Students seek solace with yoga

This year, some students seeking an escape from their often hectic lives at Yale have sought respite in new, free yoga classes offered by the Chaplain’s Office.

The Chaplain’s Office has begun offering free classes in “hatha” yoga — an ancient practice focused on relaxation rather than aerobic exercise — at noon on Fridays in Battell Chapel. University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said the program is part of her office’s efforts to create stress-free settings for students on campus. Nathaniel DeLuca GRD ’06, the Chaplain’s Office program coordinator and a certified yoga instructor who leads the sessions, said each class attracts roughly six students, adding that the small class size enables him to teach in a conversational manner and encourages attendees to share their own feelings and experiences.

“We are happy to offer students the opportunity to seek balance in their lives in the midst of the busyness of Yale,” Kugler said. “Yoga is one of the many ways we try to do this.”

The Chaplain’s Office also sponsors Breathing Space, a technology-free area in the basement of Welch Hall, and Global Grounds, which offers free food and social activities on weekends.

DeLuca said these programs embody one of the Chaplain’s Office’s goals of exhibiting “radical hospitality” — welcoming everyone and providing a place where students can reflect on their personal and spiritual lives apart from the pressures of Yale.

The yoga classes include chanting, meditation and “deep relaxation,” he said, adding that they are open to people from all religious backgrounds. DeLuca, who said he has integrated yoga into his spiritual life since the age of 15, said he believes the ultimate aim of yoga is “reuniting with a cosmic consciousness” — a concept he said is compatible with many people’s religious practices and beliefs.

“We are really focused on the creation of a particular environment where people feel safe, nurtured and cared about,” DeLuca said. “Life has to be in balance and we are trying to create space for this.”

He said a handful of students attend the classes every week, and others come irregularly out of curiosity.

Grace Chiang ’15, who said she hopes to attend the class though she has not yet had time, said she was glad the Chaplain’s Office was offering the classes because it would be a good way for students to exercise in a “relaxing way.”

Cristina Poindexter ’13, the president of Yogis at Yale, a club that offers yoga classes and workshops, said yoga has been crucial in helping her turn off an “achievement-oriented” mindset and focus on what matters most while in college, adding that knew of the program offered through the Chaplain’s Office but had not attended a session.

“Participating in yoga is a particularly effective way for students to recharge because it addresses both physical issues and mental insecurities,” Poindexter said.

Sharon Kugler has served as University Chaplain since July 2007.

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