Stretching the Mind
January 28, 2020
January 28, 2020
In 2006, I was a stressed-out double major in English and philosophy who thought she could do it all. During my time at Southwestern, I attempted to juggle 18-hour semesters, a dance minor, cheerleading, Alpha Delta Pi, stand-up comedy, creative writing, a job in the Debby Ellis Writing Center, presenting academic papers, and lots of friends. But as a first-generation college student, I was full of self-doubt and often worried that I was at a school where I did not belong.
It was my first yoga class that made me realize I had to find balance and inner peace in order for the events, deadlines, and hustle and bustle of the real world to feel less overwhelming.
As a dancer, I assumed that taking yoga to meet my fitness and activity requirement would increase my flexibility. I believed it would be another way to stretch my body. Little did I know that it would also teach me to stretch and calm my mind. In my later years at SU, yoga helped me melt away doubt and stress. It helped me accept myself.
After finishing graduate school and entering the world of public education, I often found myself thinking that my students could similarly benefit from both the physical and mental practice of yoga. I started incorporating mindfulness and creative writing exercises into the beginning of my classroom routines to assist the students in transitioning from one subject to another and to help them recognize that it was OK to slow down and recenter during the day.
In early 2019, I found myself back in that same overwhelmed headspace—juggling too many things and recognizing that I had never given myself the time to truly delve into my yoga practice. For years, I had had a strong desire to take the next step in my journey as a yogini and earn my yoga certification, but I kept putting it off. One of my best friends and I decided to take a yoga and crystals workshop at a local studio called Yogaleena, in Montrose, a trendy neighborhood of Houston. When I later saw that the same studio was offering their 200-hour yoga teacher training program, I knew what I had to do.
On the evening of our first Yogaleena teacher training retreat, we were assigned a writing exercise. The prompt asked us to consider what we truly wanted. I wrote, “It has taken me 33 years, but I feel like I am finally trying to do what is best for myself and focusing on the life I want. I think I have lived in fear of failure or disappointing others for so long that I am ready to challenge myself to follow my heart instead of playing it safe.”
That challenge was moving to Denver. It was somewhat terrifying, but I felt like Colorado would surround me with beauty and truly motivate me to live the life I’d wanted as a creative and possibly an entrepreneur. So at the end of the school year, I decided to take a chance and send in an application for a college and career counselor position at STEM School Highlands Ranch, on the outskirts of Denver. Although I was excited and nervous, I accepted the position less than a month after the community fell victim to the unthinkable: a school shooting.
Southwestern University taught me to be an active member of the community and to uncover and use my strengths to help others.
I realized that this might be the perfect opportunity to give back—to help students and staff process their trauma through writing and yoga. Southwestern University taught me to be an active member of the community and to uncover and use my strengths to help others. As a student of the humanities, I find that our stories are what make us human—the stories that we tell others but also the stories we tell ourselves. They’re the stories of our bodies; they’re the stories that hide within our minds. We have to share those stories to heal, and we have to communicate to understand. In order to heal, we need to open up and be authentic without feeling judged. And when others open themselves to us, we must listen in order to understand, not just to respond. Yoga teaches us how to listen to ourselves and to others. At a time in the world when human beings are forgetting about their humanity, it is imperative that we create, share, move, and listen.
When I came to this realization, I began to work on my passion project.
I now offer free yoga to the faculty at Highlands Ranch to support my fellow staff members. I also offer yoga and writing workshops through BiblioYoga, my own studio. In both the school and the studio, I try to create a soulful space where mind and body connect to fuel creativity. My goal is a space where people can be authentic and can connect with themselves and with others. If you are in the Denver area, please stop by the studio. I would love for you to join us on our journey.