Club close-up: yoga club – The Racquet
“My first spring semester, I taught free yoga classes in Reuter Hall’s conference room. A few people showed up, but I realized I wasn’t reaching all of [the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s] student population. I wanted to give space for all people on campus to access. Yoga Club started as a space to socially connect like-minded people. We move and breathe together and do fun stuff along the way. It’s relaxing, educational, social, and fun,” said Vice President of the Yoga Club and UWL Senior Keegs Sturdevant.
Sturdevant, along with other members, began the Yoga Club in the summer of 2017. “I got involved in Yoga Club because I wanted to make friends outside of classes and parties,” said Sturdevant, “I wanted to extend an environment for other people to experience yoga as well as a mind-positive social life at UWL.”
At a young age, Sturdevant began following along with her mother who practiced yoga. She started to regularly practice after being diagnosed with anxiety at 9 years old.
“My mom taught me yoga when I was very young. She had this set of flashcard-like pose cards that she would arrange into a flow for herself and I followed along,” said Sturdevant, “My anxiety attacks would cause me to hyperventilate until I fainted. Yoga taught me how to pull through those moments.”
President of the Yoga Club and UWL Senior Jillian Smith was one of the original members to help get the Yoga Club started. She became involved with yoga her freshman year after a friend convinced her to try it. “Physically, it’s a really good workout. If someone has any sort of injuries, it can be good to help with rehab for those. For me, it’s just a good way to let out built up energy and relax your body,” said Smith.
Yoga can be practiced for mental health as well. “I practice yoga because of my mental illnesses,” said Sturdevant, “Some days, in my worst bouts of depression, I’ve sat in child’s pose or happy baby in bed. Life is tough. Yoga really has helped me regulate and respond to my various mental illnesses.”
“I suffer from anxiety disorder, depression, and OCD,” said Treasurer of the Yoga Club and UWL Sophomore, Toni Langowski, “Yoga helps me to work through my anxious thoughts without pausing my day to figure them out or suppressing them.”
Secretary of the Yoga Club and UWL Sophomore Grace Tester has been practicing yoga for over a year and finds it to be a stress reliever. “Coming to yoga club gives you a break in your hard day and is pure relaxation. It is a time to try something new, a time to be selfish, and a time to not have to think about anything,” said Tester.
Yoga can be used to calm the mind. “In the simplest notation, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are all just breathing techniques. We’re just showing you how to breathe,” said Sturdevant, “Something so vital to life really should be taught to you. You should know how to calm yourself down, wake yourself up, and how to regulate yourself with breath.”
Yoga Club meets every Monday night from 6-7 p.m. in the basement of Eagle Hall. The club provides mats to members in need, or members can bring their own. “I would say we have around 30 people who show up on and off,” said Smith, “Consistently, we have around 10 people every week.”
Sturdevant said, “You don’t need to bring a mat, I practiced on a towel until I could afford my own yoga mat. We provide mat rentals for free if you can provide a student ID. The first [meeting] of the semester is going to be full of people, and the last one of the semester is going to be a pretty small group.”
The club has many different events throughout the semester. “Some recent events that have been held are giveaways for yoga mats, essential oil blending workshops, social events with tea and snacks, guest teachers from the area, field trips to local studios, acrobatic yoga, and every spring we sell shirts or tie dye shirts,” said Sturdevant.
“We actually have acrobatic yoga coming up. We have had it once a month for the last three months, which is really cool,” said Smith, “In our next meeting we are going to have a de-stress event, where we are going to have some meditation and then other fun activities.”
The club has partnered with many organizations, helping to teach and lead yoga classes. “We have partnered with a lot of different clubs. Really, if any of the groups or organizations want to do any sort of yoga, they normally reach out to us to teach,” said Smith, “We are partnering with the Leadership and Involvement Center on Dec. 10, to do an event to help students do yoga and de-stress around finals time.”
Everyone is welcome to join, no matter their skill level or experience. The club welcomes anyone, whether they are beginners or experts. “I think it is definitely a misconception that yoga is all about who can stretch the farthest, or that members have to look a certain way, and it is not about that at all. Yoga is not supposed to be judgmental,” said Smith, “Definitely just try it out, and don’t be scared. I know people get nervous because they always think they have to be perfect, or really good but you don’t, just come and learn and be open to it. Every single person starts by having no idea what they are doing and that is something everyone needs to remember.”
Sturdevant said, “We’re catering to our local student audience. So, if you want to practice laughing yoga, we’ll host a meeting all about laughing yoga. If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda, we’ve got you. If you’re masculine and want a meeting to focus on how to stretch masculine bodies, we can teach that. We are always doing something new, but if you have any requests, don’t be shy to email us.”
“You don’t need to be experienced, wear the right clothes, or look like an Instagram model,” said Sturdevant, “In fact, if you show up in jeans and a t-shirt and meditate the whole time, we will just be glad you arrived in our space to take some time for yourself.”
For any members who have questions or concerns, Smith suggests being open and asking. “If you are worried about doing something wrong, just go up to the teacher at the end of the class and talk to them,” said Smith, “They will do everything they can to help and make you comfortable. I remember being in my first class just watching everyone because I had no idea what was going on, I didn’t know any of the poses. I stuck with it and I am really glad I did. Just don’t be intimidated and give it a shot.”
“We give students the opportunity to challenge themselves by taking the pose further or by binding in a pose,” said Langowski, “We include every student that has a desire to learn more about yoga and Yoga Club.”
To learn more about Yoga Club visit, https://uwlmyorgs.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/yogaclub. For any questions about Yoga Club, events, or meditation contact [email protected].