OUr voice on campus: activism at OHIO

Activism and protest is language on campus.

It’s a form of expression and of passion.

It’s OUr voice.

And this is how we use it.

 

 

This Ohio University student takes yoga a little deeper than downward dog

Breath in, and exhale up.

The sage words of Rachel: an afternoon yoga instructor at Ohio University’s Ping Center.

Some dozen women sit on the floor of a group fitness room, lined up neatly in rows facing a woman who they hope knows more than they do.

The room smells like flowery body spray, from the kickboxing class that let out not 10 minutes prior. Contrary to the name, the class is more Zumba than Eye of the Tiger.

But the group gathered now is there for Yoga Stretch. Something that is hopefully every bit as simple as it sounds.

Over a dozen Ohio University students prepare for a power yoga session at the Ping Center.
Over a dozen Ohio University students prepare for a power yoga session at the Ping Center.

It’s frighteningly easy to pick the pros from those who are just dipping their toes in. It must be in the way that they walk, confidently laying out their personal mats, and the way they move, slipping into to Eagle Two before the instructor finishes her explanation.

As opposed to the doe-eyed look of some who aren’t sure if they’ve made the right choice. After all, it’s one thing to twist yourself around on the floor of your living room, and another to attempt it in a room of your peers.

Rachel calmly explains that today’s group fitness session is all about stretching and relaxing. If we’re looking for a more strenuous work out she leads another class at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Slightly reassured, the newbies (myself included) try to remember when they actually stretched last. For me it was ten years ago, when I was still under the illusion I could become a ballerina. For kicks I press the heels of my feet together and attempt to make my knees touch the floor on either side of me. It’s fruitless, but serves as a good base for judging how little flexibility I have.

When class finally starts, we’ve convinced ourselves that this is the right choice. We touch our toes, we reach for the ceiling, we even slide into Downward Dog.

Then we watch Rachel grab her ankles and contort herself into a square: equal parts mesmerizing and intimidating. We try to mimic her to the best of our abilities.

Breath in, and exhale up.

Even if you aren’t facing up, you exhale up. It has less to do with increasing your ability to touch your toes, and more to do with a personal expulsion of everything you’re worrying about, at least according to Molly McIllvain, an Ohio University junior.

“I love yoga because it’s mental and physical,” McIllvain said. “You can’t show up, go through the motions and expect to get everything you wanted out of it.”

Ironically enough, that is exactly what I expected. That is what many first time yoga practitioners expect, but McIllvain states that this isn’t the case.

“Breath in and exhale up is just another way of telling people to let go,” McIllvain explained when asked what she thought the phrase meant. “You breath in and you hold it just long enough so that when you exhale it feels like it’s taking a little something with it. The homework you forgot, the parking ticket, the electricity bill, a little bit of stress with every breath.”

McIllvain, who is studying Health Communications, has been attending regular classes for nearly a year. She claims this interest stems from an experience she had while at home on break.

“I attended a group prayer with these visiting Buddhist monks while I was back (in West Virginia),” McIllvain said. “It wasn’t a really straining session or anything, but there were more than a hundred people and we were all gathered there chanting the same mantra. I didn’t grow up religious and before this I wouldn’t have said I was, but sitting there with these people I had this almost out of body experience. I felt like I could feel more and less at the same time.”

McIllvain said the sensation left as soon as it came, but it had a lasting impression.

“I was on this high for the rest of the day,” McIllvain said.

That experience has led her to the Ping Center for yoga classes once a week, and even doing yoga at home whenever the mood strikes her. Though she hasn’t felt anything akin to that sensation in Athens, she still attributes her positive outlook to yoga.

My Gem: The Ugliest Couch in Athens

The view from 4 Palmer's porch during sunnier days.
The view of Palmer Street from the porch on a sunny day.

4 Palmer St., Athens, Ohio, 45701.

In all honesty it’s a shithole. The kitchen ceiling is sagging, the dishwasher is crooked, there very well might not be any insulation in some rooms and there’s a fee of $5 in quarters if you want to do a load of laundry.

But what it lacks in general aesthetic appeal, it more than makes up for in good company and very comfortable couch. A couch I rent out from my best friends when I’m drunk, or bored, or in need of a good laugh or a bad cry. My bank account lives in the single digits so I pay with pizza, wine and sarcasm.

A good night in with some friends (from left) Fozzie, Devin, Kirsten and Molly.
A good night in with some friends (from left) Fozzie, Devin, Kirsten and Molly.

You can see the barest corner of my sometimes-bed at the left of this picture, with my friend’s ass firmly planted where my feet usually rest. Now that he’s dating Kirsten (the witty brunette dead center), he joins Molly (right corner, the rebel on the floor) and I in our morning coffee ritual.

Sitting on the porch outside, or more recently on my couch inside, we watch the Athenians. Sometimes we make up origin stories, but usually we just watch Athens wake up much like any other town must: slowly and surely with a steadily increasing number of people who can bear to get out of bed.

You can’t see the god-awful shade of gray the couch is, or the equally awful beige floral print that’s spread over the cushions. Not even my grandmother, a stringent follower of the 60s, has owned something quite so off-putting. But that’s where we gather. And that’s why no other place in Athens can measure up. I love Alden, and Donkey, and the long walk from Baker to South Green, but none of those places would mean nearly as much without the people I studied with, who grabbed coffee with me or who trekked the long trek back to my dorm.

My favorite place in Athens is an ugly, old couch, in a busted house; surrounded by some fantastically stupid people I’m happy to call my dearest friends.