By Brady Collins | Contributor
When you think of yoga, a variety of perceptions probably come to mind. You might think of an Instagram friend who’s constantly posting the exotic places they’ve done a headstand or the video you did in high school gym class that everyone complained about.
Chances are, if you’ve never tried it, you aren’t aware of the benefits it can bring. You may even be intimidated by the practice. Students and teachers of yoga are here to set the record straight.
Linda Meacci, a teacher at Schoolhouse Yoga in Squirrel Hill, explained that, “yoga is a way to be with yourself. There aren’t any expectations in yoga.”
Yoga can bring students a variety of physical and mental benefits. Allie Stewart, a junior occupational therapy student at Duquesne, said yoga has profoundly impacted her life. Stewart was going through some rough times in high school when she decided to try yoga using a Groupon she found.
“I was lying on the mat at the end of class, sweating like crazy, and I said, ‘Maybe it’s okay to love myself,’” Stewart said. “I just kept going back every day after that. I couldn’t get enough of it.”
Understanding mindfulness is paramount in anyone’s practice, Stewart said.
“You’re observing your thoughts and with each exhale just letting it go,” Stewart said. “You’re saying to yourself, ‘This is where I’m at right now, this is what I’m feeling, all of me is okay.’”
Stewart is going through the process of teacher training with Schoolhouse Yoga.
College students are under a lot of pressure. Sometimes the weight of studying, extra-curriculars and relationships can make it impossible to care for yourself. Fortunately, yoga offers a way to do that, and there are over 100 studios in the Pittsburgh area. The options are almost endless, so where do you start?
If you’re an early riser, you can take a quiet walk or T-ride downtown to Inhale Pittsburgh on Seventh Street. Morning classes are from 6:30-7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Breathing and moving that early may not feel like a chore once you step into Inhale’s studio. The studio faces the city street, and students are able to feel the morning light flood in as the sun rises.
Allison Cong, a teacher at Inhale Yoga, said her goal is to allow all students to feel as if they are “reconnecting with their inner selves.” She said she loves when beginners come to the studio. She has even had newbies “observe classes” just to see what it’s all about. Once students begin classes, the first thing Cong recommends is to “start by focusing their mind, knowing that their practice is their own and not everyone else’s. It’s going to look different.”
Most classes are alignment and flow-focused, once again coordinating breath and movement. Cong said yoga is an activity involving the “mind and body.” This means the increased stability one will gain from yoga manifests itself both physically and mentally. Mentally, yoga can help “calm your temperament,” she said.
You can start by crossing the Tenth Street Bridge and making a left onto Carson Street. Just a few blocks down, you’ll run into BYS Yoga. In the Sunday morning class, you can normally find Holly Koenig teaching, guiding students through poses and offering some wisdom to keep in mind throughout the practice. Despite being on Carson Street, the atmosphere is peaceful, and the studio is full of natural light.
BYS has a variety of classes available, including Hatha/Vinyasa classes — which focus on alignment and breath — meditation classes and even a YogaRhythmics class. Kristi Rogers, the owner of BYS Yoga, said YogaRhythmics is typically offered at the Friday Benefit Classes from 6:30-8:30 p.m. At the Friday Benefit Classes, students pay what they wish, and students from the previous Friday choose the charity that the proceeds will benefit.
Schoolhouse Yoga Squirrel Hill
If you’re looking to escape to one of Pittsburgh’s most interesting neighborhoods, consider visiting Schoolhouse Yoga in Squirrel Hill. Schoolhouse offers basic and advanced alignment, meditation and flow classes. Each teacher is different at Schoolhouse and brings their own experiences to the practice.
Linda Meacci, who teaches most Friday and Sunday mornings, said she came to yoga when she, “was living in NYC, studying theater and dealing with a lot of internal anxiety.” Yoga brought Linda a sense of a calm she had yet to experience in other physical activities. Linda then went on to blend yoga with her theater and dance background, and her classes reflect that fusion.
Meacci advises all beginners with the mantra that “all you need is yourself and the mat.” She offers modifications to everyone in the class and gives special attention to individuals that want it.
The benefits of yoga are numerous, and at the end of the day, being in touch with our own emotions, thoughts and bodies is of the utmost importance. By getting in touch with yourself, you may be better at connecting with others as well.
So get out there and try it. Mats are relatively inexpensive and one class can change your outlook for the entire week ahead of you. And wouldn’t the possibility of feeling even a little less stressed be worth trying for?