Now here or Nowhere – On my mat by Hallie Arena

Hallie Chatham

Hallie Arena is Assistant Director of Student Affairs at Chatham University, Pittsburgh PA. She was a former basketball athlete for the Chatham Cougars and received her M. Ed from the University of Pittsburgh. Hallie just completed her 200 level yoga teacher training in May 2013 and tries to find time on her mat every day.  She can be found on twitter @harena24.

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“Now here” or “nowhere.” Interesting, isn’t it, how the only difference, really, is a little extra space.   – Baron Baptiste

My introduction to yoga began like most other amazing adventures in my life – through my mother. In 2000 my mom began her spiritual journey and wanted me to come along. However, “finding my center” was not a priority. All four years of high school my mom encouraged me to meditate and practice yoga, but I didn’t need meditation or yoga. Then I went to college. I was a college-athlete and signed up freshmen year for a yoga wellness class. This class was an integral yoga class and I hated it. I am a type-A personality who likes schedules and agendas, and being in my first year of college I did not see the point in wasting time to take care of myself; until I got injured, and then it became a priority.

It wasn’t until summer of 2008; I had studied abroad the year before and somewhere along that journey I discovered I was more than just a basketball player. I walked into a Vinyasa Power Yoga studio and began to sweat immediately upon opening the door. The room was heated to 90 degrees and I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. The practice itself was physically challenging (I love a challenge), I was actually encouraged to rest (I was thankful for all of the teacher’s encouragement), and above all; I couldn’t stop smiling! It was unlike any other competitive physical activity I had ever participated in and it felt foreign and wonderful at the same time. I constantly kept looking around the room at the other students turning themselves into pretzels and became frustrated with my body. I left feeling considerably defeated but yet so happy with what I had accomplished. I found myself back in the studio two days later. I’m not sure what specifically about the practice became addicting, but over the next few years I found myself returning to my mat at least three times a week and leaving with more energy than I entered the studio with. There was no doubt I loved the physical benefits of it, but there was something else about the practice that I couldn’t turn away from. The idea that someone was guiding my body into poses that were both strengthening and stretching, while incorporating life lessons, was exactly what I wanted. Whatever stress I brought onto my mat with me was somehow worked out and resolved by sometimes just standing on one foot. Now, I can appreciate the power/vinyasa flow that challenges me and centers me still every day. It’s the perfect balance of the competitive athlete I used to be and the more self-aware person I am today.

Forearm Balance

My practice became much more a part of my life when I began graduate school to fill a void of no longer being a student athlete and balancing the stress of academics and working as a Graduate Resident Director. As I began my career in Student Affairs I realized how much the practice inspired me the way I hope to inspire my college students every day. Throughout college and graduate school I became someone I really like; I faced challenges and hardships but found happiness in my relationships and myself. I love my yoga practice because while it’s about me, it brings joy to everyone around me. I love that when life throws a curveball it just takes a little time on my mat to get back in the game.

Student Affairs requires a lot of energy, patience and time – and until I started getting on my mat every day I wasn’t able to accomplish all three of those things, and still have time for friends and family. Although taking an extra hour or so a day to sweat, meditate and breathe on my mat may seem like a lot and not possible, especially during those crazy times like the end of August, October and April, it’s necessary to stay physically, emotionally and mentally charged for the challenge ahead. By taking that time for yourself, you find you’re able to create more time for the things that are important and really be present in the moment.

Acro Yoga

 

 

It’s clear that yoga has become my passion and my inspiration. For you, it might not be breathing and sweating on a 6×2 piece of rubber. It might be running, biking, kickboxing… who knows! Whatever it is, find it, and do it as often as you can. Let it continue to ground you and challenge you. My yoga is a humbling practice; some days I can hang out upside down, other days I can’t stand on one foot. Just like some days I hit a home run with a program, other days I’ll have 0 students show. I forgive myself and come back the next day ready to try again.

 

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