Relaxation class helps students de-stress

KNES 330, flexibility and relaxation, is a course that stresses the importance of de-stressing. Professor Janice Cook believes that one’s ability to be productive and efficient goes hand-in-hand with the ability to reflect and relax.

“In terms of a balanced life you do need to get this relaxation response, with heart rate lowered and blood pressure lowered, which is more recuperative than sleep,” Cook said. “We live in such a stressful world now-a-days — that’s why there [are] so many stress-related illnesses.”

During labs, students get to practice the stretching and relaxation techniques they learned during lectures. These include flexibility tests, breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, reflection and even laughter therapy. Cook said the techniques she teaches are lifelong skills that help in every area of life.

Students are required to keep a journal about the relaxation methods they practice at home four or more times a week. Cook said this provides accurate feedback about how her teachings affect students in other areas of their lives. Many students claim they get better sleep and can better handle exam stress, she said, after practicing these relaxation techniques at home.

“You don’t have to have religion to have spiritual benefits [of meditation],” Cook asserted. “It gives people time to reflect and put perspective on life and balance.”

The class still has exams based on lectures and a workbook with five or six assignments students must complete through the semester. Students are taught the effect stress has on many medical conditions, such as depression and autoimmune diseases.

“You get to feel what stretching actually does,” said Katie Blundell, Dinos soccer player and fifth-year kinesiology student. “I’ve also been really sick for the past couple years, so doing yoga and meditating . . . to learn it all I think helped me a lot with myself, with how I’m feeling, and learning to let go of some of the stuff that’s going on.”

In the last 15 minutes of lab time Cook will often turn the lights off and go through visualization exercises or ask students to reflect on excerpts they read earlier in the lab.

“But she’d make sure you weren’t sleeping,” Blundell pointed out, “because there’s a difference between being completely relaxed and in the moment, and sleeping.”

Sukhman Sandhu, a third-year kinesiology student, said that the course may seem easy at first, but the concepts taught take discipline to apply outside of class.

“I knew I needed something to motivate me to help me stretch and get into good habits at a young age because it is one of the important aspects of healthy living,” Sandhu said. “I feel like the lab is really good because it gives you time to stretch and relax, and it’s two hours a week; without this class I would not be able to do that, so having that time allotted for you is, I think, wonderful.”

Tessa Miller, Dinos soccer player and second-year kinesiology student, said that knowing the physiological benefits of flexibility and relaxation provides her with more options for handling stress — even if they are challenging to keep up.

“I’m way more aware of incorporating that into my life,” said Miller. “I feel like I’m way too busy to feel like I could sit down for half an hour to just close my eyes and relax, but I know it would be beneficial if I did have time.”

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