The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV students celebrate body positivity through yoga

Courtesy | GVSU Recreation & Wellness

Grand Valley State University Recreation and Wellness aimed to celebrate body positivity by hosting yoga classes during GVSU’s Sex Ed Week. Students were invited to participate in various sessions throughout the week that explored yoga’s benefits and allowed them to reconnect with their bodies.

The Body Positive Yoga event gave attendees a trauma-informed yoga class as a way to offer empowerment and choice in a safe and inclusive space. This allows people to move their bodies at their own leisure and comfort by trusting in their body’s capabilities and limits.

Sex Ed Week was created by GVSU’s Recreation & Wellness program as a way to help students’ well-being through sexual health information, inclusivity and empowering messages. This was done through a variety of events that gave students a place to approach sexual education without shame.

Yoga classes were offered twice throughout Sex Ed Week, with the first session taking place on Feb. 12 at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and the second on Feb. 15 at the Mary Idema Pew Library. The instructors demonstrated trauma-informed yoga techniques and encouraged students to follow guided prompts that promoted proper movement. Instructors also told students to adapt their movements as needed based on what felt best for their bodies.

Shannon Kaza, senior adjunct professor in the Department of Movement Science at GVSU, led the Feb. 15 session. Kaza said there are many body-positive benefits associated with yoga. Kaza also said yoga is a perfect way for students to relax, and be more present and grounded.

“I hope that students leave (Body Positive Yoga) with more confidence,” Kaza said. “(Yoga provides) a little more comfort in their mind, comfort in their body (and) maybe a chance to step out of that endless mind chatter.”

Kaza said yoga can be tricky to navigate because of the unrealistic images created through social media. Kaza said often one type of person is shown against a fancy backdrop, setting expectations that can be damaging and hard to meet, which ultimately limits peoples’ perception of yoga.

“So many of us are taught that things should only look one way,” Kaza said. “Yoga can be a way to let go for a little bit and to feel all the amazing things that your body can do. You have total control of your body and the way you look. ”

Throughout her yoga session, Kaza frequently prompted students to listen to their bodies and respond to what they felt. Kaza guided the students through breathing and centering techniques, always reminding them to take breaks and to stretch further if their bodies weren’t responding positively to the movement.

“I would prefer they trust the wisdom of their body and (I would prefer they) befriend their body and fully inhabit their body, even for a little while,” Kaza said.

Alyssa Hopfinger and Alyssa Bitterman, freshmen at GVSU who attended both yoga classes together, said Kaza’s trauma-informed yoga session was beneficial. Bitterman said she appreciated the classes because they appealed to yogis of all experience levels. Hopfinger said she left feeling relaxed and wanted to attend more classes. 

“I liked how Kaza gave a few different options of movement,” Hopfinger said. “I was definitely really tense when I came in, and (now) I’m leaving all loose.”

Though Sex Ed Week is over, GVSU offers weekly yoga classes through Recreation & Wellness that can benefit mental health and body positivity.

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