– Erin Jackson, The Algonquin Times –
There is nothing better than yoga for mental health.
So says Meredith Coffin, mental health social worker at Algonquin, who started practicing yoga when she was 20 years-old — when she was dealing with anxiety.
“I work in mental health and because wellness is something that I talk about all day… I haven’t come across anything that’s more effective in terms of reducing stress and releasing stress hormones or processing stress hormones.”
It seems the college’s students and staff agree. With just under 25 people in attendance on Oct. 22, the spiritual centre was full.
“We love yoga and we love to teach it,” said Sara Jordan, director of health services. The free classes are being funded by health services to help staff and students manage stress.
Coffin explained the subtle process behind yoga’s stress relieving properties.
“It’s about combining your breath and your movement patterns,” she said. “Our nervous system works in a sort of tension and release way, so were trying to cultivate that physically in yoga.”
“It never ceases to amaze me,” she added, referring to the juxtaposition between her mental state before and after practice. “We just want to be able to offer that to people.”
Together with Karen Chiarelli, business operations officer with student support services, Coffin, Jordan and Chiarelli take turns teaching yoga classes on Mondays from 12:05 p.m. to 12:50 p.m., allowing students and staff time to travel to the spiritual centre for some stress relief between classes.
Michelle Wheeler, a first-year student in the intensive massage therapy program, finds the classes beneficial and has attended twice with a couple of friends.
“We love it,” she said. “We had a lab from 8-12 and then we have a lecture from 1-3 so it’s right in the middle of our break, which is awesome so we rush here.”
Wheeler enjoys yoga but doesn’t attend often, finding it hard to fit into her busy schedule.
“It’s nice that they have it here and that we can fit it in our day,” she said.
Louise Cowley, a teacher in the college’s architecture program, also attended on Monday and said she will definitely be back.
The classes began on Oct. 1 and attendance has continued to increase. “I’m just so excited that there is this much demand because it means this is something that people want, so hopefully that will mean that it continues to be funded,” said Coffin.
Students and staff can attend yoga classes for a fee at Algonquin’s fitness zone but Coffin and her colleagues intended to offer a more accessible option at the spiritual centre.
“I’m really big on things being accessible and [non]intimidating and I would imagine there’s lots of people who probably would not consider going to the gym, because that might be, you know, sort of intimidating,” she said. “Its just a way to perhaps open it up to other people too.”