Downward Dawgs

On March 28, Adrian College students and staff completed the Health Center-sponsored series of four free “gentle vinyasa flow” yoga classes led by local Yoga Master Robin Righter. Righter has instructed students and faculty of all levels of experience in the past through lessons and courses offered here at the college and has been an accomplished yogi herself for over 15 years. According to Health Director Kelly Truchan, the turnout was remarkable, with over 100 total participants across the four classes. 

Truchan had nothing but good things to say about both the particular program and yoga in general, citing good community feedback as well as touting yoga’s numerous physical and mental health benefits. These included the obvious flexibility and strength, but also the less obvious benefits too, like its’ calming or meditative effects, according to Truchan. Truchan stressed the potential benefits for all students on campus, but in particular athletes as a risk prevention and general wellness measure. 

The yoga series offered students the experience to interact with a culturally diverse and truly unique form of self-care and self-strengthening. Something that Austeen Heeney, owner of Free to Be Yoga & Massage in Adrian and occasional yoga instructor here at the college, couldn’t stress enough: “Movement is medicine, and movement is lotion and movement is release,” says Heeney. “Movement in general has numerous benefits, but what yoga brings to the table is very intentional and aware movement. When you add these two pieces into movement you begin to also become very intentional and aware of your body, your feelings, your thoughts and your actions. It changes you and the way you interact with the world and yourself. Any person can practice yoga and receive its benefits. These benefits seep into your physical, emotional and mental health.” 

And beyond the immense physical, mental, and emotional benefits of yoga, to Heeney, there are even deeper positives that can arise from a regular yogic practice.“Yoga is a gateway, if you choose to walk through it, into yourself. When you come in, when you get to know yourself deeply, you also get to know the world deeply. From that knowledge, connection begins to emerge and when you have connection you begin to see the world as sacred. Then your spiritual side begins to be cultivated into however you connect and whatever you connect with.”

But, if all that seemed a little too new-agey for you, you’re otherwise religious, or you thought spirituality just meant something about ghosts, there are still great physical and mental benefits to yogic practice for nearly everyone. And according to Heeney, that aspect of spirituality can be entirely left at the door if need be. “Depending on the lineage you choose, it can be practiced as a way to move and be left at that. Now I will say that there are essences within it all the time, but it’s up to the practitioner whether they take those essences within and apply them to their own religion or simply let them be. Yoga has gems of spirituality and can easily be a spiritual practice but the teachings will only go as deep as the practitioner of yoga allows.”

Heeney’s advice for anyone trying to start their yoga practice is, “You will be nervous. Especially going into a studio for the first time. It can be so nerve-racking. If you are nervous, feel your nervousness and do it anyway. Do it nervous, it’s okay to be nervous and still go right in.” She also recommended finding an in person studio or class, such as the series offered by the college, to start in. Heeney believes the assistance and guidance provided in a real studio does wonders in promoting a healthy and “good habit” based practice. She also suggested being somewhat cautious and doing some research before you decide where to go for your first time: “Look at their social media and how they communicate to the members. Their website and social media will let you know who they are. Decide if you resonate and want to be a part of it and then reach out and ask which classes would best be suited for you as a beginner.” If a class in person isn’t an option, she also recommended looking online, citing YouTube as a great resource for beginners, and even providing her studio’s own YouTube channel, which will be linked below the article. 

According to Truchan, this series, as well as future yoga opportunities offered by the College are a perfect opportunity for beginners, with some matts even being provided for potential participants who can’t bring their own. Look out for future Health Center events such as the previously ran Tai Chi series, more yoga, or the numerous other workshops they hold throughout the year. Truchan believes these are great resources for students to further their personal health and wellness while on campus.


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