Work is already underway, by members of the Health, Counselling and Disability Services team, to organise our wellbeing programs for 2019. In collaboration with OASIS, we have a range of programs planned that I think will provide something for every student. Make sure you subscribe to the blog, so you get updated when we announce our program.
Whilst looking forward is exciting, its also valuable to look back on what we achieved this year. Looking back means appropriately acknowledging the efforts of staff to run student-focused programs, and the efforts of students to engage with and support those programs.
Counsellor Maureen, who runs the Mindful Yoga class at OASIS just released her report on how the program went in 2018. I’ve reproduced the bulk of this report below. My goal in doing so is to encourage those of you who are considering adding some wellbeing practices to your weekly schedule next year (perhaps as part of your New Year’s Resolutions) to consider the Mindful Yoga program. You don’t have to have expertise in either yoga or mindfulness practice to benefit, as Maureen constructs her sessions as to provide you with the easily accessible benefits of both disciplines. Something to ponder perhaps over the holiday break.
Mindful Yoga Report for 2018 – Maureen Germein
Mindful Yoga was again provided during term times at OASIS between 12-1pm on Tuesdays throughout 2018.
Yoga is an integrated system which uses the body, breath and mind to encourage a sense of well-being. It originated in India and has been practised for around 2000 years.
Mindful Yoga is holistic in that it incorporates ethics, movements, breathing and meditation into a free 50-minute class held between 12 noon and 1pm on Tuesdays during University term times.
Mindful yoga classes at Flinders University aim to be accessible for all people regardless of body type, fitness level and previous yoga experience. The key focus of the classes is to encourage and facilitate participants to listen to subtle cues from the body and breath, and to learn to befriend the body.
The classes are taught from an emerging paradigm of mindful yoga, namely:
- Asana (postures) are a way to serve the body and the mind, and
- The body and mind are allies, and we can encourage an alliance between the two rather than use the mind to subdue the body
Specifically, Mindful Yoga aims to teach and provide Flinders University students and staff the opportunity to learn and practice a range of skills to support them in their studies.
These skills are:
- Mindfulness: a specific mindfulness meditation is offered in the first portion of the class, to assist students to become open and curious to their experiences
- Interoceptive awareness: By moving slowly and with awareness, and in coordinating movements with the breath, people can increase their awareness of their internal states. Such internal state awareness has been associated with a number of health and wellbeing benefits, as well as improving memory and concentration.
- Self compassion: Students are encouraged to tend to and befriend their bodies. Creating kind intentions and using compassionate touch are interwoven throughout the classes.
- Specific relaxation skills: the classes end with a brief relaxation practice, such as progressive muscle relaxation or a guided relaxation practice. Breathing practices (pranayama) are also taught to both assist to calm the central nervous system and to energise the mind and body.
Around 45 people registered with the Mindful Yoga program over the course of 2018.
In the first semester, around 8-9 people attended per class. This decreased a little bit in second semester but was still around 7 people per class.
Of those attending, the majority were students who attended more than once. 60 % of attendance were regular students who had made a specific commitment to attending the class. Around 15%
of attendances were students who came once or infrequently.
About 25% of all attendances were from staff, including staff from the Health, Counselling and Disability service as well as other staff from different parts of the University.
In addition to these regular classes, Mindful yoga was also offered as part of the examorama services at the Library.
Feedback from students and staff who attended
Students were asked via email and SurveyMonkey to provide feedback about the classes, venue, and times of the class. Overwhelmingly those who completed the survey described the classes as
excellent and the OASIS location as very good. Most responses liked the lunch time class, with some suggesting that late afternoons may also work. Students named placements as one of their
barriers to more regular attendance.
A selection of the feedback received is:
“When I can get there it’s a great respite from everything.”
“Thanks so much for your efforts so far. I really appreciate and enjoy the yoga time with you. I still keep the ‘DESK YOGA’ flyer you handed out to us last year and I find it really helpful.”
“The lunch time sessions have worked for me this year, I have scheduled my classes around attending on Tuesdays wherever possible! Thank you Maureen, these classes have been a critical part of my uni journey and capacity to keep studying during some incredibly difficult times.”
“These classes have been instrumental in helping me to manage the demands of uni and outside stressors I have endured during the year. The classes have contributed to my capacity to continue studying and attending uni and have greatly assisted me with focus, stress management, grounding and positive mental health. They offer a regular, positive, grounding sense of belonging and wellbeing, which i believe has been critical to my ‘success’ as a student.”
“It was fantastic being involved in Mindful Yoga in 2018. It created a great opportunity to de-stress and relax during the week.”
Mindful Yoga is a purposeful class offering students a chance to learn and practice specific skills to assist with positive study outcomes. Classes would benefit from further promotion. This includes staff letting students know about the program, but also students telling each other.
Students have requested additional resources to assist people to further practice the skills taught in mindful yoga outside class times. One such example is this Yoga for Calm handout, which is the first in what I hope will be a set of guides for how to use Mindful Yoga for different emotional goals.
Maureen Germein, November 26, 2018
Maureen is a counsellor at the Flinders University Health, Counselling and Disability Service. She is a qualified yoga teacher and registered with Yoga Australia (Level 2) and is also a member of the Australian Association of Social Work Yoga and mindfulness practice group.