So many wonderful yogis have been born on the mats in the beautiful Linehan Chapel on the campus of Nazareth College. Students at Naz have the amazing opportunity to participate in yoga classes on campus over six times per week. The yoga programs at Nazareth have earned national recognition in the world of higher education, but the best part about the Nazareth Yoga Community (or Naz Yoga ‘Kula’) is that many of them have been so inspired by the gift of yoga, they have decided to share that gift with underserved populations. Students on campus decided to start a club called ‘Yoga Empowerment Partnership’, lovingly dubbed “YEP,” to unite their passion for yoga and community service throughout the Rochester area. The student leaders who work collaboratively with Nazareth College staff, faculty, and yoga teachers have had the opportunity to attend the National Yoga Service Conference, learn from local yoga service leaders, collaborate with local service organizations, and most recently, had the opportunity to be trained as yoga teacher assistants, giving them the tools they need to better serve their community.
YEP leaders have different majors, backgrounds, and interests, and even different stories about how yoga changed their lives, but they all agree that yoga is a powerful force that they would like to share with people in our community, near and far. One yogi, Alyssa Henry describes yoga as the “means for my own discovery of the powerful light inside me.” She says yoga service is the way she and others can share that light with those who need it.
Another yogi, Vika Turner, a freshman social work major in the group, frequently attended the yoga classes on campus. “I really want to incorporate yoga into my career one day, so learning about yoga service now is really important to me. On campus I’d really love to bring yoga to clubs/groups of people who haven’t had the opportunity to experience yoga” she said.
Dylan Loucks, like many other students at Nazareth, has always had a passion for community service, and now through YEP, he gets to combine his passions and bring yoga into the service work he does. He also loves the opportunities that YEP has provided him to meet new people who share his passion to spread yoga service.
The leaders of YEP meet regularly to find ways to spread their yoga service with area programs and schools. Two YEP leaders, Alyssa Henry and Rebecca Silliman volunteer at the yoga club for Young Women’s College Prep every Friday with a certified yoga teacher. Alyssa describes her experience with the middle and high school young women as transformative. She describes her experience this way: “When the class starts…no longer are the girls’ students and no longer is the room cluttered with books part of the school. They are transformed into yogis and the room transforms into a spiritual, accepting space. Effortlessly they match their bodies to our poses and adjust with our cues. There are not enough words to describe the quiet determination these girls exhibit. Yoga is their one time of the week to escape standardized testing, escape stressful peer interactions, and most importantly escape into themselves. I am grateful to be present during their moments of stillness, because it roots me into moments of my own. I am able to remind myself that yoga is not crazy contorted poses nor lululemon leggings; it is those simple moments of being with oneself.”
Rebecca says that she hopes that the consistency in showing up for them in yoga classes has made a difference in their lives, like it has in hers: “YEP is about empowering all kinds of people to find what they need within themselves. Since its student-led, it’s all about collaboration and reciprocal relationship building; we don’t have the answers, but we’re all seeking them together.”
The students seek to spread their work off-campus, but they also recognize their fellow college students may also have critical needs that yoga service can fill. YEP leaders collaborate with other clubs and organizations on campus to support events such as “Love Your Body” week to promote self-love and support and awareness for eating disorders on campus.
So what’s next for this busy group of service driven yogis? Their goal is to spread yoga to everyone, but especially college students in need on the Rochester campus. YEP leaders have recently been accepted to the Clinton Global Initiative University – a leadership program for college students to promote service and community engagement – to present their idea to provide dynamic programming to college students to combat anxiety, stress, depression, and disordered eating. They hope to “introduce yoga as a mental health and wellness tool for both prevention and support on college campuses by partnering with Rochester Yoga Service Network and trained student leaders” (CGIU Commitment). By spreading yoga service throughout campus, they’re making Nazareth an even better place to be! Be on the lookout for more of their yoga service love on campus when you visit on campus!
There are tons of community service opportunities at Naz. Here are all of the other posts in our #ServiceSaturdays series: