Quite often my students are so much younger than me that they can bend and twist and hold postures in ways that I cannot. Some of this is because I cannot devote my total fitness practice to yoga due to the many other classes I teach and my own fitness goals. Some of this is because of youth and natural talent that I lack. Some of it is because of pure desire to be able to do something so amazing that students surprise even themselves in their abilities. This past spring I had a student who was also a parent; who had also suffered from physical injuries throughout a long and active lifestyle. Though he was strong and fit, yoga still had more to give him.
In my journey through this semester, there have been times where stress was abundant and stress relievers were not. Taking yoga has been one of those stress relievers needed. I have been working out heavily as well as training for competitions throughout the semester, so needing something that will allow my body to grow maturely as a good commodity. Also, stress from the classes I was taking needed attention too.
During the yoga practices this semester, there were some moves that were difficult to execute and even harder to hold for an extended periods of time. So learning how my body can cope with something new like that was pretty neat. There were some moves that I had already known from the past, and it was great to relive those moves and see how my body maintained the memory of them. Overall I enjoyed the class and would like to continue my yoga journey over the course of my life.
One of the unique things about teaching where I do is that I have both a community college setting and a university setting in the same town. Many of my community college students are working on their gen ed classes before transferring over to the university. Occasionally that means that I get a student twice or their roommate or friend will be in my class at the opposing location. Sometimes they even have a different yoga instructor at the same time and the yoga becomes a shared experience. Here’s one such story from a student of mine:
When first signing up for yoga class at Cape Fear Community College, my initial viewpoint of yoga, before ever taking a yoga class, was that it was all simple stretching and positions that helped you relax. Though yoga does include these assumptions, I soon realized that yoga can be a sufficient workout as well. Not only did yoga begin to stretch my ligaments and muscles in a positive manner, but it created a workout that didn’t necessarily feel like a workout while participating. I would find myself forming sweat as we ran through flows and noticing tenderness and soreness in the days following my yoga class. I realized quickly that I enjoyed the process of yoga much better than I had enjoyed going to the gym or working out in the past.
As the semester continued I noticed myself getting better at the positions we were practicing in class, able to stretch further, and enjoying myself more and more. While I attended a yoga class at my college, my roommate also was attending a yoga class at her college as well. We were able to use our own experiences in our own practices at home, as well as at local yoga studios where we both fell in love with hot yoga. I found that I could meditate and clear my mind a lot better in a professional yoga studio versus a classroom and that I enjoyed it even better than the class I was already attending and enjoying. Though the semester is coming to an end, I can now take the knowledge I’ve learned from this class and bring it into future classes and my future yoga practice in general.
I haven’t gotten around to posting the stories from my Spring yoga class yet, but I’m starting today. Here’s a great one from someone who wasn’t a stranger to yoga on the first day, but still walked away with something new.
Yoga has always been a familiar concept to me since I can remember. My mom and dad both have done yoga since I was little, and we were always very active as a family. I danced my whole youth, and loved it, but got burnt out about half way through high school. I had began running cross country and track and was fully immersed in the team and decided to quit dance. My body took naturally to running, and it came easy to me. I loved it! After running extremely hard for four years my body began to show it. My ankles were shot, and I had developed some severe asthma and cardiovascular issues. I knew that I could not continue running at the level I had been, and just decided to forfeit any kind of physical activity. As I started college, I knew that I had to start moving my body again. I felt jaded towards running, and a friend told me about thirty dollars for thirty days of unlimited yoga at Wilmington Yoga. I had never personally practiced yoga, but I committed to myself to going every day for the full thirty days. I was shocked at how easily I transitioned into developing my own practice. Not only that but I was surprised at how strong my body felt. I had always seen yoga as more of a stretching, and meditative exercise. My arm strength was the best it had ever been, and I felt so confident. I continued to practice yoga on my own, but less and less as the years went by.
This past summer when I was signing up for classes I saw yoga offered, and remembered what a great experience I had had with yoga in the past and signed up! I felt very welcomed in the class and comfortable. Coming into the class I had practiced yoga before but never really understood the different kinds of yoga, which poses were helpful for flexibility or strength, I was just told how to do them. I think as with anything you can develop a deeper level of appreciate if you know why you are doing something and how it can benefit your body and mind. I learned so much more about the mental aspect of yoga in class than I expected. It was helpful to connect the poses with focusing my mind on my breath. I also enjoyed how we were guided through different exercises and meditations, like the affirmations and mindful eating. It helped to experience it on my own than just being taught about it. Since the class was only once a week, I did not practice as much as I would have liked. I still felt stronger in my body and more mindful and knowledgeable after taking this class. It has encouraged me to think more about my words, actions, and thoughts towards myself and others. I feel that I also really benefited from the mindful eating exercise and gained a lot of awareness about some disordered eating habits I was beginning to develop. I have also made it a priority to move my body every day in a meaningful way. Even if that doesn’t look like going on a five mile run that’s okay. I have been able to listen to what my body needs and come to terms with that. More than anything this class has just challenged me to think differently about what “exercise” looks like, and how to be mindful of my thoughts on health.
