Yoga provides students path toward wellness and balance

Divy Bose | The Chronicle

Whether for religion, fitness, or simply alleviating anxiety, yoga has grown into a popular pursuit.

Yoga has become a part of students’ daily routines as a source of decompression and has turned into a peaceful escape. Senior Brooklyn Darby has pursued yoga for nearly five years as an opportunity to further her knowledge of the art itself. Her interest in yoga grew from wanting to branch out of school activities and find a secure state of mind.

“[Yoga] made me so much more aware of where my headspace [is] at,” Darby said. “It is really good for your mind to be able to separate yourself from those busy schedules and find [a] sense of calmness.”

Darby made yoga an essential part of her lifestyle when COVID struck in 2020, an event that made Darby increasingly aware of her mental health. Darby said that yoga kept her daily routine in check and remains to be a continuous part of it.
“[Yoga] was a constant I could rely on,” Darby said. “It brought me some kind of life during COVID [and gave] me the opportunity to put time aside for my own well-being.”

The inspiration for Darby’s interest in yoga was her mom, Tamiika Darby, who is a yoga instructor at HiFi Yoga. Darby utilized her mom’s practices and yoga flows as an opportunity to bond with her mother and said it made yoga even more enjoyable for her.

“My mom and I will be in the middle of the living room asking each other if our yoga flows are smooth and transition well,” Darby said. “[Writing] the yoga flows together is a learning experience for me as an instructor.”

After two hundred hours of constant studying over the origin of yoga and yoga exercises, Darby herself has become a certified yoga instructor at HiFi yoga. Darby has had to learn to adjust her plans based on what her class wanted out of each session. Darby said that “going with the flow” of her class and switching up her lesson plan helped improve the overall atmosphere of the yoga studio.

“As an instructor, you have to read the room,” Darby said. “Even if I write out my flow plan ahead of time I completely scratch it and adjust my plan to the energy of the room.”

Another way that Darby improves the “mood” of the room is by making sure her students put any mental or physical tension at ease. As a varsity athlete on the MHS Girls Volleyball team, Darby has had to learn about injury prevention and has learned how helpful yoga can be to athletes such as herself.

“[Yoga is] really beneficial to me and the students,” Darby said. “It really is fulfilling to teach and the best feeling is when I know I made my students’ day just by loosening up the tension in our muscles.”

Yoga can also improve the mobility of student-athletes in the sport they participate in. As an athlete, Darby said that her ability to loosen up and release any muscle strain has improved massively just by doing yoga exercises. As injuries have come up, Darby said that putting her focus on mending her own body made yoga more empowering.

“I have had some past injuries due to just being stiff and carrying so much stress in my shoulders,” Darby said. “I always had to sit up and had so much lower back pain, but doing those repetitive movements in yoga exercises is what really healed my body.”

Senior Brooklyn Darby instructs fellow senior Seri Braun in “upward dog” yoga pose during session at HiFi Yoga.

As yoga is utilized to heal the body, there are many variations of yoga in itself. Sophomore Max Yuchasz practices aerial yoga, a form of yoga that requires not only physical strength but also mental stamina. Yuchasz said he thinks of yoga “as a puzzle.”

“You can’t necessarily get your body to do what you want at first, “ Yuchasz said. “So practicing, and getting over that mental block of thinking you will not be able to, is what will put the pieces together at the end.”

Yuchasz has a background in aerial yoga from performing for circuses around Cincinnati. He found that there were many intertwining skills between yoga and his past profession. Yuchasz said that yoga can be challenging, even with the skills he has become accustomed to.

“I couldn’t even manage to climb onto the rope when I first started aerial yoga,” Yuchasz said. “I would come in on extra days to take strength and conditioning classes to even manage to hold myself up in the air.”

When yoga comes to mind, many focus on the supposed obligation to be flexible instead of the strength that is gained. But for Darby, yoga is much more than being able to do different tricks or difficult practices that require a certain level of flexibility.

“There’s a huge stigma that surrounds yoga that you have to be a certain size or look a certain way,” Darby said. “But if you are a beginner, don’t compare yourself to the other yogis. Instead, look up to them and learn from them.”

Since everyone starts somewhere, keeping a strong foundation of the basics is what leads to improvement. Even with years of experience, Yuchasez said he still finds himself working at the beginner skill set.

“Some days are just worse than others and my body is physically not connected to my brain,” Yuchasez said. “But even when I cannot nail the basics, I still feel relief from the energy I release into what I love doing.”

Many tend to put yoga in a spiritual, mental, or physical category when yoga comes to mind. But Darby said that aspirations in yoga vary and that there is no set limit on the outcome of the practice itself.

“Everyone says yoga is defined by how many tricks you can do or the religion that it stems from,” Darby said. “But really, yoga is what you make of it.”

Photo by Divy Bose