Yes+ uses yoga, meditation to help UF students focus

Published: Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 9:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 9:37 p.m.

University of Florida students danced barefoot in a circle with carefree smiles at the Reitz Union on Monday.

The students are part of the summer Yes+ Gators workshop, which incorporate yoga, stress management and meditation. The $250 workshop ran from July 19-22 in the Reitz Union Matthews Suite.

Tushar Bhattacharyya, one of the Yes+ Gators founders, said the workshop helps students handle personal problems and improve relationships.

"From the games, we try to help them learn something that can be put into daily use," he said. "We help them deal with all sorts of problems."

Founded in January, the Yes+ Gators have held three workshops. The club for college-age students is part of a larger organization, The Art of Living. The Yes+ workshops can be found all over the world.

Camille Mekwinski, a 20-year-old UF environmental engineering junior, said the workshops have helped improve her focus.

"One really quantifiable result that I have had from the experience is being able to finish my work so much more efficiently," she said.

The workshops, which can go on for more than five hours, feature the Sudarshan Kriya breathing techniques. Bhattacharyya said Sudarshan Kriya helps the students go into deep meditation.

Tyler Peters, a 22-year-old UF psychology senior, took part in the July workshop for the first time. Peters said the experience changed him.

"I got to bond with a really accepting group of people," he said. "This was one of the most profound experiences I have been through."

The acceptance of the group participants, Mekwinski said, is what keeps her coming back to the workshops.

"You don't really get the opportunity to just be completely crazy and act like a child without people judging you," she said. "The atmosphere is naturally an accepting atmosphere. Nobody judges anybody."

As part of the workshop experience, the students partook in a community service activity. This past Sunday, Yes+ Gators went to Bo Diddley Community Plaza to help the homeless. The group provided sandwiches and taught meditation exercises.

Peters said at first he felt a bit uncomfortable.

"It was a really big test for me," he said. "I was out of my comfort zone but I emerged feeling great about the whole experience."

Yes+ Gators also holds fundraisers to raise money for students to attend the workshops. For the summer workshop, Yes+ Gators raised $250, which was split among the students attending the workshop to pay for the cost.

"After going through that weekend, I learned that you can't put a price on this kind of experience," Peters said.

Along with workshops, Yes+ Gators hosts weekly free meditation sessions in the Reitz Union.

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