Section: archive

Student yogis rise early to stretch minds and bodies

By Margot Maley

For a community of always sleep-deprived college students, the 7:15 a.m. KenyonFit Sunrise Hatha Yoga class at the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) gets a surprising turnout. So, what’s the appeal?

Gibson Oakley ’16 started taking the class last semester and plans to continue. He lauds the early morning classes as a relaxing yet invigorating way to begin the day.

“Something you really notice at 7:30 in the morning [is that] you start off really, really bad, and by the end you’re into it and so you’ve loosened up, you’ve stretched out,” Oakley said. “Like, the first time you have to bend over you can’t touch your toes, and by the end ナ you’re there, and you’re ready to greet the day.”

Lily Burger ム15, a yoga enthusiast, noticed that the phenomenon is compatible with the eccentricities of Kenyon life. “I’m not surprised that someone at Kenyon would be attracted to [yoga’s] qualities,” Burger said. “I think it goes along with the Kenyon students’ image. We live in an idyllic, rural area and we like to do yoga.”

The KAC offers midday vinyasa yoga throughout the week. These classes are well attended by students, faculty and staff ラ a testament to the widespread enjoyment of yoga at Kenyon. It’s not a rare sight to see a group of students toting brightly colored yoga mats walking down Middle Path, nor is it uncommon to spot a mat resting against a dorm room desk.

The physiological benefits of yoga may explain its popularity. Kora Radella, an assistant professor of dance and the instructor for the semester-long yoga course, says the main focus of the KenyonFit classes is on physical fitness. Yoga is incredibly demanding ラ inversions and backbends require a strong core and stamina. Karin Cao ’15, who is a certified yoga instructor and a KenyonFit instructor, says that sometimes people are unwilling to give yoga a try.

” I think there are a lot of preconceptions about yoga, that ムOh, it’s not for me, it’s for, I don’t know, people who dance, or who are flexible,'” Cao said. A dancer herself, she finds yoga useful for both improving her dancing and keeping her grounded during hectic weeks. However, yoga isn’t valuable just for dancers like Radella and Cao.

“I had football players ナ come [to class] and they couldn’t do the strength exercises,” Radella said. “They’ve built up their biceps but they haven’t integrated [them] with the rest of their body, so the strength things I could do, they [couldn’t].”

Yoga challenges athletes who are used to working a specific set of muscles, forcing them to work their bodies in different ways. Its low-impact nature also means yoga is accessible to a wide range of ages and levels of fitness.

“I think it’s being recognized as ナ a form that really does help you with fitness but also can help you integrate [your entire body],” Radella said.

While this means gaining flexibility and strength, Radella also cited yoga as a way to improve one’s mental health. In her semester-long course taught under the Dance Department, students practice forms in class and complete readings from Yoga, Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness by Donna Farhi, which approaches the spiritual side of yoga in a relatable way. The book covers aspects of yoga that reflect its religious roots, discussing yamas and niyamas, which, according to the website Yoga Journal, are ethical guidelines for living a more meaningful life. Radella also asks her students to write reflections for the class, posing questions to help them apply the principles taught in the book to past experiences.

“The first time I offered the semester course it filled up in less than two hours,” Radella said. “The number of students that came up to me and said ムYou know, I don’t know how I would have gotten through my comps and been sane without this,’ was pretty cool.”

Oakley agrees with Radella that yoga keeps him sane. “I like to use [yoga] as a stress reliever … it can be a pick-me-up in the day.”

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