Jill Klimpel leads a group of students in meditation exercises at at YesPlus retreat. Credit: Courtesy of Sathya Dev

Jill Klimpel, an academic advisor for the Ohio State Departments of Political Science and Geography, strives to help students beyond their academics.

Klimpel has spent the last two years working to bring affordable meditation classes to all students on campus through the Art of Living Foundation. The foundation’s next retreat is set to take place this weekend on campus.

After becoming an advisor at Ohio State in 2012, Klimpel said she found that many students weren’t struggling with their academics, but with personal problems like depression and anxiety.

“I get these beautiful, brilliant students, some of them at the top of their class, who are struggling below the surface,” Klimpel said. “They feel they have to be perfect and they’re not good enough.”

Klimpel said helping these students is particularly important her because she sees a reflection of her former self in them. In 2010, she was a graduate student in Brazil studying the increased rates of cesarean sections when her life took an unexpected turn.

“My marriage of 10 years suddenly fell apart,” she said. “My car broke down, and I had almost no income because I was still in grad school. It was just too much. I broke.”

After several months of trying to rebuild her life and battling severe depression, Klimpel said she found a glimmer of hope in The Art of Living Foundation.

“I went to a party one of my professors had thrown, and his daughter was heavily involved in it,” she said. “She encouraged me to try one of their programs.”

The International Association for Human Values, previously known as the Art of Living Foundation, is an international organization specializing in meditation courses, breathing techniques and wisdom teachings to help participants find peace within themselves and society, according to its website.

“I remember feeling so much better afterward,” Klimpel said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It gave me a lot of clarity and peace I hadn’t felt in a really long time.”

She said it was this clarity and peace that lifted her out of the darkest moments of her life, and after becoming an academic advisor, she felt a responsibility to share that with her students.

“I knew the Art of Living Foundation’s programs could help them because they helped me,” Klimpel said. “I thought, if I become a teacher I can make it more accessible for struggling students.”

In 2015, Klimpel started the process to become a certified Art of Living instructor and started working in tandem with Columbus’s Art of Living branch to offer retreats on campus multiple times throughout the school year.

The program, YesPlus, is a weekend retreat with close to 20 hours of teaching, and highlights the foundation’s cornerstone breathing technique Sudarshan Kriya Yoga.

In addition to offering the retreat, Klimpel and other members of the International Association of Human Values negotiated with Ohio State and got funds from the student activity fee to cover over 90 percent of the program’s costs.

“Almost a hundred students go through the program every semester, they all report an increased state of wellbeing after,” said Prashant Serai, a graduate student studying computer science and engineering and treasurer of the International Association of Human Values’ OSU chapter, know as YesPlus club.

Klimpel said seeing students come out of dark times through the program inspires her.

“Peace starts with strengthening the individual,” she said. “If we can bring one person out of darkness, they can shed light on millions.”
The YesPlus retreat is taking place on Friday 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday 1 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m in the North Rec Center. Cost is $15 for students and registration is required via artofliving.org.

Correction Feb. 16: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Sathya Dev. Prashant Serai is not the president of YesPlus club, he is in fact the treasurer. The article was also changed to reflect the change in name of the Art of Living Foundation.