The Collegian
Thursday, July 16, 2020

CAPS sponsors "Ultimate Relaxation Experience"

Professional yoga instructor Evelyn Zak will teach stressed students progressive muscle relaxation at The Ultimate Relaxation Experience, sponsored by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) outreach interns, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3 in the Alice Haynes Room of the Tyler Haynes Commons.

Peter LeViness, director of CAPS, said that in surveys of the student body — not just people who come to CAPS — feeling stressed was one of the highest things students reported struggling with.

"Many different kinds of stresses hit students during their time at any given college or university that can often derail them from their academic pursuits and their personal and social connections," LeViness said.

Senior psychology major Emily Dowd, a CAPS outreach intern, said: "We know students have an incredible amount of stress on their plate, they're doing student organizations, they're trying to keep their grades up. [The seminar] is just to give them a chance to have a little break."

Dowd said the interns had conversations in their first meetings of the semester about how to deal with student stress and sleep deprivation.

"Obviously all of us are students, we're aware we're not the best at taking care of ourselves during these four years of our lives," Dowd said. "I think college is when you have the most problems with getting a regular sleep cycle, eating right, exercising, all sorts of things that are important."

Dowd added: "Stress is something that's a universal problem; we need to learn how to deal with it before students run themselves into the ground. As you go through college and you get into upper level classes and more commitments, it's something that begins to affect you more."

The interns worked with Tracy Cassalia, manager of health, education and wellness. Cassalia suggested Zak, who has taught workshops at University of Richmond before, for the seminar.

LeViness said progressive muscle relaxation was a really useful exercise, but a lot of students have never tried it. He said the idea was to tense and relax various muscle groups from head to toe.

"It can be incredibly relaxing and it can be something that people can do when they're stressed or can't turn their mind off at night and they're tossing and turning," LeViness said.

Dowd said the reason they picked her to teach progressive muscle relaxation was because it wasn't full-blown yoga, which could be difficult for someone as a beginner, or Pilates, which is very stressful on the body in the beginning.

"Progressive muscle relaxation is something anybody can do -- you don't need to be exercising or have taken prior classes," Dowd said. "It's for the whole student campus."

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Fifth-year senior psychology major Andrew Benford, a CAPS outreach intern, said: "[Zak has] done classes before and half of the room is dead asleep. It's all about showing up with an open mind and putting everything else aside and relaxing."

LeViness said it was a preventative tool that students could use to cope and better handle stress to get them through tough times.

"It's a misconception in college that if you're not running from one thing to another throughout your entire day, you're doing something wrong," Dowd said.

"This lets you take a step back, take a deep breath, just appreciate the things that you are doing and get the most out of them," Benford said.

Dowd worried that students are so stressed they wouldn't be inclined to spend an hour at the seminar instead of doing homework, but Benford encouraged students to realize how beneficial it is to set aside free time to enjoy yourself, relax or even nap.

Contact reporter Sarah Craig at

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