Kamlesh Patel, known to many as Daaji, is the Heartfulness Guide. He is bringing the essence of yogic spiritual practices to the modern world in a scientific way, in order to help people regulate their minds, manage their emotions, and elevate their consciousness to the highest possible level. He is a role model for millions of spiritual seekers around the world and is at home with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, giving special attention to the youth of today.
When we remember our university days, who are the professors who come to mind first? Whom do we remember fondly? It is not the ones who lectured us day and night, but those who lived a beautiful lifestyle and inspired us to do the same. They joked with us and laughed with us and sometimes they cried with us. They likely did not teach solely from textbooks, rather they shared their life with us, and that made all the difference. Their lives touched our hearts and they inspired us to love the subject they were teaching. Wellness, to me, begins with that kind of joie de vivre. If someone can give that to the student, then wellness can be brought to fruition.
Wellness or wellbeing is nowadays a buzzword, not merely the attitude of the past. It has come into laser focus since the start of the pandemic two years ago and it has now entered mainstream education. These days many universities throughout the world are incorporating wellness practices and activities as part of their standard curriculum after seeing how many benefits are derived from the practice. It is a proven fact that general wellbeing strengthens emotional regulation, improves cognitive functioning, and promotes better behavior in higher education institutions and organizations. Students who take part in wellness as part of their overall educational experience will be well-prepared for the challenges that arise entering the workforce.
Students these days hardly have time or energy for anything other than academics, and socializing. At the same time, social media and the virtual world is taking over our lives by storm. An intense can create restlessness, stress, anxiety and in some cases insomnia too. Thus, the young adulthood period of life experiences can have a negative effect on grades, health, success quotient and general happiness.
As the pandemic begins to wane after many trying days and the world begin to truly open, universities are also heading back to normalcy. Imagine the scenario during the early morning hours. The bell – or proverbial bell in the case of universities – rings and all the students and teachers in the hallway make their way towards their respective classrooms. Inside the lecture hall, students settle down from idle chatter, laughter, switching off cell phones, etc.
Suppose a lecture hall, similar to the one we spoke about above, has a meaningful routine in place to handle adverse or negative situations in such a way that we can make life peaceful and successful for students; wouldn’t that be welcome? A few tried and tested ways and means we have employed in universities across India and U.S. to ensure general wellness and well-being among students and young adults are listed below:
Begin the day with a relaxation and meditation:
With a room full of vivacious and lively students, how can there be stillness along with pin drop silence? It has been possible, and it continues to be the rage in many higher education organizations across the U.S. The practice of relaxation, much like what is taught by the Heartfulness system, takes only five to ten minutes and instantly changes the vibration. It has the power to reduce tension, stress and anxiety, as well as improve focus, awareness, empathy and creativity. Not only can this be practiced at the beginning of everyday but also at any time the student needs a few moments of respite. It is that calm in the heart, amidst the storm in the outside world.
A regular and sustained practice of this kind of meditation for a prolonged period has proven to help in mental wellness too. There is sufficient published medical research that mental well-being is greatly improved for teenagers and young adults because of Heartfulness meditation. In a study conducted in 2021 to assess the efficacy of a four-week Heartfulness meditation program on teenagers it was proven beyond a doubt that meditation helped in regulating overall mood, reducing stress levels and alleviating depression and anger. It also showed the improved effects on sleep quality.
This practice also benefits the educators as much as it does the students. To bask in the joy of teaching, which is a noble pursuit, is possible only when one finds that sense of inner balance, harmony, and sense of purpose. That is not possible when one feels burn out, lack of appreciation, or strapped for time. A healthy relaxation and meditation program to begin the day with, helps find peace for students and teachers alike.
Yoga for Students:
Yoga has been an absolute hit to all people alike, and more importantly for students. Yoga puts the fun back in wellness. Getting into a groove is a major boost of self-esteem and empowerment for young adults. In addition to fun and bodily flexibility, yoga has been proven to help students manage anxiety, improve emotional regulation and put a check on obesity. Yoga enhances focus, and concentration, of the mind, and strength and flexibility of the body. It is also the precursor for Mindfulness and Heartfulness for students. One may or may not be able to sit in silence for thirty minutes, but no one finds it difficult to do hot yoga which also has been proven to burn fat.
The 12 steps of sun salutations exercises are a deeper way of connecting within one’s own body and mind. For older students and teachers, yoga has been a prelude for deeper rejuvenating practices of meditation. Recently the Heartfulness Institute completed a yoga marathon to celebrate 750 million sun salutations to honor the Indian Independence. Heartfulness contemporaries from all over the world joined this public event. Yoga teaches discipline and reduces impulsivity. In some institutions in the USA, yoga has effectively improved behavioral, social and emotional expression. Yoga naturally instills discipline and aids in improving intuition in students.
Breathing Exercises for Students and Teachers:
A moment of panic, anxiety, or stress? Can’t sit and do a few minutes of relaxation or meditation? Yes, we hear you! There are breathing exercises which can help! In the Heartfulness system for example, there is a simple breathing exercise that can calm the autonomic nervous system, which is the parasympathetic system. Closing the right nostril with the right thumb and breathing through the left nostril and exhaling through the left nostril, deeply into the abdomen has a very calming effect.
Yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation are all simple, beneficial and procedure oriented. It is a simple path but achieves an extraordinary objective. Human transformation is both a miracle, yet very simple. Setting aside time for reflection and introspection help students become holistically transformed and transcend their own mental and emotional challenges, and thus find solutions by using their lateral thinking, creativity, and ingenuity. When there is that safe, silent, and harmonious space in the heart and mind, wellness is but a by-product of something larger and a game changer for the future of humanity.
But let us be warned – wellness is just not an activity to be done at that moment when it is the need of the hour, like detention time or stress or physical fitness challenges. Wellness is a habit. It is an attitude. A few minutes of awareness in the morning, healthy breathing, a moment to connect to one’s heart, a heartful relaxing start of the class, all go a long way to create healthy world citizens. Wellness is the result of consistency and automatism in well-being practices and activities.
When American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny,” he was doing more than talking about habits. He was most likely paving the path for interweaving humanity’s destiny and uplifting consciousness of man through general wellbeing, and the instilling joie de vivre that we first referenced.
When we teach the ability to relax, or do yoga, or any of the wellness practices, we teach students a practical life skill. We teach them resilience, confidence, courage, and their own unique purpose of life. When we teach students how to meditate, we give them the gift of inspiration, intuition and conviction. When such teachers as those who have wellness weaved in their destiny teach students, humanity is uplifted, and nobility manifests.
Let us make wellness both a habit, and a path to our destiny.