I’ll say it again and again….the greatest gift yoga can give someone is not necessarily a more flexible body, but a more flexible mind. It’s always great to hear when a student has learned more about themselves through the practice of yoga. It’s a daily discovery!
I first started yoga a few years ago when my brother asked me to try it with him. We set up yoga mats in our living room and followed along with a DVD. Little did I know that my yoga practice had just begun and it would be become a very influential part of my life. From that day on, I would try to do yoga regularly. However, I was inconsistent with my practice, which is why I was very excited to see that CFCC offered a yoga class. I thought it would be a perfect fit in my schedule for my first semester of college. It would help me become consistent in my practice and I was very excited to learn more poses. What I was not expecting is how much I would learn about myself through the process.
Since starting this yoga class, I have rediscovered my old love of yoga, and found a new one along the way. I did not realize how personal this class would be, but it has helped me search inside myself and work on problems I am facing. Yoga has helped me grow by discovering self love and self acceptance. It has also helped me stop thinking so negatively about myself, and instead, replace negative thinking with positive affirmations. What yoga has helped me learn about myself is that I am a good person, and that I do not give myself enough credit for that. Yoga has helped, and is still helping me, appreciate myself. What I learned about yoga is that it is a very difficult practice that takes a lot of time to advance in. I can not become a yogi overnight, and that is okay. It is a life long journey. I also learned that meditation is a big part of the practice and that should be the main focus of my journey. I intend to use yoga every day in future. Even if I do not use my mat every day, I plan on using meditation throughout my day to be more aware, connected, and mindful. I am so thankful CFCC offers this class and I am excited to see where yoga takes me in the future.
Last Fall Wilmington suffered the effects of a slow moving hurricane – Florence. My students were displaced and kept out of school for over a month. They lost weeks of instructional time and had to push through all of the same knowledge in a shortened semester. They were amazing troopers through it all and we were able to put our yoga into practice in so many applicable ways….
My personal journey into yoga was a little less successful than I intended. After the hurricane and multiple tragedies in my personal life I was unable to focus as much as I wanted to on my practice. I did successfully develop a knowledge of basic poses and the benefits they have on the body. So I am happy to say I did achieve the main goal I had when signing up for the Fall yoga class. When looking back at the beginning of the semester I assumed this class would be easy in the physical performance half. Now since we have reached the end of the class I have found that correctly practicing poses is much more difficult than it appears. Many different aspects of my practice have improved from the beginning, such as my posture, balance, and breathing. I have learned when it comes to yoga the little details make all the difference, things such as foot placement, continuously breathing, and raising my chest when curving my back, are all things that help that can help prevent injuries. I also learned that there are a few poses that I am unable to perform due to my back, knee, and ankle injuries, but there are also many poses that improve them. This knowledge is good for me in the long run, I am hoping to further physical improvement. I feel as if I grew mentally from this class when we reviewed the Yamas and the Niyamas. I feel as if for the most part I follow the Yamas, but the Niyamas are the ones I struggle with, mainly in the discipline and the surrendering areas. I have found myself now continuously using disciplines in my life, in addition to an attempt at more acceptance, thus surrendering my own opinions to accept others. I feel as if I have grown a fair amount since challenging myself with theses Niyamas.
I highly enjoyed the class, it was unfortunate how we were unable to fully attend due to weather disturbances, but for the time we did receive it was a fun time and was quite informational. I only wish that the class happened more than once a week. I do plan to continue my practice, not only have I signed up for yoga II, but I also plan to find regular yoga classes at my gym to get into more of a routine. I want to incorporate my yoga practice into my life by attending a class at least twice a week. This will not only add to the stretching portion of my workouts, but also will improve my flexibility and balance, both of which are constant restriction on my physical abilities. I intend to move forward and use my practice to improve my back pain, it is a battle I have been facing my whole life, and with yoga I now have another weapon to use against it. I am thankful for my growth, and the knowledge I gained from this class, I cannot wait to continue my journey.
Some of my favorite yoga stories from my students are when they just become more aware of their own existence and power in life….as in this beautiful story.
The past couple of years I’ve thought of yoga to be more of a trend rather than a therapy. I would see posts on Instagram of friends doing difficult poses and thought it was cool, but I never really saw myself getting into yoga. Well, I am two years out of high school which means two years without sports or any physical training really. Because I was refusing to workout, this past year I started to notice my body changing into my “adult body” and I was hating it. So, this summer I decided to investigate healthy living. I read of different ways to live healthy with diets and different types of exercising. The one healthy living style that stuck out to me the most was yoga. As I read, I was shocked to read all the benefits. Toning and flexibility were the two benefits that urged me to start going to classes. Though I was interested, because of my work schedule this summer I never had time to go to classes. So, when I learned that CFCC offered a yoga class I had to sign up.
