Yoga has become a worldwide exercise phenomenon in the last decade. It is known as a total mind and body experience that enhances one’s mental capacities as well as flexibility and physical strength.
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When imagining a yoga class, one typically pictures a tall, lean woman instructing her class on how to perform various yoga poses. However, at Auburn University’s Student Activities Center, yoga is taught a little bit differently.
Meet Barrett “Bear” Townsend. As an enthusiastic and outgoing Auburn University sophomore with a head full of crazy, curly brown hair, he doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the stereotypical yoga instructor.
So how exactly did Bear begin teaching yoga?
“I started doing yoga my freshmen year of high school and picked it back up freshmen year of college,” Townsend said. “I went to a class in the Student Activites Center with my teacher Pam, who is now my boss. She got me interested in doing the 8 a.m. classes twice a week.”
During his spring semester, Townsend went to every morning class offered and several afternoon classes. He received his certification as a level one YogaFit instructor after attending a two-day seminar and teaching a class to learn how to instruct. He focuses on teaching beginner yoga students.
Level one is the first step toward the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certification, which requires 200 and 500 hour instructing checkpoints. This designation is earned through a national non-profit organization, the Yoga Alliance (YA). All Auburn practitioners are working toward their RYT 200.
YogaFit was developed by Beth Shaw in 1994 and is a westernized style geared toward combining fitness moves and yoga postures to make the exercise regimen easier. YogaFit classes are typically shorter than the usual yoga class, clocking in at an hour instead of the traditional hour and a half. YogaFit also has lighter meditation built into the class instead of the more intense meditation that yoga normally entails.
The Auburn Group Fitness Program is designed to give students the opportunity to practice their teaching skills as well as learn new ones.
“Bear will have the opportunity to practice with us for as long as he is at Auburn,” said Pam Wiggins, Townsend’s boss. “He will leave Auburn with the ability to both practice and teach yoga. What a win-win for the Auburn community.”
Auburn Campus Recreation began offering yoga in 2008 with two classes. Now, there are 11 yoga classes offered and two yogalates classes.
“The Campus Recreation Lifetime and Wellness Program is committed to giving students an opportunity to both learn a lifetime skill and give back to their Auburn community,” Wiggins said.
Auburn offers basic group fitness instructor training that enables students to learn how to teach a variety of fitness classes.
“Bear is one of those students who has the desire to give back,” Wiggins said. “It’s not easy balancing school and a scheduled class commitment. Teaching requires preparation and a willingness to share knowledge. In return, Bear learns the importance of reducing stress. I believe he’ll always find a way to teach yoga.”
Townsend appreciates the mental strain he gets out of yoga because he admits that it takes some work to block out everything one sees, hears and thinks during exercising. He participates in yoga outside of his instructor job.
“I really like yoga mostly because it helps with your mind and your body,” said Townsend. “Flexibility and balance are key, but so are strength and endurance, which a lot of people don’t realize.”
Townsend teaches two classes, one at 8 a.m. and one at 6:15 p.m. on Thursdays. For a full schedule of all classes offered, please visit www.auburn.edu/campusrec
“I love doing yoga,” Townsend said. “I do it for myself. It’s helped me be more confident with who I am and everything that I do. I would suggest that everybody give it a shot.”