New group offers classes in stress reduction

01-28-09 Stress
Sandhya Padki meditates during the Art of Living event at the Wells Fargo student center in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday. Instructor Peeyush Khanna explained how daily meditation can be a “spiritual shower” and aided a balanced and positive life. (Claire Warden/The State Press)
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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Students can learn to be stress-free and positive with help from the Art of Living, an organization that focuses on helping people achieve happiness and peace that come from relaxation and stress release.

Peeyush Khanna, leader of the group’s Tuesday presentation at the Wells Fargo Student Center at the Downtown campus, is a teacher for the Art of Living courses that are available in Tempe.

“If there is no peace, there is no health, and life is not worth living,” Khanna said.

Khanna’s presentation focused on spreading awareness of the foundation and techniques for a stress-free life.

The national organization has been in the U.S. for 20 years and started originally in India, Khanna said.

Khanna coordinates workshops and presentations with the student organization and leads his own courses as well.

Bharadwaj Sathyanarayana, president of the group and an electrical engineering doctorate student, lead the student group at the ASU Tempe campus.

“We teach students how to handle stress and negative emotions,” Sathyanarayana said.

The presentation showed a glimpse of what the Art of Living courses are like, including meditation, breathing exercises and a video showing an interview with the founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Khanna mainly discussed how healthy breathing is overlooked by a majority of people and how the body, in a sense, becomes starved for oxygen.

“The problem is that most people are comfortable with the status quo,” Khanna said.

“When we are not attending to the most basic needs of existence, what is it likely to lead to?” Khanna asked the audience.

Khanna also talked about how meditation and breathing techniques can relieve the body of stress and make people more capable of dealing with stressful situations.

“There is so much calmness in our being [so] that we can handle these small situations,” Khanna said.

Some of the organization’s introductory courses are free, and courses that do cost money are discounted for students, said Sandhya Padki, a volunteer for the organization.

Courses will also be available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in PSA 103 at the Tempe campus at no cost, Padki said.

There will be an introduction talk with a guided meditation, Padki said.

From Feb. 24 to March 1, a Youth Empowerment and Skills Workshop will focus on the breathing technique, “Sudarshan Kriya,” tips to relieve stress and increase focus and more, Padki said.

“There is a deep sense of belonging in this. You can connect with a stranger immediately,” Padki said.

Padki said that when she lived in Minnesota, she had problems with depression and stress because she was unable to have a child.

A friend of Padki’s encouraged her to join the group in 2007 and eventually she became a volunteer.

“Within a few months’ time, I didn’t need antidepressants at all,” Padki said.

“I’m so much at ease with myself, and I’m not anxious anymore,” Padki said.

The group promotes a violence-free, stress-free and disease-free society, Padki said.

Sushil Shinde, a volunteer for the group and an electrical engineering graduate student, started attending the courses in 2001. Shinde said he had stage fright and couldn’t sustain enthusiasm and interest in activities before the program.

“The whole attitude toward your life changes,” Shinde said.

Maureen Connolly, a non-profit management senior, said she attended the Art of Living presentation after looking on Downtown Devil News and reading several meditation books, including “The Celestine Prophecy.”

“I’m more interested in yoga and meditation and trying to make [my] life more stress-free,” Connolly said.

Reach the reporter at reweaver@asu.edu.