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Testing UTrain: Mindful Moments

Do the workouts really work?
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Meditation is a Buddhist-inspired practice of being mindful. MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY
Meditation is a Buddhist-inspired practice of being mindful. MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY

While on exchange last winter, I took a course on meditation and really appreciated what I learned from the practice. However, when I returned to Canada, with all of the chaos of the pandemic and without the guidance of my professor, I let go of my practice. Even with the warm weather and sunshine, I was worn out this week — but I felt like it might be time to try again. 

I had seen “Mindful Moments” on the virtual fitness studio schedule, and I figured that I would try one of these classes from the U of T Virtual Fitness Studio YouTube channel. 

Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired practice of building our ability to be present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing in a non-judgemental way. It is also used in clinical psychology to help treat patients with chronic anxiety and stress, including academic stress. 

The “Mindful Moments” class description describes the class as a “series of meditation exercises designed to relieve stress, instill calm and lower blood pressure leading towards health in both mind and body.” The class was hosted by Lauren B, who began the class with a short reading from Richard Wagamese’s book, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations. Lauren mentioned that there is a lot of crossover between our mindfulness work and Wagamese’s writings.

We began the class with three to four minutes of free writing. We didn’t share it with the class, and I will not be sharing mine here, but as someone who is not used to journalling, I found this activity quite difficult. The next practice was a breathing exercise that I was familiar with from my meditation course in which we focused on individual parts of the body and breathing.I have noticed that I used to be better at following my breath, but as with exercise, I was out of practice. 

The next exercise was to bring our focus to our emotions and locate them in the body. The goal was to acknowledge the emotions and recognize the separation that comes from the practice of observing our thoughts and emotions. 

The last practice was a walking meditation, so I just walked around the room. Lauren mentioned that this exercise would be particularly useful to appreciate nature. She broke down each step so that you could feel each part of the foot and sense each movement. 

Lauren ended the class by returning to Wagamese’s writing, explaining how the importance of “being physically well enough to do good work” applies to students.