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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

First-year student and influential yoga instructor

Published: April 5, 2012
Section: Features, Top Stories

As a first-year student at Brandeis, Shayna Palmer ’15 has already seized initiative, sharing her passion for yoga with her peers. Palmer teaches four yoga classes every week to the diverse assemblage of students who attend these sessions as part of her work-study program.

Palmer confessed that “initially, you couldn’t get me in a yoga room,” but as an athlete interested in pursuing tennis at Brandeis, Palmer accredited her initial feelings to a misconception based on the common athlete mentality that yoga is “just stretching.” After experiencing an unfortunate back injury, Palmer first delved into yoga to alleviate pain as well as to aid in her recovery process. Once she began, she was hooked, asserting, “I hit the ground running and never looked back.”

Palmer initially became involved in hot yoga, in which yoga is practiced in a room kept at an elevated temperature. This heated environment improves flexibility, allowing the muscles to stretch while building core strength, Palmer said. Upon becoming enthralled with yoga, Palmer wished to “share the gift with other people,” for she claims it has “the capacity to change the mind and body.” Having taught classes in Florida, Palmer requested to continue instructing yoga at Brandeis as well, which is a proposition that administrators readily accepted.

Expanding beyond her former involvement with hot yoga, Palmer now leads sessions dedicated to vinyasa flow, a popular form of yoga that synchronizes breathing with physical movements. Describing her role as a university yoga instructor, Palmer claims that it is “an honor to inspire people,” referring to yoga as a broader “lifestyle choice.”

Although attending these sessions may appear intimidating to the newcomer, Palmer hopes to show that yoga is “a process, not a result.” She encourages all in attendance to “leave behind all judgments and expectations” and to “give it time.” In her words, “the body is an amazing machine,” which, when given time and opportunity, can adapt and improve, developing strength and flexibility. She hopes newcomers will “meet everything with an open mind” in order to derive the benefits of such an experience.

Palmer attests that those who attend her sessions are diverse in both skill level and athletic ability. Newcomers practice alongside those she dubs “regulars, dismissing any unwarranted fears regarding ability.” Besides instructing these sessions, Palmer has also privately taught the basketball and soccer teams, demonstrating the benefits of yoga for different sports. Palmer emphasizes that yoga can not only “decrease the risk of injury” but can expedite the healing process as well, all while improving flexibility. She asserts that it also has the ability to serve as an “awesome preventative measure” against common minor injuries, demonstrating its impact on the realm of athletes and physical health.

Although adding yoga to an already existing workout routine can aid performance and improve health, Palmer recognizes that there are distinct mentalities that exist on the yoga mat versus in the athletic, competitive environments. Athletes possess the constant mentality to “push, push, push” until the game is won, physically exerting their bodies and strength until the point of exhaustion. Palmer, however, observes a very distinct state of mind within the yoga sessions. She describes the ability to “settle slowly into posture,” gradually stretching the muscles and improving strength in time and relaxing the mind.

As a first-year student, Palmer reveals that she is undecided about her major and field of study but recognizes that yoga is an essential component of her lifestyle. Palmer’s dedication to a healthy lifestyle extends to her work with the club Brandeis Vegans.

Palmer asserts that she will continue with yoga after college, which has become an integral aspect of her routine. She adamantly proclaimed, “I’m never going to give it up.”

She spoke about the possibility of one day owning her own studio, hoping to spread the benefits of yoga to as many others as possible.