More students relax in stress classes

Eric Swanson

A series of stress-relief classes offered by Boynton Health Service is drawing stronger-than-ever attendance this fall.

The “Comfort Zone” stress management workshops are offered at varied times every day and include Yoga, Tai-Chi, Body Toning and Mindfulness Meditation. They are open to students, faculty and staff.

Stress is a big issue for students, and unmanaged stress can lead to many problems, including anxiety and depression, Boynton public health director David Golden said.

“Some stress is good. We even look for it, but we need avenues to address too much,” Golden said.

Stress can begin for any number of reasons, but according to an annual Boynton survey, the leading stressors on campus are serious credit card debt, academic problems and illness or death of a loved one.

After many requests from students, Boynton decided eight years ago to bring in instructors to teach free classes to all interested University community members.

The classes were slow to catch on for the first few years, but this year some students were turned away, said Carol Uchal, a Boynton administrative assistant in charge of scheduling the stress classes.

“Making sure students are healthy to maintain stress levels is important,” Uchal said.

During a recent yoga class, instructor Shari Aronson said people need to be in touch with their stress and tension levels in order to be healthy.

“A lot of students spend time in front of a computer using their minds but lose touch with their bodies,” said Aronson, who has taught yoga at the University for three years.

Addressing personal stress levels is a key component in easing stress, Aronson said.

“What’s between you and relaxing?” she asked her 26-person class. The one-hour class was centered on addressing that question.

“Yoga focuses on the body, mind and breathing all at once. By doing that, you move away from stress,” Aronson said.

Yoga was first practiced in India nearly 5,000 years ago as a mode of relaxation.

Originally, yoga was treated as a more spiritual experience, but today many people do yoga for the physical fitness benefits. Its popularity today can be attributed to a desire for wellness, but yoga has been relatively popular in the United States for more than 100 years, Aronson said.

Golden said Boynton holds the classes to give students a place to manage their stress and health, and to make students aware of problems unmanaged stress can cause.

Senior Jen Parshley said she is seeking increased flexibility, but she said the class was a great time to gain relief from unwanted stress between classes.

First-year students Helen Franzen and Julia Kouneski said it was their first time in a yoga class and they wanted to see if they liked it.

Other participants said the price was right.

“It’s really nice because these classes are available to everyone for free,” graduate student Amber Murray said.

The stress-management workshops will continue throughout the year, starting at a basic level and becoming more difficult as the weeks pass, Aronson said.

All classes are on a first-come, first-served basis, with no registration necessary.