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Two moments of mindfulness: Our experience with the Duke Wellness Center

The Wellness Center is one of the best, but most underutilized, resources on Duke’s campus. As two first-year students during our first of many busy midterm seasons, we felt it was the perfect time to relieve our academic stress with one of the Wellness Center’s best offerings – their Moments of Mindfulness classes – while sharing our experiences with Recess readers. After looking at some of the many offerings, one of us decided to try the Restorative Yoga class and the other signed up for a Creative Writing class. 

Restorative Yoga at the Duke Wellness Center – Fiona

The restorative yoga class took place in a beautiful, open yoga studio with large glass windows overlooking the Wellness Center garden. We started and ended with an extended savasana or corpse pose, which is supposed to put your body in a state of total relaxation . I personally felt – and appreciated – this feeling of being totally at rest, which also happened to perfectly match the session experience overall. We also engaged in several deep breathing exercises and did some light hip and leg stretches. The class allowed us to choose how much or how little we would stretch and the instructor encouraged us to fall asleep on the mats if we wanted, using the blocks or pillows on the yoga mats provided. 

After the class, I got a chance to speak with Samantha Gottlieb (Trinity ‘24), the instructor. Samantha explained to me how the pandemic inspired her to take care of her mental health which led her to volunteer with the wellness center. 

As someone who is a novice at yoga, I appreciated the lack of background required for this class and how easy it was to participate. I would describe the class more as a restorative mindfulness class than a yoga class, although it is still something I enjoyed. 

Creative Writing in Bell Tower’s Oasis Room - Olivia

Going into the creative writing class, I did not know what to expect. I would not consider myself a poet, but did take and enjoy a course on creative writing in high school. I had no clue if there would be writers that could be future Pulitzer prize winners in the class, or if it would be empty. To my relief, when I walked into the Bell Tower Oasis room it was just three people, including the instructor, which made for a very comforting vibe. The instructor was Eric Su, a junior majoring in environmental science at Duke Kunshan University. I would later find out that this was his first time teaching the class. 

After we settled down, Eric asked a very interesting and creative icebreaker: if you were to have the skin of fruit for your skin, what (fruit) would you want it to be? I thought it was a very creative question, I guess that’s suitable for a creative writing class. My answer was a raspberry, by the way. 

After our ice breaker we all got to know each other, which allowed me to feel more comfortable with the group before getting a bit more vulnerable with my writing. Eric gave us the choice between (), and we chose to do a prompt which required us to write about something that reminds us of home. We were allowed to write in any form we wanted to. The only restriction was that we should write about something personal, but not private because we were going to share our work at the end. After the ground rules were laid out, we spent twenty-five minutes writing on our own before coming together to share our work. 

I found that writing my piece about home was way more relaxing than I thought it was going to be. Even though I love writing, I would not say it is not usually something that calms me down. However, taking the time to myself to just write whatever came to my head purely for enjoyment, and not an assignment, was very relaxing. For anyone needing to just let off some steam, I would definitely recommend this class. 

Future of the Wellness Center at Duke

I think it's safe to say that both of the classes we went to made us feel a little bit lighter at the end. In addition to these two classes, there are weekly events such as meditation, coloring and coffee, crafting, birding, sleight of hand and more. Samantha explained how there’s “a lot of variety and it’s free, right on campus.” She talked about the importance of incorporating these moments of mindfulness into our schedules. We will definitely be going to these events more, and we hope to see you there too! Overall, we both would encourage others to try out the restorative yoga class at the Wellness Center, the creative writing class at the Belltower Oasis, as well as the plentiful other programming offered by the wellness center. Despite its lack of advertising and the minimalistic descriptions upon sign up, these classes provide a welcome opportunity to Duke students to unwind and engage with themselves and with art and relaxation. 

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