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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNT chapter.

The general population has seen their mental health deteriorate during the ongoing pandemic, with many Texas college students seeking healthier relationships with themselves. Many students are learning remotely and have had the chance to explore coping mechanisms past substances. 


Isha Foundation is an ever-growing non-profit, spiritually based organization primarily focused on the wellness of us. Founded by Sadhguru, the organization has played a huge role in the surge of conscious living and provided many outlets for help during this year’s events. 


Sadhguru is a Yogi and Mystic who has become a New York Times Bestselling author, visionary of environmental and social initiatives, and one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time.  


“I am a full-time volunteer at the Isha Ashram in Tennessee, and we have seen more college students coming to volunteer here or in India this year than previous years,” Trent Navran, Rice Alum, and Neuroscientist turned full-time Isha Volunteer, said. “I myself spent a year at the ashram in India before coming here, and it is amazing to be able to help provide tools for medical professionals and patients alike to build their immunity or state of being.” 


To help practicing yogis and newcomers alike, Sadhguru introduced a specific guided sadhana (set of daily practices) geared towards combating coronavirus and the effects of going into lockdown. This sadhana consists of specific chants and kriya meditation/yoga. 


Simha Kriya was introduced specifically in response to the pandemic, as it involves deep breathing exercises to strengthen lung capacity, mental clarity, and meditation to energize the body. According to an ongoing study at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, they are studying this practice correlated to the tendency of getting COVID-19 between Isha yoga practitioners and those who are not.


As the study is exploring, the intentional practice of Simha Kriya is designed to unite the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects of the body through the simple act of conscious breath. To procure the results of yoga in comparison to de-stressing through reading a book, the clinical trial advocates for the practice of Simha Kriya at least once a day.


Compared to when the pandemic first began, people have begun to fall into a routine of some sort. 


“People, in general, have shown an unprecedented amount of adaptability and open-mindedness to different ways of being healthy as the result of the pandemic,” said Bharathy Sundaram, director of the MS Clinic at Texas Institute for Neurological Disorders. “They have grown more eager to improve their livelihoods, as this chaotic year has brought a lot of much-needed growth and change as well.” 


As the mindfulness analysis through Yale Medicine, the public became so rooted in our day to day lives, the uncertainty the pandemic brought caused a whole new frenzy added to the prevalent mental health issue already existing. 


Anne Dutton, Director of the Yale Stress Center mindfulness education program, details the three primary aspects of mindfulness in a similar fashion to what Sadhguru mentioned about doing any practices with intention. Dutton advances that staying fully focused on the present moment, picking one practice to resolve to stick with, and maintaining focus on whatever feelings we feel to let them go are the basics of mindfulness.


Many of the emotions people feel are speculative and worrisome, and mindfulness practices help center oneself without letting a vicious time loop take over. 


“The pandemic has caused time to enter some sort of a paradox; I never know what day it is,” Akaash Nair, University of Texas Film Major and Isha Yoga practitioner, said. “Maintaining the Simha Kriya and various yogic practices I have learned through my years with Isha give me some stability while living on campus, as well as making me more robust to deal with ignorant peers partying and spreading COVID-19.” 


Students have either been turning inward and looking for ways to make the most of their pandemic, or refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the virus and trying to have the “normal” college experience. 


“My sister went partying all of Halloween week and in the weeks after at A&M, got COVID-19, and gave it to me,” said University of Texas Engineering Major, Justin Campbell. “Now, our whole family is quarantining separately for the holidays because she could not be sensible as cases are rising.” 


Although it can be overwhelming to know where to start with mindfulness or how to properly respond to these tough situations, self-reflecting is a good place to begin. According to the study on mindfulness being beneficial during and after this pandemic by Harvard Medical School, these practices promote self-awareness on multiple levels.


As the study entails, mindfulness enhances our regulation of self, which typically helps ease mental health illness and stress, while paving the way for framing a healthier lifestyle in regards to exercising, food choices, and substance abuse. It is even more necessary to be emotionally aware and consciously feel physical sensations to help one stay grounded during times of crisis. 


“I grew up in war crisis after war crisis until the time I was 24, as I grew up in Lebanon,” Maya Rizakallah, Isha Yoga Instructor, Graphic Designer, and Regional Coordinator, said. “I dropped everything to become a full-time volunteer after Sadhguru taught a program there, realizing that we can only positively impact the world if we start within ourselves…Community growth depends on individual transformations.” 


Isha Foundation became an immense force for good and promotion of alternatives people can take to be in charge of their health and wellbeing. Aside from the detailed videos and practices available, Inner Engineering had been made fully online in light of social distancing and offered for free for medical professionals and police personnel.  


The Inner Engineering Online program is divided into seven sessions that can be taken whenever you want once you register until you complete the course. Until the pandemic resolves, all in-person programs will be worked towards an online format.


For the general public, the program fee was reduced to half so those who wanted to be initiated into a structured practice could be from the safety of their own homes. The Harvard Medical School study (paired with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) was conducted to assess the impact of this program on lowering burnout and stress within IT services company,  S2Tech.


According to the study, compliant individuals showed a 50% decrease in their perceived stress score. Those who only took the IEO program had their stress sharply decreased throughout it and after they finished the course. 


The participants that had to start off with reading and then the program in the second phase had their stress decrease far more drastically and quickly after beginning IEO. 


Mindfulness practices can be utilized to mitigate negative thought processes, and have proven to have some positive effects when practiced with intention. 


“From Sadhana Support online for those who are practicing from home to those of us volunteering at the ashram, we are all focused on coming out of this pandemic better than before,” said Navran. “I am beyond grateful to organizations like Isha offering the public tools for wellbeing and to work the planet towards a more joyful, helpful place.”

Hi, I'm Sanjana Iyer! I am a proud 20-year-old Indian-American, born and raised near Boston and moved to Austin, TX before high school. I graduated from Lake Travis HS in 2018 and am aiming to graduate a year in advance from UNT in 2021 with a Digital/Print Journalism degree and a double-minor in Criminal Justice and History. Traveling, singing, adventuring, nature, sports, and music are some of my greatest passions. I enjoy Kpop and Anime as well. I am a huge advocate for animal, environmental, minority, and women's rights. I am also an Isha Meditator, along with being one of the main vocalists for Sounds of Isha (Austin Branch). I tend to live by the phrase "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" and highly believe in a carefree, free-spirited yet spiritual, aware lifestyle. ~ Aspire to Inspire