Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 9, 2019

Yoga classes foster community and mindfulness

Yoga instructor Tina Hope leads a yoga pose during class. (Rob Nguyen/TKS).

Maintaining peace and a clear mind as a college student isn’t always easy. Balancing classes, extracurriculars and a social life is no small task. One way students unwind and destress is through Knox’s offered yoga classes. Taught by Tina Hope, classes are available on Wednesdays and Sundays to students and staff.

Hope started teaching yoga at Knox in 2013 after being approached by Director of the Fitness Center Andy Gibbons and former wellness coordinator Marcy Simkins about instructing a class. Preceding Hope was a visiting faculty member who taught both a staff class and a student one. When Hope began, there were only two classes, but because of the high demand by students, the number is now five.

“What we do on the mat has great implications for how we live in the world,” Hope said.

Even before her transition to Knox, Hope had been practicing yoga since the 90s, but only got seriously involved starting in 1998 after getting married and having her first child with her husband William Hope, Associate Professor of Anthropology-Sociology. She has had the opportunity to study with internationally recognized teachers, attended multiple trainings and recently underwent 500 hours of advanced teacher training.

“I finally feel like a solid yoga teacher,” Hope said.

Lots of students who aren’t involved in campus sports worry they aren’t “athletic” enough to take part in classes. Scott DeWitt, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and attendant of the staff class, refutes this completely.

“There is absolutely no athleticism involved,” said DeWitt. “You don’t have to be quick, you don’t have to be able to jump high, you don’t have to be able to run fast. It’s physical, but it’s not athletic.”

Even so, Knox yoga classes offer a variety of exercises for people of all levels and past experience in yoga. The All Levels Alignment Flow Yoga on Wednesdays at 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. focuses on alignment and breath work, balances and stretches and includes beginning and intermediate poses.

“I try to make the practice accessible to all who attend, and I believe that the healing capacity that a practice of yoga offers is a powerful prescription for living well,” Hope said.

Meanwhile, if students are looking to slow down, there is Restorative Yoga on Wednesdays 8 to 9 p.m. that focuses on reducing stress and increasing relaxation. Some classes even focus on specific parts of the body, such as the Beginning Yoga for Happy Back on Wednesdays 5 to 6:15 p.m. for staff and faculty members. It emphasises range of motion in the spine and support in the back. This is the class DeWitt attends.

“There’s a community aspect to seeing the same people from different parts of campus when I don’t necessarily see them in my day to day work. That piece makes it fun for me,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt had never done yoga before attending the classes at Knox but has now been an attendant for three or four years.

If Wednesdays are busy, there’s a Slow Flow class Sunday morning 10:30 to 11 a.m. Hope even offers individual classes for sports teams like mens soccer and womens volleyball. All classes are in the Mirror Room of the Andrew Fitness Center.

Not only is yoga a grounding technique for students to reduce the stress in their lives, but it gives Hope the opportunity to watch the growth in her students.

“I really enjoy being a part of that transformative path that many of the students realize as they come into greater awareness and recognize their full potential,” Hope said.

Some alumni have even contacted Hope after graduation and asked if they could attend a class.

“The practice of yoga has become a part of their everyday lives and has been transformational to them on many levels,” Hope said.

One of the most interesting aspects about the yoga classes offered at Knox is the connects staff and students make during classes they share. Students could attend yoga with professors they have for class, but during that hour long period everyone joins in becoming a student.

“Every time we step onto the mat, set an intention, and practice to our capacity, I witness the connections that people make,” Hope said.

Because the practice is open to such a wide variety of people, the classes often end up diverse in age and experience, ranging from 18 to 70 years old. While the youth has a contagious energy of encouragement, the more mature students have a mindfulness that the younger students notice and adapt as well.

“There seems to be a deep respect and admiration that is cultivated for the shared practice and this invokes a connection beyond what may be experienced in the more typical academic settings,” Hope said.

 

Kaitlyn Cashdollar

Tags:  exercise health Tina Hope wellness Yoga

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