As school work and studying have begun to pile up as we near mid-semester, a bit of stress is normal within every college student. However, becoming proactive in managing that stress is vital in achieving a healthier mind and soul. To help manage some of my tension, this past Wednesday I decided to delve into the world of attending, Yoga in the Park.
I, in fact, happen to love yoga, yet my only prior experience had been in a 95 degree room, with rivulets of sweat dripping off my nose, that is; I was enthusiastic to try this new outdoor adventure. For many, yoga can offer a multitude of benefits for the body, soul, and spirit. As a victim of JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis), I aim towards achieving a healthy mind within a healthy body. This past week, I decided to venture into the realm of peace and solitude for one hour in the park of Atlantic Station. Through my practice of breathing techniques and meditation, I will share with you what I recognized in these 60 minutes of tranquility.
Prior to my departure, I slipped on my lycra leggings and tank top, tied up my Nikes, grabbed my yoga mat and headed out on the town. The ride from Emory was about 30 minutes, and I could feel butterflies fluttering in my stomach on the drive there; My excitement was pulsing. As I stepped out of the car, a gust of warm air swept across my face while blowing my hair in various directions. I then scoped out the area and felt a certain ~East Village, New York City~ vibe. While taking in a deep, elongated breath – I smiled – immediately feeling a sense of joy in the air. The sun was just beginning to set, and a positive energy set in, enclosing itself around me.
As dusk approached the class commenced, just around 6:30pm. Having arrived five minutes past, I laid out my yoga mat and caught up with the class in the Downward Dog stretch. The class was held on a smooth tarp rectangular field, with observers from nearby restaurants surrounding the outer edges to watch, as we transformed from one pose to the next.
I immediately acknowledged the diversity between each and every participant of the class. In this open environment, Mothers were able to bring their children, lovers came with significant others, and even a variety of people brought along their canine companions to take part in this journey. Since this was an hour of free admission, a number of people joined in halfway through simply because of each participant’s dedication.
I then turned to my left, and caught a glimpse of a little girl attempting to remain in her Downward Dog pose, trying her very best to keep up with the rest of us. I smiled to myself, and looked around a bit more. I noticed her gaze varied from down towards the ground, then back up to her mother, a well trained Yogi with sculpted back muscles and a toned body. The girl was mimicking her every action, as her mother kept turning to check and see if she was alright. I then thought of myself in that very moment, as we all shared something in common that day: a maintenance of the same intrinsic value of Yoga, and its abundant benefits.
While floating from one pose to the next, I did not feel the atmosphere to be intimidating whatsoever, rather it was quite peaceful. It seemed to me that Wellness Wednesdays are the type of activity which recognizes and values diversity in all of their participants. The location, directly centered within Atlantic Station, offers people not only the opportunity to stop their busy day and take an hour to destress, but a chance to become a part of something much larger than themselves. The instructor, Raji, was incredibly assistive; He guided everyone through the correct positioning and stretch while understanding each person’s own limitations.
“It’s cool,” he announced as we transformed through our warrior one into warrior two, “We’re all in the same pose, just different positions; That’s like life.”
Inspired by his words, I introduced myself to Raji at the conclusion of our class, telling him of my purposeful journey into Wellness Wednesday.
I began to ask him his favorite aspect of teaching here: “This is my second year teaching the outdoor Wednesday class, and I truly love it.” he started. “The community aspect, having everyone get together for an hour of relaxation and clearing of the mind – that is special. It’s awesome how people can bring their kids, families, dogs, whoever you want really, and still have a great time.”
Raji’s words resonated with me, as I realized that Yoga encourages a sense of diverse community, while congruently forming individuals into a stronger, more vibrant people. To still the mind and be able to simply let go – that is vital in order to maintain a healthy level of stability and security. This was not an environment ridden with intimidation, rather a place to feel empowered within our hearts and minds, at any age or strength. When I began to walk away from the class, I felt increasingly aware and connected to my body, while sensitive to all my surroundings as a feeling of relaxation and calmness washed over me. I highly recommend attending Yoga in the Park, for Wellness Wednesdays are now my favorite day of the week!