Modernized by western culture, the ancient discipline of yoga has seemingly taken over the health scene. Theresia Portoghese, current yoga instructor at Rollins, has boosted student involvement in the art of yoga with great care and authority. Students have not only remarked on the benefits of yoga for the soul and body, but also on how Portoghese is an amiable and knowing instructor. I had the opportunity to sit down with Portoghese and discuss the positive attributes of yoga that so many have raved about.
Q: What is it about yoga that is so beneficial for the body and mind?
A: Yoga offers the individual freedom to evaluate the state of their mind, body, and emotions without judgment or expectations. Being given the freedom to simply experience oneself through postures and breath work helps us connect on a deeper level. From a non-judgmental, third person perspective, we experience our body in various postures and work to bring ourselves into better alignment while sitting, standing, and balancing.
Placing emphasis on physical alignment helps our body effectively create space for our lungs to receive life-giving oxygen. In fact, good posture and proper breathing technique can increase lung capacity by as much as twenty five percent. The increased oxygen intake raises the rate at which the body heals and decreases the rate at which it ages. Good posture also promotes better blood flow, a relaxed nervous system, and toner muscles.
In every posture, we use willful determination to bring ourselves into the posture as fully as possible, but do so without concern for results, thus, always looking for ease in every posture. Being that the mind and body are linked, yogis believe ease in the body will also help create ease in the mind.
Q: What do you think students can gain from taking not only your class but also at off-campus facilities?
A: Yoga classes, regardless of style or place, offer the ability to restore the body while becoming physically stronger, more flexible, and mentally clearer in thought and therefore more emotionally balanced. This is typically offered in a non-judgmental environment where practitioners are encouraged to do their best without worrying about perfection. The classes offered on campus are traditional physical (hatha) yoga classes that incorporate breath work with postures of various degrees of difficulty.
Off campus students may find more specialized yoga studios. For example, if a student desires a sweaty detoxifying yoga practice they may seek out a “hot yoga” class. These classes are taught in heated rooms where individuals are encouraged to “sweat it out” physically, mentally, and emotionally. Should the student desire a more restorative practice they may want to try Yin Yoga. Yin yoga focuses on staying in supported postures for a prolonged period of time to help gently open and release tension from the body. If more discipline is appealing, the regimented postures of Ashtanga not only physically challenge the body, but also require the practitioners to memorize the sequence and perform the routine independently under the supervision
of a trained Ashtangi.
Q: Aside from the PEA credit class offered, what other options are available to students who want to become more familiar
and immersed in yoga on campus?
A: Rollins Intramural department offers yoga in the evening. We also have an active Rollins Yoga Club: headed by Rachel Bogdan, the group also caters to students by offering restorative yoga during finals week. Pinehurst also held a yoga-based event to help raise awareness during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The event included yoga followed to a talk on how yoga can help individuals connect or possibly reconnect with their bodies in a loving way. I shared my own experience of struggling with an eating disorder and engaged in an empowering discussion on how we can take better care for ourselves and set an example for others working through eating disorders.