by: Deryn Harris
UCI Campus Recreation held a Self-Compassion Yoga day at the ARC on Saturday, Oct. 5 as part of Year of Yoga, a year where UCI is promoting student wellness by hosting and promoting yoga events.
The morning was filled with various yoga classes including viniyoga, Yin yoga with Reiki, and an intro to mindfulness and meditation that started from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. UCI students and ARC members could join for free and yoga mats were available for rent free of charge.
Associate Program Director of Fitness and Wellness for UCI Campus Recreation John Halsey stated that yoga is, “a relatively gentle activity for those who are normally exercise-adverse, and it has a mindfulness component that helps the mind focus which increases stress resilience.”
Halsey elaborated, “Our theme for the year is, ‘Fitness is good. Fitting into another’s expectations isn’t. Everybody thrives with healthy habits.’ Some people are discouraged from activities because they feel as if they don’t fit in, or that exercise is only for fit people. We want everyone to know that they come as they are, and feel welcome practicing healthy behaviors with us.”
Beginning Oct. 5, there will be free events for students and staff on the first Saturday of every month. Upcoming events include a Gratitude yoga session on Nov. 2 led by yoga therapist Kat Tillinghast, and a session on Dec. 7 led by Ashley McKeachie with the theme of cultivating joy.
In addition, Lori Shaw-Taguinod will be leading short 30 minute sessions in Aldrich Park every Monday from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. on the lawn by the Student Services building, west of Langson Library. You do not need a yoga mat or fitness clothes to join these sessions.
“We’re focusing on self-compassion for this first event of the year, to emphasize that yoga is good for everybody, without judgment,” Halsey said.
Gentle Vinyasa, one yoga session of the event, was led by Instagramer and LA-based certified yoga instructor Jessica Rihal. With over 10,000 Instagram followers, Rihal promotes inclusive yoga that all body types or abilities can participate in.
“Me presenting in a larger body, a person of color, is not something you see a lot in yoga spaces or in wellness spaces in general,” Rihal said. “I want people who looked like me, who have never seen themselves reflected in fitness or wellness spaces, to feel comfortable, and I want people to connect with their own authenticity.”
Rihal also offered advice for those who are new to yoga and feel fear or anxiety because of it.
“It is okay to feel those feelings,” she said. “You can be afraid, you can be anxious, you can be concerned, but you shouldn’t allow that to stop you from doing the things you feel driven to do or drawn to. Feel that, then let it go and move on.”
Yoga instructor Shandra Campbell led a session on Yoga for Self-Acceptance. During the session, Campbell had students repeat certain mantras in their head, including lines like “Kindness and love are not the same thing” and “I am not living to please others.”
Campbell believes there is a difference between self-love and self-acceptance. It may be difficult for people to learn to fully love themselves, so to avoid discouragement, they should focus on simply being kind to themselves.
“You don’t have to be enthusiastically in love with yourself or your process. You don’t have to celebrate it necessarily, but you can not hate it. You can be in the middle, you can be neutral,” Campbell said.