New online yoga program helps reduce stress

Most students won’t be surprised to hear that the top three student health concerns are mental health, including anxiety and depression, sleep deprivation and stress. This is according to a survey on the health of York students conducted by the American College Health Association carried out in spring 2009.

Laura Thompson, team lead for stress management and mental health at Health Education & Promotion (HEP) in York’s Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development, says she often experiences stress and anxiety, “and like most students, I can honestly say that I sometimes put getting enough sleep aside, in the interest of finishing assignments.”

To help students deal with these concerns, the HEP team has collaborated with My Yoga Online to offer a brand new Mind, Body & Soul component to its Web site. Visitors to the site can now find five videos related to yoga, Pilates and meditation that all York students and staff are invited to use. These include:

  • De-stress Meditation Relaxation
  • Energy Awakening Flow
  • Standing Worktime Energy Flow
  • Short Pilates Class
  • Yoga For Depression

The site also has information on how to get started in a stress-reduction program.

Studies and research have shown that those who practice yoga and meditation regularly experience a huge range of benefits, including those that address the most common student health concerns. Kreg Weiss, co-founder of, has not only studied yoga, with a focus on anatomy and philosophy, but also has in-depth knowledge of the health benefits and workout benefits of yoga and meditation, through his studies of kinesiology & exercise science at the University of British Columbia.

Weiss’s experience with and research into meditation and yoga has shown that a regular practice of yoga and meditation brings a number of physiological and psychological benefits for individuals, including:

  • decreased stress and lower levels of cortisol;
  • decreased depression, irritability, and anxiety;
  • improved sleep;
  • increased energy levels;
  • improved mood and sense of well-being.

“In my seven years of teaching yoga, meditation and relaxation, whether to students or the general public, I’ve observed at first-hand the benefits of yoga and meditation,” says Anju Odam, HEP coordinator and a former yoga teacher in the United Kingdom. “My participants have continually mentioned how their stress levels were much lower and energy levels higher. They also had their best night’s sleep on the day they attended their yoga class with me. I also saw how, over the months, their strength and flexibility had really improved with the regular practice of their asanas.”

This new online program addresses key student and staff health concerns effectively and efficiently. Time-strapped students and staff get instant access to health and wellness videos that address their specific concerns. They are able to develop a healthier lifestyle that will fit into their schedule and in a way that may suit them best. By offering these videos, in addition to the other health education events and services, HEP hopes to decrease stress in the entire York community.

“I personally have enjoyed the De-stress Meditation Relaxation video as it has allowed me to learn to de-stress on my own time and in my own place,” says Thompson. “It is a very calming and refreshing exercise that once you learn, you can do virtually anywhere.”

For those who would prefer to have an instructor guiding them in assessing their individual needs, the Tait McKenzie Centre offers many yoga and other fitness classes.

And finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or are considering self-harm, please reach out for the resources and services available from experienced staff based in York’s Counselling & Disability Services.