Oxford’s yoga interest reaches new heights

Posted on Mar 23 2016 - 7:27am by Alexis Neely

Oxford has been bending over backwards with a recent trend that’s relaxing the minds, bodies and souls of the University students and surrounding community members: yoga.

“I think it’s better than other forms of working out like P90X or Crossfit because they’re a lot more rough on your body, whereas yoga is gentle on your body,” Joseph McQueen, barista at Cabin 82 coffee shop in The Graduate Hotel, said. “You’re gonna be sore, but you won’t actually be hurting yourself. I think it’s one of the best ways of exercising and getting yourself to feel good.”

After taking a few classes at local yoga studio Southern Star, McQueen brought the idea to his boss of collaborating with the studio to bring yoga to the hotel’s rooftop every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Thus Rooftop Yoga was born, with co-owner of Southern Star Stevi Self as the instructor for the event’s kickoff session Tuesday morning. The Graduate’s rooftop yoga sessions will continue for three days a week throughout the spring, and they will even provide an indoor location if spring showers hit.

Self, who has taught yoga in Oxford since 1998, said she was inspired to open the Southern Star Yoga Center in 2008 after six years of working in a gym atmosphere.
“The yoga room at the Heathplex shared a wall with the spin room, so sometimes I would be leading the relaxation part of class with Motley Crüe playing in the background,” Self said. “For yoga, the environment is a key factor. I wanted a space that was free from distractions and would allow students an opportunity to have fun but also to let go.”
And it seems Southern Star has curated the perfect environment for this type of relaxation, as Self said she has definitely noticed an increase in people trying yoga from when she first started teaching.

Rebecca Olsson, Gabriella Welch, and Mary Soloman partake in yoga class on the rooftop of The Graduate. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

Rebecca Olsson, Gabriella Welch, and Mary Soloman partake in yoga class on the rooftop of The Graduate. (Photo by: Ariel Cobbert)

“Yoga offers so many benefits for the body as well as the mind,” Self said. “We have many people in the studio who have been sent there by their doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and even psychologists.”
University organizations and facilities such as RebelWell, which hosts a variety of health-centric events and fitness programs on campus, are also taking advantage of the chance to get more bodies doing yoga.

RebelWell, in conjunction with the UM Museum, is currently sponsoring “Yoga in the Gallery.” Yoga is offered for people with various levels of expertise every Monday at 8 a.m. in different galleries at the University Museum. The sessions will continue through May 9.
“I think offering this free event at the Museum is a great way to get the community and University together and a great way for people to start their week,” UM Museum Events Coordinator Rebecca Phillips said. “Our location is ideal because we are close to the Square and right on the edge of campus.”
Although “Yoga in the Gallery” draws attendance from University faculty, staff and local community members, students at the University can get in on the yoga action at the Turner Center.

Instructor Kurt Pollack has worked at the Turner Center since May of 2015 as a fitness center supervisor, and began teaching power and gentle yoga classes at the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.
“We have the attendance numbers to show that yoga is growing in popularity; we’re adding new classes almost every semester,” Pollack said.
In fact, yoga’s popularity has brought about changes in the Turner Center’s scheduling. They’ve added hour-long yoga classes instead of the previous 45-minute sessions, as well as a new class that combines both cycling and yoga.
Sophomore Integrated Marketing Communications major Taylor Daniel started yoga at the Turner Center last year after noticing the classes on a lot of the group fitness schedules around the gym.

“I thought I should try them out,” Daniel said. “I’d say I mainly went for a more relaxed way to tone up and a way to simultaneously wind down after a long day. I personally really enjoyed the chill music, welcoming instructors and varying levels of difficulty of the different classes.”
Pollack said this is a part of a large movement across America.
“People are starting to be more mindful of preventative healthcare such as diet and exercise, and yoga is becoming more easily accessible to people who are concerned about those things,” Pollack said. “There are studies from Harvard and elsewhere showing concrete links between meditation practice like we engage in through yoga and improved mental and physical health. Western medicine is just getting around to realizing the importance of these things; yoga practice has been addressing it for thousands of years.”

– Alexis Neely