Ajit Pyati receives Western Leadership in Wellness Award of Recognition

Professor Ajit Pyati has been named a recipient of the inaugural Western Leadership in Wellness Award of Recognition for his contribution in promoting health and wellness on Western’s campus.

Ajit Pyati receives his award

Ajit Pyati receives his award from Melanie-Anne Atkins on October 4.

According to Dr. Melanie-Anne Atkins, director of Western's Wellness Education Centre, the Leadership in Wellness Award of Recognition was developed as a next step in engaging more Western faculty members in creating and sustaining mentally healthy classrooms for their students. The inaugural recipients of the award are esteemed faculty members who are already doing this work, and are therefore role models for other faculty members who want to promote student mental health in their classrooms, but aren’t sure how to do it or where to begin.

Several years ago, Pyati, who is a professor in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies, began offering yoga classes to FIMS students, faculty and staff out of the North Campus Building. Finding he enjoyed the experience, Pyati later connected with Atkins in 2016 and agreed to develop some courses that would have a wider reach and could be offered through the centre.

The first classes were held during the summer 2016 term and included a general yoga class and a meditation-based class named “Breathe and Relax.” Pyati found a receptive audience among an overburdened student population, and noticed that he gained as much from the classes as the students did.

“My main goal is to help students discover tools they can use for greater well-being, resilience, and inner knowledge. Often when I finish teaching a class, I feel calm and nourished myself, even though I did not do the practices! There is something about the energy that is created in a class that also comes back to the instructor,” explained Pyati.
“On another level, I feel like this type of teaching is the most meaningful I have ever done at Western. In normal academic classes, the focus is so much about the ‘material,’ and there are the inherent tensions of grades, assessment, judgments, etc.”

With the success of his initial courses, Pyati then developed a new fixed enrollment class called “Yoga for Stress Relief” aimed at graduate and undergraduate students. It was taught for the first time during the fall 2016 and summer 2017 terms.

Pyati sought feedback from students in his newest course and was encouraged by the responses he received, noting that a few students identified it as a transformative experience for them.

“That was extremely gratifying and humbling. This feedback is a testament to the great value of these practices. To know that I can play even a tiny part in conveying these ancient practices to others is a wonderful thing,” he said.

In a hectic world, particularly on campus where people struggle with high chronic stress levels, Pyati sees his classes as encouraging a different type of education for students, staff and faculty at Western.

“The beauty of a class like Yoga for Stress Relief is that students come without any sense of obligation and the ‘material’ really is themselves. Sure, there are practices to learn and potentially master, but in the end these are just tools. When the real goal is cultivating greater self-awareness, you can't get any better than that!”

Pyati is taking a break from teaching at the Wellness Education Centre this term, but plans to resume his classes there in the near future.

Find out more about the Wellness Education Centre at http://se.uwo.ca/wec.html