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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Om your way out of a stressful week

By David Achio Mendez

If there is anything that you and I may have in common, it would be a heavy workload, one that leaves very little time to worry about ourselves. In the past, I have let the stress and exhaustion get to me, reducing my productivity and further feeding the cycle of work and stress. However, last week, I found a simple way to break that cycle with a minimal time investment. The answer was yoga. This is not a new discovery; in fact, it is thousands of years old, albeit with changes over time. Some students comment that they often have to choose between exercise and sleep, between their mental or physical well-being. Fortunately, yoga can provide a complete workout and still make you feel well rested.

Students participate in a Yoga class in South Forum last Thursday. Yoga classes are offerred every day except Saturday on campus. Photograph by Joey Brown

Grinnell offers a wide range of options to practice this ancient discipline; you don’t need to know what it means to do a “sun salutation” or a “downward dog,” because they welcome people from all levels. In fact, I have not practiced yoga in three years and managed to complete all of the routines. I even met people who took yoga for the first time in their lives and left with a smile on their faces. The sessions take place every day of the week except Saturday and at different locations and times.

The first session I attended was “Yoga at the Gallery,” held by Monica St. Angelo on Mondays and Thursdays at noon at the Faulconer Gallery. The short duration of the class, 35 minutes, makes it ideal for people in need of a quick and relaxing workout before their afternoon duties. St. Angelo guides you patiently throughout the class, discreetly correcting your poses and giving precise suggestions on the spot. The Hatha yoga routine included breath exercises, strength-building movements and meditation. A variety of people attended the class, including faculty, staff, students and town residents. To my dismay, the Gallery was in preparation for a new exhibition, so we had to meet in the adjacent dance studio. However, I can imagine that the artwork and the space provide a unique atmosphere for a memorable yogic experience.

“Meditative Yoga” was my next selection, held by Minna Mahlab, Director of the Science Learning Center. She instructs classes on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the dance studio in the Bear Center’s Natatorium. This option is perfect for those in need of some relaxation before tackling down homework all night long, after a hard day or both. The class began by bringing awareness to our breathing for several minutes; we repeated the om throughout the session. The lesson continued with Hatha yoga poses that develop strength and flexibility, always under close and courteous supervision. Meditation is the core of Mahlab’s class, which she facilitated with a relaxation period that runs longer than in the other classes. The meditation aspect was achieved, I believe, thanks to the 1.5 hours dedicated to the session. The attendants were mostly students and some faculty.

Finally, I attended “Yoga Club” on a Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the South Forum with Erin Howell-Gritsch, Theatre and Dance. This option works best as a workout right after class or before dinner. This class appeared to have the most consistent attendance: mostly students and a few faculty members. The hour-long routine touched on breathing awareness but focused on building strength and flexibility. The routine feeds upon the styles of Hatha and Ashtanga yoga—the latter being a favorite of Madonna. The difficulty of the class depends heavily on the participants’ input. Even though the instructor oversees the participants from afar, she seemed to keep track of each person’s progress from previous weeks. Yoga Club also meets on Fridays at 4:15 p.m. at the Forum for “Happy Hour Yoga” and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. with Andrea Magermans.

All the lessons had anywhere from 10 to 16 participants, most of whom were students. They all followed a similar structure: breathing, movements, poses and relaxation. However, their focus and supervision differed and revealed different approaches. All the groups were very welcoming and made it clear that yoga is not a competition. They explained that everyone has their own rhythm and ability and that everyone is welcome to pause at any point if they need it. Outside of Grinnell, yoga lessons like these can be very expensive. Take some time to make the most of yoga opportunities on campus—your body and mind will be thankful.

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