ESMMYC Shared Mindfulness & Meditation at April General Membership Meeting

by Elizabeth W. Duda

Apr. 19, 2020 (York County, SC) ESMMYC hosted our first “virtual” general meeting on April 14 – keeping a safe “social distance” in accordance with CDC guidance as we all address the COVID-19 pandemic. SC executive order 2020-21 also recognizes the importance of addressing our physical and mental health. Through the mindfulness and meditation lessons taught in our meeting, ESMMYC leadership team members, Sara Cain-da Costa of Synergy Yoga Wellness and Janet Wojcik of Winthrop University, shared techniques for stress reduction, concentration and focus. Critically important in this challenging time, these approaches can also be used for management of pain, chronic illness, and weight.

Cain-da Costa explained her start with yoga and meditation for personal reasons. Twenty years later, she now shares her passion with the community out of her studio in Rock Hill, and at community events. Synergy Yoga Wellness celebrated its 7th anniversary this Saturday by offering free, live yoga and meditation sessions online. Sara described the importance of breathing and the science behind it – with relaxed breathing signaling to the Vagus nerve, which sends the message to the brain, that “all is well.”

Wojcik teaches physical activity for special and aging populations to students in her exercise science program at Winthrop University – for themselves and their future patients. She shared how mindfulness can help the more-than-one-third of the U.S. population with a chronic disease. With a focus on relaxation and non-judgment, people can benefit by practicing in different settings (even in the supermarket line!). Janet presented the history of mindfulness-based stress reduction, founded about 40 years ago, by being aware of one’s surroundings and breathing. Mindfulness in eating has become important as weight management or weight loss approach (teaching listen to hunger and satiety cues). See Janet’s powerpoint for: What is mindfulness; History; and Common Uses.

Children benefit from learning mindfulness and meditation early. They have better social health, emotional learning and self awareness, and make healthier choices. Plus, Cain-da Costa hears kids share that “yoga sleep/meditation” can be the favorite part of their day.

During the Q&A / discussion portion, attendee, Dawn Mendoza, of Movement, Mindfulness and Me in Tega Cay, with a background in pediatrics, mental health and occupational therapy, said that she trains students in Fort Mill School District schools to not be in a “fight or flight” state for extended time. ESMMYC leadership team member, Dan Fesperman, Atrium Health, noted resources for youth, families and school-based programs at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine Center for Mindfulness.

Cain-da Costa ended the meeting with a guided meditation. Folks were encouraged to get comfortable in whichever way was best for them, be it seated, or lying down in our preferred position. She shared three-part breathing – through the stomach, ribs and chest. She had us envision breathing in while a cup was filled, then breathing out as the liquid was poured from the cup. The tension in our muscles was released…and I know that at least I came out of the meditation relaxed and better equipped to take on the challenges of the day.

Why is ESMMYC’s messaging about offering and making healthy choices, in support of obesity and chronic disease-prevention efforts, important now? Some have compared this period of staying home to the “freshman 15” of college students – with evidence of people buying more junk food. Leadership team member, Dr. Dave Keely, explained the science behind how severe obesity and chronic disease are important factors for COVID-19: the expansion of an obese person’s lungs are compromised by abdominal fat; and obesity hinders the endocrine system through the pancreas’ inability to produce enough insulin to handle metabolic needs. Noting his work for Tobacco-Free York County, Dr. Keely also emphasized that nicotine, in products like combustibles and vape electronic delivery systems, makes a person more susceptible to COVID-19, as it enhances the ACE2 receptors in the respiratory tract for the COVID-19 virus to attach.

What else was discussed in the general meeting?

  • Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas (nonprofit) has a helpful interactive food resources map and farm and farmers market map
  • ESMMYC leadership team member, Latisha Holt, York School District nutrition director, noted they were “constantly fighting battles and troubleshooting meals for the students as there is a short supply of everything. We are providing 2,000 breakfasts and 2,000 lunches Monday through Friday for any student. We still are following school nutrition guidelines as much as we possibly can based on food availability.” More info is on the YSD1 website.
  • City of Rock Hill’s Amy Jo Denton, ESMMYC leadership team, announced:
    • Comprehensive Plan Public Health Focus Group Conference call, Wednesday, 4/22, 2pm
    • Comprehensive Plan Survey
  • ESMMSC Food Insecurity Coalition Call on Cultural Relevancy, Thursday 4/16
  • ESMMYC chair Liz Duda spoke about food insecurity and access to healthy foods on YouTube interview with Sheila Caldwell of The Heart2Heart Foundation and Phil Ford of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina on Monday, 04/13; and WRHI Radio’s interview with Patti Mercer and Lucas McFadden on Thursday, 04/16

Attendees: Kelsey Allen (Eat Smart Move More South Carolina); Sara Cain-da Costa (Synergy Yoga, ESMMYC); Jillian Clinton (SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)); Amy Jo Denton (City of Rock Hill, ESMMYC); Elizabeth Duda (ESMMYC); Dan Fesperman (Atrium Health, ESMMYC); Manuela Hanold; Latisha Holt (York School District, ESMMYC); Erin Hostetler (Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas); Dr. Dave Keely (Tobacco-Free York County, ESMMYC); Samantha Krieghauser (Clover Area Assistance Center, ESMMYC); Dawn Drexler Mendoza (Movement Mindfulness and Me); Kristin Slocum (SC DHEC); Janet Wojcik (Winthrop University, ESMMYC)