Yoga craze sweeps campus

Chelsea Johnson

(Oren Jakobson)

When thinking of yoga, many people imagine a cynical stereotype: the pretentious middle-class person arriving to class with a nonfat soy latte. While that stereotype holds true in some places, on Lawrence’s campus you might have to reconsider. Here, yoga includes a diverse assemblage of students and community members, and the lattes are optional.
While yoga has been offered at Lawrence for many years, it has recently enjoyed a surge in popularity. Less than two years ago, regulars to classes offered at the recreation center numbered less than 12. Now, classes often have up to 50 people. This trend parallels a national one – all over, people seem to be getting excited about this ancient form of exercise and meditation.
For many people, yoga’s appeal lies in its holistic approach to fitness. “Yoga brings balance and harmony to the body, mind and spirit,” local instructor Suzy Weyenberg said.
Physically, yoga focuses on strengthening and stretching by moving participants through a number of poses of varying intensity. While it sometimes looks odd to bystanders, the strange contortions are all carefully designed to reach different muscles and, when done correctly, stretch without strain.
“Yoga helps strengthen parts of your body you normally don’t focus on,” said freshman Cori Lin.
Many athletes have found that incorporating yoga into their workouts can help improve their physical ability. At Lawrence, the swim team holds a weekly yoga session. “You have to be pretty flexible to do most of the strokes well, so yoga has been a big plus,” freshman Frank Lieberman said.
Yoga is famous for its attention to mental health and rejuvenation, which is another reason that it attracts students. Instructors encourage breath awareness and careful attention to form to help promote this mental relaxation.
“In the chaos of college life, yoga really helps me to ground myself and live in the present,” freshman Fanny Lau said. “Worries just melt away on my yoga mat.”
With its lack of rules and equipment, yoga is a very easy activity for complete novices to become involved with. Beginning yoga students should remember to wear comfortable, form-fitting clothing, remove their shoes and socks, turn off their cell phones and come with a positive attitude, no matter their level of experience.
“Be consistent in your practice,” Weyenberg said. “Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you learn and grow.”
While classes are led by a trained instructor who demonstrates the poses, people can always adjust the poses to their own level of ability.
For students interested in trying yoga, classes are offered in the Esch Studio in the Warch Campus Center Monday through Thursday at 11:15 a.m. This is the most popular yoga option for students, because “it’s really easy to get to and the class times are very convenient,” Lin said.
In addition, PAIN – Performers Against Injury, Now! – hosts weekly or bi-weekly yoga sessions for conservatory students as part of their ongoing effort to promote physical wellbeing for musicians. PAIN’s winter-term schedule will be announced shortly. Although catered toward music students, these sessions are open to all.
Appleton also has many yoga studios that offer more advanced and specialized classes, and many gyms, including the Appleton YMCA, provide classes for members though some classes require a fee. However, many studios and gyms offer the first class for free so students can try out different instructors and locations without a financial commitment.
For those of us who don’t leave our rooms once winter hits, there are many ways to practice yoga at home. There are free yoga podcasts on iTunes, and the Nintendo WiiFit system has many different guided yoga poses.
Beginners, beware: Once you start, it may be hard to quit. As Lau warns, “A friend persuaded me to come to one class, and I’ve been hooked ever since.