It has never been harder to get into college. The pressure is intense and the costs, are staggeringly high once you make it in. Then there is social and academic pressure, not to mention figuring out how to be “on your own” for the first time in your life, while keeping up with all the social media. Not surprisingly, more and more students are feeling totally stressed and yoga is popping up on campuses to help.
What is it like to teach this group? YogaCity NYC reporter Carly Sachs went into the field, actually the campus, to talk to teachers about how and whether it is actually effective for this over-scheduled, overly stimulated group of young people.
Jay: College life brings unique stresses. The students are wildly over stimulated. Yoga offers the students a chance to put down the smart phone, log off of Facebook, stop looking a distract-a-gram, and all of the other technological mind clutter that they fall victim to.
For some, this is the only time of their day when they are not plugged in.
Vidya: Students come, but I also see researchers and staff members. The classes provide a place to relax, a place for students to learn something new in a non-graded environment, and to use their listening skills that they've honed as students in a way that supports them knowing themselves on a deeper level and building skills to manage the stresses of medical school life.
Marie: I get young women between the ages of 19-22. I think the main purpose for offering this class at FIT is to give students a place to decompress. They come to forget about exams and projects for an hour. It’s free and it’s convenient for them, so it’s a win-win situation. If I get a few students that fall in love with yoga, then I’ve done my job.
Carly: How has teaching on a campus impacted you personally?
Jay: As I practice these skills on the mat, the hope is that the practice begins to seep into all aspects of my life, so that I can live from a place of yoga, on and off of the mat. After having deliberately practiced being easy and full of breath in the yoga pose, I find the ability to be easy and full of breath when the subway is running late, or when I need to deliver an amazing presentation for work, or when that "special" person is pushing all of my buttons.
Vidya: Teaching on a campus has grown me as a teacher. Every time I come to a new environment to teach I learn new things, like what works (or sometimes doesn't work) within the framework of where and who I am teaching. I've found that the students at Columbia are great listeners, which I believe is because they've spent so much time in a school environment. They must be good listeners to have made it all the way to medical school. They are generally more interested in anatomy, and like to ask more questions than most students in other studio environments.
Marie: I don’t have much experience teaching at studios. I’ve primarily taught college students. So when I first started at FIT, I took it for granted that these young college kids would be able to fold forward into uttansana and touch their hands to the floor like everyone in the studio I go to. Needless to say, it’s been an ongoing education for me.
I had to take several steps back to realize that everyone’s body is different regardless of age. I had to start looking at my students and teach to them in a very different way. My expectations of them changed quite a bit. The main difference between yoga students and my other students would be that most yoga student are focused on deepening their practice – they’re more serious about it than my college students are.
Carly: Where would you like to see more integration between yogic philosophy and academia?
Jay: Yoga teaches us the very real truth that we are not in control of what the world throws our way. But, with practice, we can develop the life changing skill to control the way we respond to life's challenges.
Vidya: My hope is that these students, who are going on to be public health administrators, dentists, surgeons, physical therapists, will continue to practice yoga even after leaving the university program, will remember the experiences they had while practicing and transmit those benefits to the patients they encounter.
Marie: It gives younger people the opportunity to develop an awareness of their bodies and minds at a crucial time in their lives; and, in turn, this awareness will help them handle life's ups and downs in a healthy way.