Yoga Day at LMU

Professional yogis and novices alike participated in LMU's Yoga Day on Saturday September 19.

LMU hosted its annual Yoga Day across campus on Saturday, so I decided to give it my best (non-yogi) try.

Yoga Day was created to celebrate the yoga tradition and spirit within LMU; we became the first school in the United States to offer a yoga studies degree in 2013. Yoga Day ran from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and included everything from basic yoga flow classes to acroyoga and the Beatles concert/yoga session. So I, someone who's tried and failed at many yoga classes, joined the (actual) yogis for a yoga flow class.

I picked this class specifically because it was held outside on Lawton Plaza in the scorching sun, but once I felt that 80 degree heat, I already regretted my decision to join. I walked on the grass and joined all the experienced yogis who chatted about their yoga mats from India and hot yoga. Oh no.

The instructor, Carly Gaffey, introduced herself as a yoga studies student who teaches in her free time. I chose the class because it was described as "all levels welcome" – good enough for me!

I have to explain a little about my background with yoga. Basically, I can't do it. I'm the person who goes to yoga class, sets up in the back, and then holds child pose through most of the poses — I'm weak. I've also never picked up on any of the yoga lingo; the meanings of "vinyasa," "asana" and "mudra" have always been a mystery to me, but no instructor has ever explained them, leaving me to sit in child's pose and be confused.

This time was different.

The 15 or so other attendees and I set up our mats in a circle all facing each other. I didn't realize it, but a "vinyasa flow class" requires a lot of waving your body around in the strangest way possible. As someone who is constantly reminded of my tall, noodle-like body, I was terrified. I was extremely aware of the many people that walked by our setup in Lawton, gawking at all the strange people waving their arms around.

Yet, as we ran through the movements, I felt myself letting go. Gaffey explained everything — the meaning of the yoga terms she used, where we should have felt tension in our bodies, and what we should envision during our practice. She used one term, "Ujjayi breath," that gave me pause. She said it was the "ocean breath," where you allow your breath to roll in and out of your lungs in one fluid motion. Just as a wave reaches out to the shore and recedes within itself all at once, we allowed our breath to fluidly guide us through the practice. We ran through a few different cycles of movements and while I didn't always understand the moves, it was the first time I've felt truly connected to a yoga session — and understood anything I was doing at all.

After an hour, my constantly-turning mind was still, and I couldn't care less what my body looked like.

It's events like these that make me realize how special LMU is. That we, as a Jesuit institution, can embrace yoga as a practice and ancient art that heals and connects us all. That we offer a day full of free admission yoga classes just to show the community how special it can be. I opened my eyes from time to time just to admire the huge range of ages and experience levels of the people that surrounded me.

We ended the practice by laying, legs splayed out and facing upwards, simply meditating and clearing our minds. I've never been so content with looking so strange.

I still may not be able to tell you what a "Pranayama" is, but I can tell you that I see more yoga classes in my future.

This is the opinion of Kelsey Mangan, a senior English major from San Jose, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email kmangan@theloyolan.com.

Kelsey Mangan is a senior English major and an advocate for the Oxford Comma. You can find her writing, reading, or eating power berries. Talk to her about dogs (please).

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