Students strive to maintain both physical and mental health, but eating mindfully and exercising regularly are not always easy in college. A new student-run program offered by Yoga and Mindfulness is providing a short-term course in health and wellness habits for students to maintain a healthy living style in the long term.
“I’m so passionate about health and wellness, and I never shut up about it,” said Dulma Altan ’14, the creator and coordinator of the wellness program. The program, which began its second installment Monday after a “successful” inaugural run last summer, is a three-week holistic program open to all Brown students, Altan said.
The program includes weekly meetings, yoga and at-home meditation or mindfulness. At each meeting, students will discuss their progress, Altan said, and give each other advice and support. YAM teachers will also lead optional weekly workshops that focus on wellness and are open to anyone on campus. This short-term program differs from YAM’s usual offerings in its emphasis on a “more holistic” attempt at wellness, Altan said.
When Altan created the program last summer, she discovered how many people are passionate about wellness, she said: Around 100 people participated in the program, including professors, their spouses, graduate students and undergraduates. With around 40 participants, the current program consists only of students, Altan said. The majority are already involved with YAM, said Shira Atkins ’14, YAM co-coordinator and teacher.
The wellness program is not just a program on health and mindfulness, Altan said, but also a way to meet “like-minded people.” She said she recognizes that leading a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, especially for college students. “Doing it alone can be frustrating or confusing or hard to sustain,” but peer support helps everyone succeed, she said.
There is no ideal participant, Altan said. “I haven’t turned anyone away because they weren’t knowledgeable enough,” she said. “We have people who are both unfamiliar with this territory and also people who have very strong backgrounds.”
Participants are of all experience levels, and they may choose to participate in different capacities. They are encouraged to attend meetings and practice on their own, but some students cannot make the meetings and will instead check in through Facebook and email, in addition to doing exercises on their own time, Altan said.
While the goal of the program is to explore wellness, “it’s not necessarily that on the 21st day of the program, everyone will wake up transformed,” Altan said. Rather, the program is about “getting started on the path” or about “deepening your definition of what it means to be well and feel good,” she explained.
Atkins echoed Altan’s sentiments. “The true intention behind (YAM) is that we want people to feel happy,” she said. YAM holds free yoga classes and is one of the largest student organizations on campus, she added.
Before the program’s initial meeting, Atkins told The Herald she planned to speak about “why yoga is awesome, and how this can be something that supports people in their quest to find a healthy balance in all things.” Atkins used to be a dancer, and after she quit, yoga was a way for her to “keep moving and love (her) body.”
Alexa Peseri ’14 participated in the summer wellness program and said she enjoyed it so much that she is participating again. “I strive to live the most optimistic, fruitful, thankful and healthy sort of life. … I try to help others live that way too,” she said.
Like Altman, Peseri discussed the collaborative nature of the program — people share “ideas and recipes” and support one another. Peseri said she finds the program to be flexible and well-structured, giving participants the ability to take what they want from it. She said she also appreciates the program’s approach to eating. “I really despise fad diets. This is not that. It’s so positive and enriching,” Peseri said. It’s not about dieting — it’s about “trying to choose the best foods for you,” she explained.
Peseri recalled a memorable exercise from the summer, one that taught her to enjoy her meals and to not rush through them: Participants “chewed one blueberry very slowly” and let themselves “be mindful (and) truly experience the flavors,” she said.
YAM’s wellness program also coincides with National Nutrition Month, Atkins said.