In the United States, yoga is known more for spandex Lululemon than for being a deeply spiritual practice, but the sport’s history is inseparable from the meditative and religious significance.
Following in the Hindu traditions of meditation and yoga, Longhorn Art of Living, UT’s chapter of the Art of Living Foundation, is helping students on campus deal with the stresses of college life with yoga classes on Thursdays.
Business graduate student Natasha Dsouza attended her first session of meditation with Longhorn Art of Living this week after having previously practiced meditation on her own.
“The first time you do it, it probably wouldn’t seem like that much, but over time, it has been a defining activity in my life because it helps you improve your concentration and helps you think more clearly,” Dsouza said.
Kumar Bathala, an instructor for Longhorn Art of Living, said he wants to educate students about yoga and meditation because he wishes someone had taught him when he was in college.
“I think the earlier you get (these skills) in life, the bigger difference it makes in your life and the life of people around you,” Bathala said. “That is what inspires me to work with youth, especially University students. I always wish I had it when I was a student. I think my life would have been much different and much brighter, better if I had this earlier.”
Bathala said the way in which meditation and yoga improve students’ lives shows how they are intertwined with the upcoming celebration of Maha Shivaratri, the largest annual celebration of the Hindu god Shiva.
“Shiva is considered to be that supreme spirit of a cosmic consciousness,” Bathala said. “It is the divine consciousness within us. Blossoming in those divine qualities is the goal of yoga, and that is how it is connected with the divine, the consciousness within us.”
He said meditation and yoga had a significant impact on him after his first meditation workshop with Art of Living on rhythmic breathing techniques. Since then, his quality of life has improved significantly.
“I used to worry a lot about every small thing in my life, and I was not confident at all that I would be able to manage my time, my life,” Bathala said. “After doing this practice, not only did I feel calm and more happy, but I also gained a lot of faith and confidence in myself and my abilities, I started growing as a person in all aspects”.
Philosophy senior Emily Beissner, president of Longhorn Art of Living, said she was inspired to begin practicing yoga and meditation after a friend overcame a difficult life situation through what she learned at Art of Living.
“When I started Art of Living, I was having a lot of problems with depression, anxiety, and I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition,” Beissner said. “I had my thyroid levels checked soon after (I joined) and they were completely normal. Whether or not that is a coincidence, I think it was definitely helpful in getting those levels back to normal.”
Bathala said that although meditation and yoga are not specifically connected to a religion, they do help people get in touch with a more elevated dimension of themselves.
“That is how we grow, that is the higher purpose of what we do,” Bathala said. “Of course we become happier, we become better at time management, energy management and so on, but what is actually happening is that we are opening up to the higher dimension — to the divine qualities within us.”