranton.edu

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