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Mindful meditation soothes student stresses

By Jovia Ferris

As the semester gains momentum, it can be challenging to remain energized and free of the stresses caused by tests and assignments.

In order to combat these issues and teach daily alleviating tips, three founders of the Holistic Life Foundation joined students at the College on Saturday, Feb. 21, for a five-hour Mindful Life Workshop with their yoga mats in tow, ready to meditate in the Brower Student Center.

Students learn techniques that can be done anywhere. Brendan McGeehan / Staff Photographer
Students learn techniques that can be done anywhere. (Brendan McGeehan / Staff Photographer)

Holistic Life Foundation, a non-profit foundation, was founded in late 2001 by Ali and Atman Smith and Andres Gonzalez in hopes of highlighting the benefits of meditation and yoga.

The trio learned most of what they know about yoga and meditation from their teacher, Ali and Atman’s godfather.

“(When we first started out, our) community thought we were starting a gang,” Atman said, touching on the difficulties the trio faced when starting the organization. “We had the attention of everybody, and we decided to do something positive with it.”

The trio now travels nationally and internationally to promote others to lead a “mindful life.”

“We throw all expectations out the window,” Ali said of the different locations the team goes to teach, whether it’s a school or a prison.

The workshop consisted of many simple, mindful exercises and techniques aimed to help busy college students or swamped professors. The trio taught the audience five exercises to maintain or restore youth as well as de-stressing mental counting games.

“(This is) a very open-minded environment,” assistant librarian Louise Bizon said. “(It is) important for all ages.”

Spinal twists and neck movements were among the many exercises that could be done while sitting at a desk or virtually anywhere, aiding many conditions ranging from coughs to vertigo.   

“(The meditation practices) improve your attention skills in class,” said Erica Rodriguez, a Circle of Compassion e-Board member and senior communications and public relations major. “I find that if I take three deep breaths before class, it helps me focus.”

For the average college student, Gonzalez advises meditation in the morning and before bed. Students are able to tell if morning meditations better their day and if nightly meditations help with sleep. The workshop also highlighted the importance of mindfulness and the positive effect it has on the body and mind.

“We’re called human beings, but we’re never being,” Gonzalez said. “We’re always worried about what the future has to hold.”

The Bonner Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at the College also invited high school students in an after-school program, the Academic Sport Academy in Trenton, to the event.

“We’ve been working to include mindfulness to try and bring self-awareness to the kids,” said Emma Young, a freshman Bonner scholar and urban elementary and history major.

“(The workshop was) very relaxing,” said Briana W., a high school student attending Trenton Central High School West.

The College is offering several additional classes and events to students and faculty to promote mental health and self-awareness.

Circle of Compassion is currently hosting a four-week Mindfulness Training Program for students in the Spiritual Center on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

“I’m taking the course to inspire me to be more mindful of my body and my health and my family,” Bizon said.

The Circle of Compassion, along with Active Minds and Healthy Campus Program Council, is hosting the Mindfulness Challenge which promotes mental and physical health.


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