Spiritual training in the a.m.
Students, locals of varying ability gather early each week to train physically, mentally, emotionally through yoga sessions
The sun rose in the east as yoga mats unfurled and bodies stretched across the Greenway lawn at the crack of dawn on Sept. 8. This is a regular sight at Milledgeville’s popular nature area on Saturday mornings, where yoga and nature convene.
Yoga instructor and Georgia College alum Xan Nichols teaches the age-old art of yoga and meditation to local residents and GC students every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., offering a peaceful, hour-long window to wake up outdoors.
“Yoga at the Greenway wasn’t originally my idea, actually. People said, ‘Why not have yoga at the Greenway?’ and I said that I would love to teach it at the Greenway,” Nichols said. “Last year was my first year of teaching yoga, so this was a good way for me to gain some teaching experience and then use this beautiful space.”
Nichols originally explored the various techniques of yoga as an undergraduate, grasping a strong understanding of meditation and relaxation. She had never attempted yoga until she attended a yoga retreat with a friend.
“I’ve been practicing yoga for about five years now,” Nichols said. “My first semester of college was at Berry College, and they had a meditation group, which led me to yoga.”
Making intentional quiet time and implementing relaxation techniques are two cornerstones of yoga, which may prove beneficial for busy GC students.
“I like yoga because it helps me relax and center myself, which I need because I’ve got so much going on with school and student teaching,” early childhood education major Elise Salokar said.
Like Salokar, Nichols agrees that yoga serves as a catalyst for revitalization and relaxation.
“My favorite thing about yoga is the meditation aspect,” Nichols said. “Yoga is moving meditation. It combines body, mind, spirit and your breath into this invigorating practice that gets you more energized.”
The outdoor yoga sessions begin with a series of slow stretches, followed by more complex moves like sun salutations and positions requiring skillful balance.
For newcomers like Salokar, yoga at the Greenway is an enjoyable learning experience.
“I’ve only been doing yoga for about four months,” Salokar said. “It’s so refreshing to be outside in the mornings getting in touch with myself in the middle of nature. It feels right to do yoga outside.”
Another practicing yogi, the term for someone who does yoga, is junior biology major David Plessy, who has frequented the Greenway on Saturday mornings since the summer.
“My favorite aspect of yoga is the immediate release of tension at the beginning and the continued cleansing of the body and mind throughout the practice,” Plessy said. “It’s like the Earth pulls all of your sores and tensions out of you as you move around.”
The weekly morning meetings at the Greenway also serve as a way to socialize and connect with fellow yogis in the community, providing participants with a forum of exchange.
Nichols hopes that her weekly yoga sessions grow with time, and the accomplished yogi encourages both novice and expert practitioners to join the group at the Greenway on Saturdays at 9 a.m.