Learning to respond rather than react
December 18, 2019
“Culver educates its students for leadership and responsible citizenship in society by developing and nurturing the whole individual – mind, spirit, and body – through integrated programs that emphasize the cultivation of character.” – The Culver Mission
When Cady Clark ’20 (Minneapolis, Minnesota) reads the Culver Mission, her thoughts turn to yoga.
“To me, it is the embodiment of the Culver mission statement,” she explained. “It’s the perfect union of mind, spirit, and body.”
Nurturing the whole individual is important to Clark. And she practices yoga to do that. She includes some aspect of yoga in her life every day. She stretches daily, usually at night, for 15 to 20 minutes. She practices a full yoga session of 45 to 60 minutes three to four times per week. One of those session is when she leads a class of approximately 15 girls every Tuesday, using one of the racquetball courts for the session.
Yoga is Clark’s stress and anxiety reducer. Before she came to Culver, she was practicing with her mother, Heather, who is a certified instructor. But she stopped when she came to school. Last year, she began suffering panic attacks. They became so bad, she had to leave school temporarily.
While she was home, she restarted her yoga routine with her mother, paying special attention to her breathing and her thoughts. It was during those sessions, she came to understand the importance of letting thoughts come – including the paralyzing ones – and then releasing them just as quickly. She learned to stay “present in the moment.”
After Clark was named the Culver Girls Academy wellness chair for the first rotation this year, it became her mission to help others find the tranquility she had discovered. But she also found the yoga classes limiting. The classes were being taught in the fitness center. Getting centered is a little tougher when people are dropping weights a few feet from you, she explained.
Now, Rev. Dr. Sam Boys, director of Spiritual Life and a certified yoga instructor himself, said the number of opportunities have expanded around campus. Boys has been teaching classes on Wednesday evenings in the Steinbrenner Performing Arts Center dance studio.
The Sunday morning and evening sessions, which are part of the constructive meditation program offered to students, is taught in the fitness center when it isn’t as busy. The Sunday option became two classes after 44 students registered, making it necessary to split the group. Sally Beazlie teaches the morning session and Boys the evening class. Angela Curtis also teaches yoga as part of the fitness regimen, Boys said.
Clark’s classes are attended primarly by CGA students. But she would like to see more boys attend after winter break. And, while there may be the occasional thud of the ball against the wall of a neighboring court, Clark said, “We let it pass.”
Boys said Clark is one of the Culver students who understands the importance of using the spirit to bring harmony to the mind and body. With all the technological intrusions and stress today’s students face, he explained it is important for them to learn how to calm the mind and nervous system. Yoga helps them develop an internal awareness and teaches them to “respond rather than react” to situations. Learning that difference “is part of our mission. It’s part of leadership.”
“Conscious leadership involves accessing tools and resources for our self-awareness – our own self-regulation – so that we may be more grounded and centered in our own lives, and therefore in our service to others,” he added.
Clark’s eventual goal is to get certified as a yoga instructor, which takes 200 hours of person-to-person work. “I’m hoping once I get home (after graduation), I’ll have the time to do it,” she said.
She is now putting the final touches on her senior service project, which is a mental health awareness campaign during the final week of January. One featured piece will be yoga by candlelight. Her goal is to not only raise awareness, but also get students to understand the benefits of connecting “movement and the mind.”
Clark understands that some people initially find yoga uncomfortable, physically and mentally. But she wants people to understand that even drawing a simple breath – if done properly – can calm the mind and start to heal the body.
“It’s about learning to live through the discomfort,” she explained, “learning to breathe through the discomfort.”