Perched in the corner of her office, Andrea Kimura balances carefully on a yoga ball as she discusses her start in meditation over 10 years ago. “At the time, it was a little bit hippie-woo-woo,” she says. “Yoga and meditation was not mainstream. You were a little out there.”
Kimura assumes many roles at MU. As a health coach and educator with the MU student health center, she hosts one-on-one sessions to help students overcome personal struggles, teaches a Mindfulness & Academic Recovery course and guides yoga and meditation sessions. Serving as the advisor for student-led organization Breathe, Kimura has also worked closely with club president Christopher Shannon, who describes her as supportive. “Her passion usually comes off as bubbly, lighthearted enthusiasm, but I know that she is very serious about this,” he says. “It’s something she doesn’t just preach; she practices.”
While her voice remains calm, smooth and fitting for a meditation instructor, it’s hard to miss the excitement and dedication weighted in each of her words as she describes her life devoted to helping others.
What drew you to education and coaching?
I love working with students. Actually, I just love working with people. My goal whenever I work with individuals is to help them become the best version of themselves. And we all — at different areas of our lives or different times or different seasons — have struggles.
How do yoga and meditation help people deal with stress?
They are just another way to give people skills and allow them to go: “OK, how can I get out of my head? I am wound up so tight; I’m a type-A, OCD personality. I’m dotting all my i’s, crossing all my t’s, and I can’t think straight now. I just need to unwind and relax.” You can explore meditation and yoga and see if it works for you in your life and your body. It gets you out of your mind. It temporarily puts it on the back burner. It will still be there. All those thoughts will come back, but then when you come back, you feel so refreshed. You feel like maybe you’ve taken a power nap.
What’s something you’ve seen as a recurring source of stress for students?
I honestly see a difference in the level of stress for students, and one of the biggest factors is the amount that people are plugged into their digital devices. We have so much connectivity, but it’s really a false sense of connection. Forget social media for a while. Call it a digital detox.
How else do you see people experiencing stress?
Very rarely do I pull on one topic and stress is not related in there. If individuals are having stress, they are most likely also having sleep issues. If individuals are having a difficult time managing those emotions, then they might possibly be self-medicating with substances, maybe using more alcohol or tobacco, chewing more, smoking more or using illicit drugs. What’s so important is that I meet them where they’re at and ask what they want to do about it. Wherever they are, wherever they want to get going, they are in the driver’s seat. Then we co-create a plan. We make manageable goals so that we can get to wherever it is that they’re going because we want that change.
Do coping mechanisms differ for each person?
What may impact you at one level may impact somebody else at a different level. It could be water off a duck’s back for you. For somebody else, it will stop them dead in their tracks. You’re like, “Why are you worried about that?” (It) just depends on the personality.
What’s your personal stress reliever?
I love cooking. I love the noise and the sound of the kitchen humming. And then knowing that afterward, we are going to sit down together and have a meal. ￼