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Monday, May 10, 2021

Staying Centered

Junior Bianca Calagiu practices yoga poses Sunday, April 19. // Photo by Kirstyn Nyswonger

For some, yoga may be seen as a way to relax in the midst of a busy day. Others  view it as a way to exercise. However people choose to look at yoga, it’s nearly impossible to ignore its health benefits.

Senior Taylor Smith is relatively new to the activity, but said she has noticed ways in which it has helped her.

“Last quarter was really stressful because I was taking my Capstone Seminar, so I was like, ‘Okay, this is my last quarter of college. I want to do something relaxing,’” Smith said.

Smith said she loves the yoga class she is in now, which is designed specifically for beginners.

“It’s nice because the instructor works with all of our levels, and she doesn’t expect us to be at one certain level,” Smith said. “I have an injury, so she works with that too.”

Smith’s right hip has been out of place for the past seven years after a trampoline injury.

“It’s actually really nice because I’ve gone to physical therapy and some of the yoga moves are some of the physical therapy moves they’ve taught me too,” Smith said.

Combined with running, the stretching Smith does in yoga has helped her injured hip, she said.

“Right now it’s really not that bad, but it definitely feels better after I do it,” Smith said. “At the beginning of the class, my hip might be really tight and hurt, but then at the end of the class I won’t feel any pain because of all the stretching and the movements that we do.”

Smith has found relaxation in doing yoga.

“Mentally, it gives me a time of day to just focus on myself,” Smith said. “It helps me be in the moment, which I think is so hard to do when I’m about to graduate and I’m thinking about all of these future plans.”

 For students, faculty and staff looking for a way to conveniently fit yoga into their schedules, classes are offered at the Wade King Student Recreation Center by yoga instructors and X-Pass teachers.

“I love to work with students on the philosophical parts of yoga, the guidelines for having good relationships with yourself and others.”

Melanie Aveces, Rec center instructor

Sophomore X-Pass instructor Madeline Finch said students can purchase an X-Pass for $45, giving them unlimited access to any of the classes in the whole series.

Finch teaches all levels of yoga, with an emphasis on the Forrest style, “an intensely physical and internally focused practice.”

Junior Bianca Calagiu practices yoga poses Sunday, April 19. // Photo by Kirstyn Nyswonger

“We focus a lot on breath and strength building, but also there’s an element of self-reflection and meditation,” Finch said.

Invented by Ana Forrest, this spiritual style of yoga helped to heal its founder’s mental illness, addiction and epilepsy, Finch said.

Finch received her training certification last summer. Currently, she is creating a major in the Fairhaven College dealing with food policy, agriculture and wellness.

“All classes offered through X-Pass can embrace any level,” Finch said. “Through really specific teaching and guidance on my part, I feel that any level can be incorporated and find a lot of joy out of the practice.”

For faculty and staff, Susan D’Onofrio teaches Anusara, a style which she considers to be easy and very forgiving for new students.

“At Western, I have quite a variety of students of varying ages, and in terms of their flexibility, strength and experience,” D’Onofrio said. “It’s really been fun to work with such a variety of people. I try to honor each individual’s’ needs.”

D’Onofrio has been teaching yoga at Western for four years. In addition, she owns her own studio downtown, 8 Petals Yoga.

“Students [that come back] realize that there’s so much more to yoga than being able to bend over and touch your toes or to twist yourself into a pretzel,” D’Onofrio said.

About the mental benefits of yoga, she said, “It’s uplifting to the spirit, which ultimately enhances your whole experience of living. We often get so caught up in the day-to-day busyness of our life that we forget to take care of ourselves and we forget to stop and smell the roses. We don’t even notice that the roses are there. It teaches us to wake up and pay attention.”

Rec center instructor Melanie Aceves applies a, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” philosophy to yoga.

“Your body is meant to move in a million different ways. But if you’re constantly doing the same actions putting on your backpack, sitting down then your muscles and the tissues on the back of your body start to think, ‘Okay, I never need to open my chest and pull my shoulders back, so I’ll stay in place,’” Aceves said.

She said you lose this mobility of the body unless you practice opening the front of your body.

Aceves teaches a beginner’s intuitive flow class for students, faculty and staff.

“I love to work with students on the philosophical parts of yoga, the guidelines for having good relationships with yourself and others,” Aceves said. “I basically give an introduction to those ethical guidelines and then I ask my students to, in small groups, come up with hypothetical situations or examples of how to practice those ethical guidelines in their lives.”

Downtown Bellingham also offers a vast array of yoga studios and diverse classes for the yoga-curious person. In particular, 3 Oms Yoga holds classes every day of the week.

Assistant studio manager and certified yoga teacher Jen Fairey addresses the unexpected positives people physically experience from participating in yoga.

“Head to toe, a lot of people notice flexibility, gains in overall personal stamina [and] weight loss,” Fairey said. “People don’t realize that it actually strengthens your core and all of your muscles.”

Instructor Elizabeth Ruff teaches a beginner’s yoga course, a four-week series that meets twice a week.

Ruff, who has been teaching at 3 Oms since 2009, said ages ranged from 12 to late 50’s in her last class.

“I really love to emphasize the uniqueness of the students in the room, and how it’s their duty to take care of themselves, because they are the experts on their body,” Ruff said.

Ruff said she doesn’t expect people to have perfect poses, or be perfect anywhere in their life.

“I love making people laugh and smile,” Ruff said. “My personal feelings are that the world, as a whole, needs to take itself a little less seriously. We heal when we laugh.”

For $20, a person can spend eight days trying out an unlimited number of classes at 3 Oms.

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