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Overwhelmed by Stress? Practice Controlled Breathing and Meditation With Sharan Asundi

By David Simpson

Many faculty members felt a new level of pressure and anxiety when the University moved to online-only instruction in the spring. Not Sharan Asundi.

Asundi, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, was equipped with a daily discipline that he says enabled him to fend off stress. In fact, he's been volunteering throughout the pandemic to help faculty, students and others learn to cope as he does. Asundi also attended last month's Center for Faculty Development workshop on breath work led by adjunct faculty member Lane Dare, and offered to continue the focus with more programming.

On Monday, Nov. 2, Asundi will lead the workshop "Breathe Strong — An Introduction to SKY, Breath and Meditation." In it, he'll demonstrate a breathing technique and guide participants through a meditation. (SKY is short for Sudarshan Kriya Yoga.) Then on Thursday, Nov. 19, he'll lead a second workshop that emphasizes a different breathing technique. For each session you'll need a laptop or a tablet, a comfortable chair and a quiet space for yourself.

Last week Asundi answered a few questions posed by the CFD, which is presenting the workshops.

What will you talk about at the workshops and what will you demonstrate?

I'll talk about the connection between breath and mindfulness. Mindfulness here relates to becoming aware of our emotions, which are a faculty of our mind. I'll talk about stress and anxiety, particularly in the current situation, and how breathing and meditation, when incorporated into our daily practice, can significantly alleviate them. The participants will have the opportunity to experience a simple breathing technique, followed by a guided meditation.

How did you become interested in meditation/controlled breathing, or how did you encounter it?

I grew up hearing about yoga, breathing and meditation. Five or six years ago I was formally introduced to the home practice of SKY, Breath, and Meditation. The regular home practice has allowed me to dive deep into exploring breathing, meditation and its impact on stress, anxiety and depression.

How has it helped you?

It was about a year and a half ago that I truly recognized the power of my home practice. In my previous role as a faculty member at another institution, I was not granted tenure despite overperforming at my job. My department was small, and while I was worried for my job, I was devastated by the feeling that the students would suffer. At the time, I intensified my home practice and quickly recognized that meditating two or three times a day calmed me down and allowed me to move forward. I attribute much of my success becoming a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at ODU to my breathing and meditation practices.

During the Spring 2020 semester, we had to quickly transition to online instruction. By this time, I was practically addicted to my daily practice of breathing and meditation. It not only allowed me to smoothly transition to handling my responsibilities online, but I stepped up and helped my department to transition online. For my efforts, I received significant accolades from my department head and, as a bonus, I got him to take a course in breathing and meditation. During this time, I also motivated several ODU students and students from my previous institution to take the same course.

Have you undergone training?

Yes, I have undergone both basic and advanced training. I'm one step away from becoming a certified instructor in these practices.

How can meditation help us, especially now?

The impact of COVID-19 in our day-to-day life in terms of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty has been significant, to say the least. Our professional and personal lives have never been so entangled as they are now. While the short-term implications may be relatively more evident, the long-term impact of this pandemic is simply beyond measure at this time. If we can incorporate SKY, Breath and Meditation into our daily routine, there is very strong evidence to suggest that we will be better prepared to address the paradigm change due to COVID-19.

Since the lockdown, students and faculty have come under extreme pressure to reinvent themselves in terms of teaching and learning. There is research-based evidence to suggest that SKY, Breath and Meditation practice can significantly aid in addressing stress, anxiety and even PTSD- type extreme situations. In my personal experience, incorporating an early morning routine of such practice has allowed me to be better prepared for the day. While I have not skipped my practice, particularly on weekdays, for the last several months, there is a clear difference in days spent with and without it. With the daily practice, I am more focused throughout the day and sometimes overcome lack of sleep. I strongly feel I am better at caring for students when I am regular with the daily practice.

Here are the Zoom meeting details for the two sessions of "Breathe Strong — An Introduction to SKY, Breath and Meditation":

Monday, Nov. 2, 10 to 11 a.m.:
Join Zoom Meeting | Meeting ID: 957 2515 6503 | Passcode: 378323

Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to noon:
Join Zoom Meeting | Meeting ID: 916 0720 0448 | Passcode: 907265

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