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Breathing Deep In The Birthplace of Yoga

Jason Duffy, an SAS alumnus and current Lifelong Learner, and Jasmijn Vermeersch of Foothill College, focus on their breath and work to find inner peace.

While in India, a group of students spent two days at an Art of Living yoga retreat training their minds and bodies to be more present and in the moment. Through stretching exercises, guided meditation and a breathing process called Sudarshan Kriya, everyone took a break from the fast-paced and exciting Semester at Sea voyage to reflect on their own lives and seek inner peace.

Prior to the field program, not everyone was aware that the Art of Living is actually a specific type of yoga and meditation that is practiced in over 150 countries around the world. It offers numerous educational and self-development programs and tools that help reduce stress and foster deep and profound tranquility, happiness and well being. The founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, developed the organization with one guiding philosophy:

Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.

The leader of the retreat, Dr.Hamsapriya, introduced the purpose of yoga and meditation by telling a short story. “There was once a man living in a small town who had no possessions,” she said. “He went off looking for money and riches and spent the rest of his life searching the world but never found what he needed. Upon returning home, he found a whole trove of gold and jewels in his own home. They had been there all along.”

The moral of the story, according to Dr. Hamsaspriya, is that we have everything we need to find happiness and fulfillment within ourselves. By practicing yoga, we have the tools necessary to uncover our own inner treasures.

Yoga is about finding divinity within yourself.

For some, the inspiration for joining the retreat was a way to delve deeper into a practice that they‚Äôd always known about but never fully pursued. ‚ÄúI’ve tried meditating on my own for a couple of years and have never been able to get into it,‚Äù said Kiri Campbell of Northern Arizona University. ‚ÄúI figured I needed a jumping off point of some sort- and what’s cooler than saying you learned how to meditate in India?‚Äù

In one exercise, voyagers practiced non-verbal communication by expressing a whole range of emotions without speaking. Staff member Sara Clement (left) is clearly acting excited while Alex Shahade of Elon University (right), seems to have eaten something sour or smelled something foul.

The reason Sara Clement, the Dependent Children Coordinator, chose the Art of Living field program was for both its historical and spiritual aspects. “The ability to practice yoga in the country where it started and where a large percentage of the population regularly practices was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said. In addition, the training she received still has an effect on her today. “Since the program, I have found myself intentionally sitting alone and breathing in a way I’ve never done before,” she said.

The ability to focus more easily is particularly beneficial on a Semester at Sea voyage. Even with all of the extraordinary sights to be seen and beautiful moments to be experienced, it is easy for one’s thoughts to wander to other places – home, work, relationships, etc. After being trained on this field program, SAS students can now continue their travels with a clearer mind that is more well equipped to stay focused on all of the remarkable moments ahead of them and, according to Jasmijn Vermeersch of Foothill College, develop “a deeper understanding of the connection we all share as human beings.”

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