*This story was written as a response to our previous interview with our Founder, Nora Peneva, by a student-turned-yoga instructor. We received permission from the reader to publish the piece on our website. We hope that this person’s story will help encourage more people to give Yoga a try.*
Being a fourth-year student in one of the top universities in America was stressful, and if anyone told you otherwise, they were wrong. The damage from the stress manifested itself in different ways among my two best friends and me. Let’s call them Sara and Aisha. Sara, who was going to graduate from the Department of Journalism, had begun developing a taste for nicotine. Aisha, on the other hand, was an excellent pre-med student but had a minor depressive disorder that was acting up.
I was writing my thesis, which, as an introverted workaholic, had rendered me trapped in my one-bedroom apartment.
It was one evening in March, that a new Yoga studio opened right across from the dorms. Its owner was a small Indian lady in her mid-forties and her son, who looked roughly around our age. He quickly caught the eye of our Sara, who dragged our (mostly unwilling) trio to a beginner Hatha yoga class. The boy worked at the small reception desk beside the entrance of the studio and charged us nothing.
“The first class is free,” he smiled, and Sara swooned.
We took three of the ten mats laid out and waited for the class to start. Faint foreign music filled the silence with a pleasant, soothing flute combined with ringing chimes.
“Well this is…spiritual,” Aisha joked.
We had no idea the kind of understatement she was making. When the instructor (the mother of the cute boy at the front desk) walked out and started her class, she demanded our full attention and respect with a kind smile. She asked for the name and occupation of each participant in her class, as well as whether they had practiced Yoga before. None of us had.
“Today, I will help you escape your stress.” She proclaimed with certainty.
“Begin by focusing on your breathing. Connect with your body and pay attention to each inhale and exhale.”
The instructions were simple, yet they made us focus on a very human process that we otherwise took for granted.
“Each time you inhale, tell yourself ‘I’m breathing in deeply,’ and each time you exhale, tell yourself that you’re doing so slowly. Repeat this exercise three more times.”
By bringing our attention to this, our instructor made us forget our troubles and relax. It was a form of meditation that I didn’t believe I was capable of beforehand.
During the course of the rest of the lesson, whenever one of the students got distracted or struggled with an exercise, we were told to “breathe slowly and focus.” When we performed a pose correctly, we got praise. It was an incredibly efficient method of teaching for overachieving university students who were constantly looking for the approval of their teachers and parents.
At the end of the lesson, after a quick meditation session, I discovered Aisha peacefully asleep on the mat between Sara and I.
“I think your friend enjoyed the lesson.” The instructor joked quietly, and we smiled sheepishly at her.
It was fortunate that we lived across the street, cause after waking up Aisha went on to have a much-needed nap. Sara and I were starving and went for a meal.
I felt tired, but in a pleasant way— as though I was covered in a large warm blanket of much-needed endorphins. Looking back on the experience now, I find that yoga helped set me on a path toward much-needed stress relief.