The black box theater is dimly lit and the only main light source is a window in the top right corner of the room. A few students are already here, some laying out their mats, others just lying. The atmosphere is immediately peaceful.
For the last three Tuesdays at 12:10, Assistant Professor of Theater Justin Poole and Assistant Professor of Music Ryan Keebaugh have been offering a free yoga and mediation session. Poole, a theatre professor who is “going through an intensive training program,” leads the yoga portion while Keebaugh, a music professor, leads the meditation. However, since Keebaugh was sick this Tuesday, Poole led both.
Poole said he hopes that these yoga and meditation sessions help students who are stressed with academics “reconnect with their bodies.” He adds that getting “in touch with the different centers of their body” is especially essential for performing artists who benefit by “working from the outside in” and finding “motion that connects with the emotion.” From Poole’s experience with his dissertation, yoga was “the only thing giving [him] sanity.” Teaching yoga is something Poole has “wanted to do … for the last ten years” and he’s happy to do this for students, because, as he said, “You guys are great guinea pigs.”
Clara Bush, a senior theater major, said that Poole is still learning how to teach yoga, and “this last class was the best one yet.” She has some prior experience with yoga, so it has been “nice to get back into,” especially since yoga brings together many of the things she has learned in her performance class. As far as meditation goes, it is something she is excited to explore more fully.
Once everyone arrived, Poole started the session with meditation. The intent was to focus on breath and to find natural rhythm. Poole also encouraged students to think about how to become more accepting of themselves and those around them. While sitting still for several minutes might seem easy, the posture and focus required true strength. After this, Poole introduced the chakra series through which he has been leading students. Chakras, according to Merriam-Webster, are the spiritual centers of energy in the body, but, as Poole assured the students, belief in Eastern religion is not necessary to benefit from yoga. Although Poole led the group in some recitations, these were entirely optional based on comfort. Because Tuesday’s exercises focused on the sacral chakra, Poole led students towards developing their own personal flow of moves to strengthen the pelvic core. Poole explained every move, so even if students did not know the difference between downward dog and child’s pose, they could still do yoga.
There were six students at the last session and Poole said he would “absolutely” welcome more. “If we get enough interest, it would be cool to offer this as a class,” he said. Next week, Keebaugh will be leading meditation only, as Poole has a meeting.
Yoga and meditation are unique, immersive experiences, and Poole encourages students to come on Tuesday afternoon and give them a try.