University library offers yoga breaks during Mental Health Awareness month

Yoga at the University of Tartu library
Yoga at the University of Tartu library Source: ERR

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. The University of Tartu Counselling Center is, for the first time, offering students who can already see the deadlines piling up, the chance to get away from the books and take a yoga break in the library.

Thinking for hours on end while sat at a desk in the library is certainly no easy task for a student. Luckily, at the University of Tartu, there is a special fitness room just a few steps away, where students can go to take a short yoga break.

While the room is usually just used by students to get a few minutes of alone time during a busy day, this October there are also sessions run by a qualified yoga trainer, providing the chance to relax by stretching or doing some breathing exercises. For those who want to participate in the half-hour relaxation sessions, no gym clothes or prior experience are necessary.

"I've been once before. I just thought I'd give it a go and it was a nice, calming, slightly refreshing kind of activity, which gave me more energy. So, now I'm back again," said Karl Markus, a student at the University of Tartu.

The yoga sessions were set up by the university's counselling center, which also offers individual counselling sessions and mental health seminars for students.

"We thought that this time we could offer something more hands-on, more practical. So, we want to offer (students) the opportunity to stretch, activate some muscles, relax, and to become more self-aware," said Teili Toms, mental health prevention coordinator at the University of Tartu.

When it comes to mental health issues, many students are in need of support. While the university does offer appointments with psychologists free of charge for students, waiting lists are currently longer than a month.

Student Karl Markus added, that mental health is very important to him. "I was actually due to graduate in the spring, but I had a small mental health issue that got in the way. So, I'm trying to improve my mental health a little bit now. I'm still feeling the effect of the pandemic and spending less time with friends. I didn't really notice it at the time, but in hindsight I think that was a big problem, and why I felt mentally exhausted," he said.

Yoga sessions with a trainer will take place once a week at the University of Tartu library, and initially only in October.

"Ultimately, the aim is for students to take away these skills so that they can do similar exercises in their own daily lives and then, the next day, come on their own to the fitness room to practice and give themselves a break (from studying)," said Toms.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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