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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Meditating for mindfulness

Yoga students at 3 Oms Yoga center themselves during a workout. // Photo courtesy of 3 Oms Yoga Studio

By McKinley Kellogg

Between studying for the inevitable next exam, holding down a job and maintaining a social life, many college students struggle to handle the stress of daily life.

Practicing yoga and mindful meditation are excellent tools in lowering stress and anxiety levels while also improving focus, according to the Harvard Gazette. Many students around the world are using these techniques to help cope with the daily stresses of school and their often hectic schedules.

Sondra Matara, marketing director and community builder of 3 OMS Yoga in downtown Bellingham, said she has used the benefits of meditation in her practice and personal life. Matara said she’s been practicing yoga for the past 12 years and learning how to be in touch with her body and connect with herself inwardly through meditation has provided great benefits for her.

“I started yoga my senior year in college,” Matara said. “I thought that it would be a really good thing to help reduce my stress and anxiety about finishing school and what was going to happen next. It’s been a life-changer for me personally.”

Matara said learning how to properly breathe deeply through her core instead of her chest, a technique used in meditation, has helped control her stress levels.

She said this practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone which causes stress. Matara said even if this method isn’t effective for an individual, there are a variety of other tools and approaches to meditation available, so there’s always more to try.

“Some of the meditation techniques can help with focus and keeping your mind in one place,” Matara said. “There’s really simple things like focusing on your breath, but there’s also guided visualizations and full-body relaxation.”

However, it’s not just yoga instructors who meditate to de-stress. In fact, many college students, including athletes, use it as a tool to strengthen their focus.

Senior rugby player Parmvir Rai said he likes to practice meditation the night before a match to help him prepare.

“I have an app on my phone called Headspace and I like to run through a 15-minute meditation just to help clear my mind and focus before I go to bed and visualize what I want to do the next day,” Rai said. “I find it helps me focus and know what I need to be thinking of when I get to the game.”

There are many options for Western students to practice yoga and meditation in Bellingham, including classes at the Wade King Student Recreation Center, yoga studios downtown or at home using apps like Headspace, Daily Yoga or Calm.

For more information regarding the Rec Center class schedule, visit their website at https://wp.wwu.edu/campusrec/.

3 Oms Yoga is located at 1319 Cornwall Ave. and offers discounts for students. Students can drop in for $12 or $20 for one week of unlimited class. For more information, visit their website at https://www.3omsyoga.com/.

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