Throughout this Fall semester I have learned so much. I have learned of ways to relax, how to improve my understanding of others, and lastly, I learned how to truly appreciate my surroundings. Almost all my life I have let stress overcome me, whether it was because of something small or big, I would over think a situation until I was stressed. Yoga has helped me cope with stress through breathing exercises and different yoga poses. I never realized that stretching was so healthy, and that breathing a certain way could help with different emotions. Alternate-nostril breathing and sound of breath breathing are two types of breathing exercises that I use on a daily basis to ease my mind. The supine spinal twist and child’s pose also help me when I am feeling stressed. Taking this yoga class has helped me understand others through a statement that Mrs. P. said one day in class. She said, “a truth is not a truth but an opinion”. This is something I will always remember because it has opened my eyes to why there is so much hate in this world today. Now when I hear others talk about certain topics, I am not judgmental to their opinion as I was before, but more open to why they feel the way they feel. Lastly, in this class I learned the importance of tuning into your five senses. Since I started to do so, I have gained an appreciation for so many things in my life. From cooking and smelling the aroma of my food, to walking downtown and noticing how beautiful the history of Wilmington is. I now have a different appreciation to my surroundings.
Yoga has been a blessing in my life. I am thankful for this course this Fall semester because I have overall grown as a person throughout this semester. Learning different ways to make myself better not only physically, but mentally is the best kind of healthy living I could ask for.
Sometimes the best yoga stories are the simplest to share. This beautifully short story on the peace that a student last Fall found in yoga shows the impact of yoga in all areas of our life….past, present, and future.
Taking yoga this past Fall I have learned not only how to better myself physically, but mentally as well. Ever since I was young, I was obsessed with my weight. This stemmed from my childhood, and how my mother started putting me on diets when I was about seven or eight. With the help of meditation that I learned in yoga, I learned how to ease some of the worries I have about my weight, and how to accept myself as a person despite having a few extra pounds. I plan on using meditation in the future and whenever I need to find peace.
I also learned some great ways to deal with stress and anger. I have always had a short temper; however, with the help of some breathing techniques that I have learned from this yoga course, I can practice healthy ways of dealing with it. I also use yoga breathing for when I am babysitting my nephews. The calming nature of Ocean Breathing lulls them to sleep and lets them rest easy. I plan on using these breathing techniques in the future all throughout my daily life.
Last fall was the semester of the Hannahs for me. I had a Hannah in almost every class I taught. Each Hannah was unique in her own way and I enjoyed learning about each of their own personalities. This Hannah was quiet in voice, but expressive in many other ways. I was always delighted when it all came together for her. Here is another great student guest post:
I took this yoga course to start being more in tune with my body. I have struggled with my health most of my life and I have been told yoga would help me live a more healthy and full lifestyle, physically and mentally. In this course I hoped to learn how to better understand and be in tune with my body. I also hoped to learn how to use yoga as a de-stress-er and to decrease anxiety.
During the first lesson we learned how to regulate and control breathing. We controlled where the air flowed into our bodies and became aware of aspects we do not often acknowledge. In our second lesson we worked with awakening poses, which I have learned help back pain throughout the day and help me focus before work. I have also started to be aware of what I fuel my body with. Fitness yoga was hard at first and would hurt for days after, but I would feel better after class; as if my body was completely in sync.
After a semester of yoga I am starting to live a healthier lifestyle. I pay attention to how my body feels and understanding that every feeling has a reason and trying to fix the bad feelings in a healthy manner. I took a class at Salty Dog Yoga with my boyfriend and we both wish to continue exploring yoga and improving our well being. Yoga is more than physical, it is also spiritual.
Thank you Hannah and I hope you’re still exploring!
Fall semester 2018 was the single most progressive few months of my entire life in terms of personal growth. I enrolled in the 9am Monday morning yoga class because I have always loved practicing yoga and I thought it would be a great start to my week. The semester began calmly and was wholly unsuspecting to the entire upturn my life was going to take starting in September. The practice of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation helped me cope with losing my house, my belongings, my relationship, my car, and coming to terms with some unexpected medical diagnoses all within 4 weeks. Not only was I able to take away at least 2 hours of required self-care a week, I learned valuable skills that helped me take my practice with me back home.
I have, since beginning that class, practiced yoga at least twice a week every week and I even branched out to the yoga studio next to where I work and found a perfect fit in a twice-weekly class that I absolutely adore. My goal at the beginning of the semester was to become more flexible, and although I’m not sure if I’ve noticeably achieved that yet, I have gained back upper body strength that I haven’t had since before I had cancer. I can do push-ups now! Thanks to sun salutations! And one of the biggest personal growths I’ve experienced is practicing intentionality. If I haven’t been mindful of taking initiative and being proactive this semester I would have had to move back in with my parents 4 hours away and recovery after Florence etc. would not have been possible. I genuinely adored this class and every time I had to be absent was really devastating to me. I truly look forward to continuing my practice for the rest of my life taking with me with the knowledge I’ve gained in how and why we practice.
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