Wellness took center stage from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday as students practiced mental, social and physical wellbeing through a series of events called “Wellness Shabbat.”
“Wellness Shabbat,” initiated by Jordana Gardenswartz ’18 — a peer wellness champion through the Yale Wellness Project — took place during the traditional Jewish day of rest at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life. Shabbat is already an important wellness practice for many students who view it as a chance to step away from work and find an inner balance. Gardenswartz, who was selected as a peer wellness champion for the Wellness Project’s spring 2016 pilot program, said she has used Shabbat as a method of wellness throughout her time at Yale and was inspired to connect the Jewish tradition with modern conceptions of wellness like fitness and meditation. A main element of the Peer Wellness Champions program is conversations about wellness in participants’ social and extracurricular communities.
“The theme of wellness really fits into the Sabbath; it is supposed to be a day where you disconnect and relax both your body and mind,” said Joseph Linfield ’18, who attended more than one event. “I thought that it would not only be fun and interesting to go to these events that don’t usually happen, but a good way to promote the atmosphere of Sabbath and what it means for me.”
Gardenswartz said Slifka is one of her communities on campus, which, she said, can already support wellness for some students by providing a nourishing, spiritual and social space. Part of this weekend’s programming was to make the connection between Slifka and student wellness “more clear and more intentional,” she said.
Programming emphasized a holistic approach to wellness and specific events were created to promote physical, communal and emotional wellbeing, Gardenswartz said. On Friday evening, Slifka offered an alternative Kabbalat Shabbat service, which included a text study about love in the Jewish tradition and a meditation on kindness led by Tracy George, a health educator for Student Wellness at Yale Health. Thirteen students attended the meditation, which focused on wishing both oneself and others well, followed by a traditional Shabbat dinner. On Saturday, a pickup basketball promoted physical wellbeing before Shabbat concluded with Israeli dancing, coordinated by Stephanie Levine ’19 and Melanie Grad-Freilich ’19.
For Gardenswartz, a main goal of the Shabbat events was not only to expose students to wellness practices and resources at Yale, but to help students think of wellness as something worth prioritizing. Hedy Gutfreund ’18, who attended both the meditation service and Shabbat dinner, said she appreciated the chance to learn about opportunities like Yale Health’s walk-in wellness hours and was inspired to continue incorporating wellness-related activities into her everyday life. Furthermore, Gutfreund said though she had not previously made the connection between religion and wellness, she attended the meditation because she was interested in seeing how this relationship could be realized. The connection between religion, spirituality and wellness is one with great potential, said Maria Trumpler, a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department who also oversees the Peer Wellness Champions program. Not only do many religions have mindfulness practices incorporated into their traditions, but it has also been shown that people who practice wellness within the context of a group are more likely to continue their efforts, she added. Trumpler said she hopes that Gardenswartz’s activities at Slifka will not be limited to this weekend’s Shabbat, but will instead continue to connect people for the remainder of the semester.
“I think [religion and wellness] are very intertwined,” Linfield said. “I don’t think religion has to be a part of wellness if one doesn’t want it to be, but if someone is religious and wants to incorporate [that] into their overall wellness, it can fit very nicely.”
The Peer Wellness Champions program is in its pilot phase, currently working with six undergraduate and four graduate students.