Everyone take a calming ujjayi breath in, then a soothing breath out. Feel your presence and ground down into the earth. Welcome to the world of yoga.
Several Mt. Carmel students and faculty partake in the practice of yoga. Through different classes featuring heat, stretch, weights, and meditation, people release worked up tensions that come with daily work and life. Ranging from the outdoors, to the yoga studio, to the living room, Mt. Carmel’s yogis and yoginis (masculine and feminine Sanskrit titles) explore different poses in their practices.
Junior Niharika Bhaskar has been practicing yoga since she was around three years old, from her accomplished cousin.
“My cousin introduced me to yoga and she’s actually in the top five in Indian competitive yoga, so she’s really into it. From a young age whenever we visited, she would teach me little things along the way,” Bhaskar said. “With her, I used yoga mainly to spend time with my cousin. But later on I realized the benefits of yoga and I started to practice by myself.”
Bhaskar believes in the healing power of yoga that many yogins have acclaimed, such as improved mental stability and relaxation. However, her practice extends beyond the typical intrinsic benefits.
“It also helps me connect with my family because a lot of my family is into yoga and also my culture,” Bhaskar said. “I learned Sanskrit at a Sunday school, so it was nice to actually see an application for it because Sanskrit is a dead language, and all the postures in yoga are in Sanskrit so it’s interesting to know the meaning behind each one.”
From chaturangas to adho mukha śvānāsanas, Bhaskar has improved her at-home yoga experience over the years, while maintaining a strong tie to her Indian heritage.
Another junior, Anna Zois, has been avidly practicing yoga at Yoga Six for three years. She is now transitioning to become a yoga teacher through an intensive teacher-training program.
“The program is different than what people would expect because in a way, it’s like therapy. There’s a lot of mind exercises and every participant experiences a change in themselves. This is from the homework they assign, which is outside of the studio like “do an act of kindness” or spiritual assignments,” Zois said.
Over her three years, Zois has not only gained a glimpse at a future career, but also has found a clearer view on life itself.
“From yoga, it helps me get through school, and it’s really given me a sense of purpose. I would like to start teaching soon and hopefully see where that takes me,” Zois said. “I want to give my students the ability to relax, I love seeing people who come into the studio tense and agitated leave completely relaxed and at peace.”
The students of MC are not the only ones to reap the benefits from headstands and crow poses. Ms. Stewart, the AP Statistics teacher, is an avid attendee at Corepower Yoga, often running into students on her way to class.
“I think I started [yoga] about three years ago, when the [Corepower Poway] studio opened. I logged onto my member account and today will probably be my 500th class,” Stewart said.
While Stewart enjoys regular classes, she doesn’t aim to obsess over going to as many classes as she can, due to physical restraints.
“I actually don’t try to go every day because I don’t want to injure my wrist; I try to switch up wrist-heavy classes or lighter bearing ones, depending on my level that day,” said Stewart.
Being in positions such as high plank and downward dog places strenuous pressure on the lower arms. Corepower Yoga offers a range of classes, but Stewart prefers the heated, extensive classes.
“I like to try to get to my edge and force myself to try something new. I couldn’t imagine doing yoga in a regular-temperature room,” Stewart said.
Stewart began yoga due to shoulder pains, as yoga can aid the rotator cuff and other muscles in the shoulder area by loosening muscle and increasing flexibility. After three years however, Stewart has found new rewards from her classes.
“I practice a lot more mentally on my mat, more focus. I really try to think of something, they call it an “intention,” and I really try to keep that intention for the whole hour,” Stewart said. “That’s probably the hardest part. I gain a lot more mental focus along with conditioning.”
Mt. Carmel is fortunate enough to have a yoga course offered through the P.E. Department. Ms. Shipman, dance teacher and P.E. coach, is in charge of the class.
“The students have reported that our yoga period is a calming part of the day. [The yoga] helps them focus on themselves and release stress. When class is over, the students feel more energized as well,” Shipman said.
Whether it through bikram yoga in a humid studio, or relaxing meditation via mantras, yogins can find solace in their practice. But yoga does not require a large studio or an instructor. Simply taking a moment out of a busy day to deeply inhale, and exhale can calm down the body’s mental state, improving overall health and wellbeing.