Whether you are an athlete or non-athlete, chances are likely that you’ll find yourself in downward dog in a yoga class at one point in your time as a student at Bates. For years, yoga has been one of the most common ways for Batesies to fulfill the Physical Education requirement for graduation. As Bates is planning to forgo requiring the credit for future classes, I find it important to highlight the value these services on campus can have for students of all abilities. For this week’s issue, I decided to interview the current Yoga Kula instructors in order to learn more about the people who run these popular classes.
According to the club’s @batesyogakula Instagram page, “‘Kula’ means ‘community’ in Sanskrit. The Bates Yoga Kula aims to foster a community of self-growth through promoting the practice of yoga.” Originally, yoga was taught one-on-one between a student and a teacher. In writing this article, I have found that what connects all of the Bates instructors together is their commitment to creating community. To become an instructor is no easy task, as the average amount of hours required for a certificate falls around the 200 hours over a span of 3 to 5 months. To put this into perspective, after receiving a pilot permit, it takes 250 hours of flight time to be ranked as a Commercial Pilot in the US.
To learn more about what motivates yoga instructors to teach at Bates, I first spoke to Katia Ryan ’23. According to Ryan, she first became interested in yoga after her grandma became a certified yoga teacher at the age of 70 at the same center where Ryan would later complete her training. Ryan received her certificate to teach at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts: “I did the 200 hours of training at Kripalu at the one month intensive this summer. It was really, such an amazing experience and yeah, I took a gap year as well, so I really got to practice yoga and that’s really when I realized I wanted to bring yoga with me when I went to college.”
For Ryan, one of the things that draws her to yoga is the feeling she gets after completing class: “I really like how I feel after yoga class, so that’s why I wanted to become a teacher—to instill that feeling of like—I don’t know—whether it be releasing something or finding a little bit of peace throughout someone’s day, that’s something that I really want to create here,” shared Ryan. She continued, saying, “So I think that’s why when we get to do this class for a club, I’m doing it solely because I want to. I’m doing it really for the people that I know truly appreciate it.”
Another Bates yoga instructor, Elene Chamberlin ’22, came to yoga initially as a source of recovery from being a competitive soccer player in high school. “I was a competitive soccer player and my body hurt all the time, plus I was very high strung and stressed all the time,” said Chamberlin. During her first year of high school, Chamberlin joined a newly opened yoga studio: “I started going to class weekly and slowly incorporated it into my every day routine which continues today.”
One of the most rewarding things Chamberlin has found after teaching a year at Bates is the “the realization people have of their own capabilities, both mentally and physically.” She concluded, saying “All you need for yoga is your body. There is absolutely no boundaries and the mantra I go by is that yoga is for every body.”
Next, I had the chance to speak with Rachel Forcillo ’18 about her experience teaching yoga at Bates. Forcillo began yoga at a young age, practicing with her aunt whenever she would visit. Later, when Forcillo was attending middle school, a yoga studio opened up above her neighborhood Trader Joes, prompting Forcillo and her mother to sign up for classes.
For Forcillo, yoga means “yolking” or “union.” “That’s sort of the union of your body and your mind and your whole being. And so there are eight limbs of yoga, and one is “asana” which is the poses, like the physical postures, and one is “prana” which is breath, and then there are six whole other limbs of yoga…So when people say ‘Oh I’m so bad at yoga.’ I’m like ‘What do you mean by that?’ And they’re like ‘Well I’m just not flexible.’ I’m like “That is only one eighth of the practice.”
Forcillo’s advice for those interested in attending yoga classes is simple: “I would just encourage people to try it out and know that you don’t have to be athletic or flexible to come. Even if you were just to lay on your mat and breathe for an hour—I say this a lot, but it’s so true—just being still without your phone, without any outside distractions—just you on your mat, anything that you do is just going to be so good. It’s not about achieving any certain pose, it’s just about committing your time and focus to whatever comes up for you while you’re on the mat. And I think that carries out so well into your life.”
Lastly, I spoke to Hannah Baskfield ’20 on how yoga has helped her in her life as a student at Bates:
“For me [yoga] is something I do to make sure that I’m not always stuck in my own head, not always worried about what needs to be done in the future which I think is something that really is difficult at Bates. I think that oftentimes I’m worried about getting everything done, but my own practice allows me to stay focused on the moment, and I think I’m able to observe my own thoughts, rather than being completely swept away with them.”
For those interested in attending yoga, classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:00am to 8:00am and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:30pm to 5:30pm.