As soothing music plays in the background, Shreya Ranganathan, a senior majoring in journalism, welcomes attendees to her weekly yoga class by handing them a notecard and marker. Yogis of all experience levels sit on laid-out mats as they write down gratitudes or complaints and use the time to calm the mind.
Ranganathan’s “Holistic Hatha” yoga class, a space to reflect and let go of quotidienne worries, provides attendees a mental break during one of the busiest times of the semester: midterm season.
Breathing techniques, such as Bhastrika and Ujjayi breathing, typically follow the warm-up writing exercise. Ixtli-Ann Cordero-Guerra, the freshman majoring in international relations and intelligence plus cyber operations, said the attendees do “breath work to relax us and get the tension out of our body. ” The session ends with a meditation, sitting into asana or even laying down and melting, figuratively, into the mat.
Although Ranganathan had practiced yoga for years, she said the catalyst for her truly appreciating the particular practice was in 2019, when she traveled to India for the first time.
“What really stuck out was that I saw so much beauty in ancient knowledge that was embedded into the practice [of yoga], ” Ranganathan said. “By getting in touch with my identity in my culture through the practice of yoga, I felt that [healing] and I never wanted to let go of that feeling. ”
When she returned to the United States, Ranganathan began to research yoga, quickly finding that she didn’t see herself represented in the stream of white creators practicing yogan on YouTube.
“I found out just how important it is to have representation in these spaces, ” she said. “I saw so much history being kind of swept under the rug and I wanted to change that. ”
This commitment to inspiring change led her to Bangalore, India in the summer associated with 2021, where she became certified to teach yoga.
Ranganathan, the director regarding yoga engagement for Yogan USC, hosts the class every Wednesday at the Physical Education building from 5: thirty to 6: 30 p. m. The class has grown in size; it began as a class involving 10 to 15 students on Zoom in 2021 and has recently moved to the basement of the PHED building to accommodate its increased popularity.
Ranganathan invites students, staff and faculty to “take one hour of our day to come into a safe space, leave our judgments, leave our prior and post commitments outside of the door and just channel introspectively. [Consider] what our emotions are in addition to where we can kind of find the state of present being, ” she said. “We can get to true healing and it’s been so spectacular to watch people feel that way. ”
Riya Shah, a new junior majoring in global health, started doing Zoom yoga classes during the coronavirus pandemic. “Holistic Hatha” was her first in-person yoga class and she makes sure to find the time to attend the yoga exercise classes each week, even with the academic pressures and demands of college life.
“Everyone seems really nice, ” Shah said about the classroom environment. “Even if I do something wrong, We never feel like someone is judging me. Everybody is in their own zone. It is a judgment free zone. ”
Ranganathan considers herself “a traveling yoga teacher” because the class continues to move from location to location as the course increases in size. No matter the area, though, her goal for the class has remained the same.
“The goal of is to allow you to think introspectively, to look beyond the confines of the space that you’re in, and even take these lessons together with values with you beyond typically the mat and apply them to your own life, because that’s truly what yoga is meant to be, ” Ranganathan stated.
When reflecting upon her role within the practice yoga exercises, Ranganathan said she sees herself as a storyteller.
“Yoga is really storytelling with the heart, the head, the mind, the spirit, the breath. It’s a holistic way of telling stories for an hour, ” Ranganathan mentioned. “It was cool to explore that; not only are you experiencing it, but you have to be able to convey that to people and have it touch their hearts and touch their souls. ”