Yoga is powerful medicine – not just for students, but for teachers too. Both are continually learning and growing. This is true for yoga instructor Sarah Hirsch. She learns more about the practice – and herself – every day she gets on the mat.
Sarah’s first yoga experience came during a community college course in her home state of Colorado. Since then, yoga has allowed her to travel the world, taking her to places like India and Peru. The journey wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always clear, but she found comfort and emotional and physical balance within the world of yoga.
Sarah found that balance in a small room atop a hill in Rishikesh, India. It was a hot day and the monsoon season had just ended, bringing waves of humid heat. The classroom, filled with 12 students and their yoga instructors, had windows – but none were open. This preventative measure kept the throngs of wild monkeys away from their belongings and bodies. The wild monkeys are known to be aggressive and the teachers didn’t want their students bothered.
The windows shut, the heat oppressive, Sarah and her fellow students already had the cards stacked against them. Plus, they were to practice Ashtanga yoga – a physically demanding style of yoga Sarah had yet to have much experience with.
“I remember being in camel pose, a very heart-opening pose,” Sarah says. “And then, I felt something in my chest crack and I broke.”
Sobbing uncontrollably, Sarah opened herself both emotionally and physically to the world. She had seen this in others, but hadn’t experienced it herself. Pushed to the edge of her comfort level, she came out the other side anew and opened herself to true growth.
Sarah’s experience gave her the confidence to comfort one of her students who had a similar occurrence in her class.
Sarah teaches yoga on a “love donation” basis at the Center for Mindful Use in downtown Bellingham. S L O W: A Restorative Stretching Class is Sarah’s take on yin yoga. Participants hold poses between three to five minutes as Sarah helps them encounter a place of stillness within each one. The class focuses on relaxing and restoring the mind and body through yoga and stretching.
During one of her classes, a student in Legs-Up-The-Wall pose reached the same point Sarah had in that small, hot Rishikesh room. The student broke down. Sarah had never seen it happen in one of her classes, but could immediately relate. She told the student they would be okay and shared the story from her yoga training in India.
“People aren’t told to cry in public,” Sarah says. “People aren’t used to the vulnerability that exists within us.”
Through yoga, both Sarah and her student were able to grow physically and emotionally. Although their lives may be different, yoga brought them together and allowed them to experience important, impactful and life-changing moments.
Sarah says this wouldn’t be possible without places like the Center for Mindful Use, where people come together and donate their time to others in the community because they want to – because they want everyone to experience that growth.
S L O W classes, which are also taught by The Heart School Founder Jessica Radovich, take place Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. (Classes are limited during the summer months; check the CMU schedule for more information.) Sarah also plans to resume her Yoga Nidra classes, popularly known as “Yogic Sleep,” at the center in the fall.