New stress management workshop makes its way to campus

Jillian Sandler

Kellogg’s Personal Sustainability Club will hold two four-day Youth Empowerment and Skills workshops, known as yesplus courses, this month.

This is the first time Northwestern will offer the workshops, which teach topics such as breathing techniques that aim to aid students in managing stress and leading a balanced life, according to Kellogg MBA student Ram Sankaranarayanan, president of the Personal Sustainability Club and co-teacher of the workshops.

The first workshop starts Thursday and will be followed by a second one starting May 10. Other similar courses have been previously offered at NU through the Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes stress management techniques and service projects, according to its website. As of Wednesday evening, 13 participants were signed up for Thursday’s workshop, and registration will be open online until 5 p.m. Thursday, Sankaranarayanan said.

Yesplus, which is also sponsored by the Art of Living Foundation, is similar in principle to the previously offered courses but is specifically targeted toward college-age and graduate students, according to Uma Viswanathan, who is co-teaching the class with Sankaranarayanan and has taught various Art of Living courses in high schools, universities and even prisons.

Viswanathan said people enroll in the yesplus workshop for a variety of reasons that are rooted in their desire to relieve stress and increase performance in the classroom or in outside activities such as service.

“It inspires people to take more responsibility for what’s around them,” said Viswanathan, a strategic consultant for the International Association for Human Values, which works closely with the Art of Living Foundation. “When we’re able to manage the stress in our lives, we start to feel that there’s more room freed up to start taking that action.”

National Director of Yesplus Annelies Richmond said yesplus was brought to the United States in 2006 and is currently being taught at 40 universities. She said the workshop includes features such as interactive and teambuilding activities.

“It makes the meditative technique come alive, it makes you implement it right away,” Richmond said. “In the world, you’re interacting with people. You can’t just sit and close your eyes … It makes it become more real, more practical.”

Sankaranarayanan said the yesplus workshop emphasizes four main practices to its participants. These include implementing a vegetarian diet, getting an optimal amount of sleep, instilling a “calm, meditative state of mind” and practicing breathing exercises. Sankaranarayanan said these practices increase “prana,” the Sanskrit term for life-force energy, which can make one calmer.

Second-year Kellogg student Prerna Dubey participated in an Art of Living course at Kellogg in April. She said the course’s techniques as well as its incorporation of community building have aided her in stress management.

“I don’t worry about the things I used to worry about as much,” Dubey said. “I have more focus and more control on my mind.”

According to Sankaranarayanan, the yesplus workshops, which run 20 hours in total, cost $250 for first-time participants and $25 upon return. Groups can also purchase a workshop for $1,500 for as many as 30 members, and financial aid and scholarship opportunities are also available, according to Sankaranarayanan.

Richmond also said people who want to take the course will not be turned away for financial reasons. Sankaranarayanan has taken the yesplus workshop himself and credits the techniques he learned with helping him balance his hectic life. He said he hopes to impart on students the practices he has learned.

“I want my students to see that one can take responsibility by learning how to manage their mind and (that) the breathing techniques really help keep the energy up,” he said. “If you’re in a high-prana state, you can move mountains.”

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