Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor

Yale students and affiliates now have the opportunity to relieve Zoom fatigue by enrolling in Robert Sankara Moses’ four-week virtual yogic breathing course this March, free to all Yale students and affiliates.

The course, titled “Pranayama: Conscious Breathing to Reduce Stress and Build Nervous System Vitality & Resilience,” will meet virtually for an hour each Tuesday. It serves as a continuation of Moses’ yogic breathing course offered in the fall. The course is organized by Asha Shipman, director of Hindu life, and focuses primarily on breathing practices. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, Shipman’s pastoral care clients began to express feelings of elevated stress and loneliness due to the transition to remote life. As a result, Shipman partnered with Moses to develop this course and help individuals destress.

“I also learned about Zoom apnea, a condition in which people’s normal breathing patterns are disrupted while using video conferencing,” Shipman said. “I wanted to offer programming that offered practical relief. Lacking the ability to change a situation, we can try to bolster our ability to navigate it.”

Shipman first met Moses in the spring of 2019 and invited him to speak at Yale through her Dharmic Discussions lecture series in April 2019. The series was well received, Shipman said, and she was inspired to sign up for a course on Pranayama — a yoga breathing technique — that Moses taught. According to Shipman, Moses’ course granted her “the necessary resilience for supporting members of the Yale community.” Shipman then proposed the fall 2020 course to Moses, which was titled “Nervous System Reset for Anxiety, Stress & Zoom Apnea: The Science and Practice of Yogic Breathing.”

The fall course has received positive feedback from students. 

“He is everything you want a teacher to be,” said Suzanne al-Labban, registrar chair’s assistant at the Department of Linguistics and a participant in Moses’ fall course. “He has a sense of humor. He’s engaging. He’s not stuffy … He does these 3D models on the slides, which are amazing. I thought I was going to learn a couple breathing techniques, and I was like, ‘How can this really be a course?’ But it was so much more.”

While yoga classes are typically taught in person, the virtual setting provides opportunities to expand access to yoga. After teaching yoga in person for decades, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Moses began teaching classes virtually to students all over the world. 

The importance of this class, according to Moses, is to help individuals breathe better. Moses said that people today breath in a way that can lead to all sorts of problems. Similar to how a runner trains to run, the course is intended to train individuals’ diaphragms, Moses said.

“[Yoga] works physiologically, on your nervous system via your respiratory, cardiovascular, and lymphatic systems,” he said. “What yoga does is it turns your … body-mind into a good, open, receiver for the prana, or universal flow of energy, to flow through you. It does that through techniques, mainly postural or breathing techniques or practices … That’s going to bring benefits and health to any average person who tries it.”

Al-Labban told the News that she feels this course has allowed her to develop different morning routines that help her feel better mentally. She added that her breathing has gotten better. 

The course being taught this spring is a beginner’s course. After a short break, Moses will be teaching another four-week course for those who would like to delve into more advanced breathing techniques and explore “some of the philosophical basis as well as a deeper scientific understanding of the breathing mechanism,” Moses said. 

“Pranayama: Conscious Breathing to Reduce Stress and Build Nervous System Vitality & Resilience” with Robert Sankara Moses will run for four weeks starting March 2 on CampusGroups.

Grace Zhang | grace.y.zhang@yale.edu