A look at meditation and yoga on Union’s campus
Worship, community and outreach programs are just a few mediums used by Union College to help develop the spiritual life of its students. These methods have expanded to include yoga and even meditation as a normal part of many students’ lives.
In an interview with Emily Segura, sophomore IRR major, and Setheesh Moturi, freshman mathematics and religious education major, we as Unionites gain a more complete understanding of what extending the mind, spirit and body is like at Union College.
Leeper: Do you practice yoga, Pilates, or meditation?
Moturi: Unfortunately I don't meditate regularly, but the reason I began and still do is that I want to find peace in a spiritual, physical and mental sense. I'm also very interested in energy and chakras.
Segura: I enjoy the physical side of it—loosening, strengthening, relaxing, calming, and becoming aware of the body.
Leeper: How do you see yoga and meditation affecting you spiritually and physically?
Moturi: For me, meditation has given me mental clarity and provided a mental respite during many a stressed week, day or homework session. Physically, meditation can destress your body and, if focused, can pinpoint locations on the body from which stress is radiating. There are also medical and scientific quantifiable benefits of meditation that can be found online or in different journals.
Physical: flexibility, core strength and pain relief (for me, neck pain from tightness and tension).
Spiritual: I do not agree with spiritual teachings integrated into yoga practice (entering into other bodies, attaining supernatural accomplishments, following a path to omniscience, attaining or creating spirituality within and of myself).
Meditation is the controversy. I meditate. By definition, I contemplate, express considered thoughts on, imagine to attain peace… All these I center around God. I contemplate Him, express myself to Him through communication with Him by writing, thoughts, music and speech. My mind is active in communication with Him.
A definition, or view, of meditation: to slow down and eventually completely stop the activity of the mind—this is not what I do.
In summary, I was once told by someone that God does not waste things. Just because I don’t agree with all aspects of yoga doesn’t mean I can’t adjust it to fit my own needs. I try to keep what is beneficial to me and replace what is not, or what I don’t agree with, with something that I do believe in and is beneficial to me.
Leeper: What would you like Union students to know about yoga and meditation?
Moturi: They are a medium to connect and commune with the Divine, and like any other medium (music, prayer, the Bible, art, speech, etc.) it can be misused and abused. Meditate responsibly! It is also controllable: it only takes up as much of your time, mind and life as you let it.
Segura: Yoga is safe and beneficial to the physical body. I have used yoga as an activity to replace activities that I find are not healthy for me, such as spending hours playing on my computer, over-eating or feeling sorry for myself on my down-days.
Leeper: Are there any good places to practice? Do you practice alone?
Moturi: A great place to meditate is the library. I often meditate in silence, with my eyes closed, in a place where I feel safe to do so and won't be interrupted. Music can be extremely useful in meditation; I don't often meditate with music since I find it hard to still and quiet my mind with external stimulus. However, successful meditation can be achieved as long as the meditator can achieve mental or spiritual solemnity.
Segura: In the grass! At the park, the lawn, dorm lobby, dorm room. Surfboard yoga!
While Segura and Moturi both use these methods in deepening their spiritual walk with God as well as for physical benefits, their experiences are different in the way they approach their spiritual connection. These differences are important in demonstrating individualistic ways of connecting to God, a practice that is just as encouraged as communal worship and outreach by Campus Ministries.
With an understanding of how the mind, body and spirit can be extended through supplemental physical conventions, Unionites can share and try new methods of improving their own health and of experiencing their walk with God.
“The renewing and relaxing benefits of yoga have impacted my life at Union by giving me ways to rid stress, by being a healthy activity to take the place of unhealthy ones and by teaching me to quietly listen to God,” concludes Segura.
Stefani is a sophomore studying communication.