College Yoga Day inspires community wellness

College Yoga Day organizers included members of the nonprofit College Yoga Day, Student Affairs, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and USC’s Physical Education Department. 
(Grant Go | Daily Trojan)

Hundreds of students attended USC’s inaugural College Yoga Day, an all-day event held by the non-profit organization College Yoga Day in Associates Park. Live music and meditation sessions animated USC’s outdoor spaces as a joint collaboration between Student Affairs, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Physical Education Program.

The festival introduced the community to  yoga instructors and healthy lifestyle alternatives such as stress management techniques and meditation available on campus. College Yoga Day was directed by Loyola Marymount University professor Eden Goldman, who also founded Meditating Mascots, a yoga and mindfulness company that sells mascot-like plush toys and products to promote mindfulness on college campuses.

“All of this evolved out of what happened last year in February on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. … That was my high school,” Goldman said. “We came up with this idea as a way to bring more peace to campuses, and we thought we could make a big influence in that regard.” 

Students, faculty and staff were invited to participate in workshops throughout the day, including live music performances and yoga and meditation sessions and presentations on the science of wellness. Jennifer Guinter, a yoga instructor at USC, attended the event to support longtime friend Goldman and promote the things she loves to teach her students.

“It’s one thing to kind of roll out your yoga mat, do your yoga practice, roll it back up and walk home, which is great [because] it’s mindfulness, and building physical strength is important and nice, but we wanted to create more of a community environment,” Guinter said. “A lot of people engage in sports or Greek life and things like this but yoga and mindfulness are really geared toward self-care.”

Several organizations from USC attended the event, such as the Music Meditation Club, a student club that aims to create a safe space for students to come and experience the benefits of meditation in all forms. 

At the festival, club members distributed manuals on mindfulness as well as instructional guides on meditation. 

“At our club, we invite specific yoga teachers, meditation teachers, healing teachers that can come and give a short experience to the students,” said Hari Bhakta, a senior majoring in philosophy. “This was a perfect place to come and connect with like-minded individuals.”

Gould School of Law student Tammi Matsukiyo also emphasized the importance of the event as a means for stress relief. Matsukiyo said she was glad she attended the festival in order to learn about underrepresented health practices.  

“We were walking into [Lyon Recreation Center] and we saw a sign that said Yoga Day …,’ so we decided to head over.” Matsukiyo said. “It’s really important to promote alternative ways of exercising and alternative healing and stuff like that.”

The event also worked with local businesses and community leaders such as Sunshine Shop, an online apparel store that aims to promote a message of mindfulness and positivity.

“One of the organizers, [Goldman], he’s a good friend of ours, and he’s been a yoga instructor for us for a little while,” said Frank Bach, a representative of the Sunshine Shop. “[It’s] just this common theme of wellness and self-care and meditation and yoga. We land inside that umbrella.” 

Jay Valin, a College Yoga Day collaborator who helped organize the event on campus, said the non-profit plans to execute more events not just at USC but at other college campuses as well. 

“The next event will be at the University of Miami on Nov. 16 and then UCLA in February,” Valin said. “Next year, we plan on launching 15 other schools throughout the country.”