The Morning Mat

Namaste! Here’s what you need to know to get your day started:

  1. Daily Inspiration

Jessamyn Stanley is an incredible yogi, instructor and writer who defies every stereotype of the typical “yoga body.” She encourages others to focus on how they feel – rather than how they look – during their practice. You can check out her website here.

2. Need a new mat? Look no further

Yoga Journal compiled a list of the best yoga mats of 2016. Ranging from $22 to over $100, these mats range from basic to high-tech, so there is something for everyone.

3. Ab-strenghtening exercises 

If you want to strengthen your core to perfect your headstand, check out these exercises and find your inner zen.

Photo courtesy of PopSugar

4. Words of wisdom

Feeling down today? Fiona Sutherland, Dietitian & Co-Director of Body Positive Australia, has advice for you.

5. The link between body positivity and yoga

Well + Good published an article about the rise of body acceptance in the yoga community, which has recently become prevalent on social media.


The Morning Mat is a weekly newsletter that provides you with everything related to body positivity and yoga.

As the media puts focus on appearance over how you feel, we strive to supply you with empowering information that makes yoga an inclusive experience for everyone.

Subscribe to get this newsletter delivered to your mailbox every Tuesday!

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.

Here are wholesome alternatives to that hangover

It’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning. College students at Ohio University are sluggish and rolling around in bed. The only thing on their agenda is to get through the McDonald’s drive-through before breakfast is over.

Last night’s wild and outrageous antics are the only topic of conversation for the majority of the day. Happy hour at the bar is the only thing that will revive them from this inactive state. But while these students are allowing a terrible hangover to dominate their Saturday, some students are seizing the day.

The girl who lives next door to these crazy college students woke up at 8 a.m. to make her regular hot yoga class. After, she grabbed a smoothie from a local natural food market. The rest of her day was very productive because of the union she created with her mind, body, and soul.

Students who live this lifestyle in the fast-paced community of Athens often forget to focus on themselves and to keep centered mentally and physically. There are many businesses on Court Street and in Athens that can give students a more wholesome way to live.

Gathering one’s physical self in a calming way can be achieved in a lot of different ways. For example, Court Street boasts Inhale Yoga at 60 S. Court St., a yoga studio located right on the bricks and actually the only one in town.

Yoga is a physical practice that unites the body and mind through breathing and physical poses. This yoga studio offers classes, workshops, and retreats to students and residents of Athens. They also offer training programs for aspiring yoga instructors and myriad yoga classes, and even have children’s and prenatal classes.

“We offer something in the eclectic town of Athens that is very necessary, actually, in a community, which is health and wellness,” said Kristen Wade, a yoga instructor at Inhale Yoga. “There’s a whole community here for you that is very likeminded that you see time and time again. We would like to think of our studio as a gathering place. You can do yoga at home, but here there’s a group of people to support you,”

Inhale not only offers wellness through the mind and body, they also give back to the Athens community. They raise money for My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence agency serving Athens. They also participate in food drives and have a Christmas tree setup for Athens County Children’s Services. Their work within the community reflects their purpose of uniting mindfulness within physical activity.

“With yoga it’s a full mind body connection. You’re not just performing an action like mindlessly running on the treadmill or doing something only for the benefit of your body. You’re focusing on your breath and how your mind is doing. Yoga is not just a physical practice; it is a mindfulness practice,” Wade said.

Inhale offers many different pass options and packages to suit the inner yogi. One single class is $12, and there is a 10-class pass for $100. There are other options, too.

Though it is not typical for a student to participate in yoga on a regular basis while in Athens, Riley Carpenter, a sophomore at OU, partakes in holistic living and the practice of yoga on her own and at Inhale to create an effective, balanced, and centered lifestyle.

“I just really wanted to make time for myself and find other ways to create balance and new ways to stay healthy,” Carpenter said.

She originally began practicing holistic healing the summer after her freshman year of high school to help combat health issues that medication would not fix. She used homeopathic remedies and other natural medicines to boost her health, and the use of those different solutions led her in to learning and practicing yoga. The combination of yoga and holistic living has changed her outlook on life. Instead of looking at a problem for what it is, she looks at it as a bigger issue. If she is feeling stressed, she practices yoga breathing and meditating, and if she is feeling congested, she’ll take a shot of whiskey to clear everything up instead of taking Advil.

“It’s crazy how much that shot can clear you up! I’d rather use a remedy like that than take something artificial,” Carpenter said.

Last year, she started a yoga club at Ohio University so she could spread the benefits of yoga to students. She instructs her own yoga classes and has received her 200-hour certificate in yoga, she also takes classes regularly at Inhale. Students can email her with questions about her club and practice.

There are many different types of yoga one can practice. One of the most popular is hot yoga, Vinyasa, which is Carpenter’s favorite. This practice focuses on coordination of breath and movement and is also a physically active form of yoga. However, there are almost 20 different forms of yoga that vary from simple mediation to forms that are physically demanding. There are also some forms of yoga that help with healing from surgery or help with spiritual blockages.

Carpenter practices yoga two to three times a week and tries to make it to one class at Inhale during the week as well. She practices yoga breathing before bed every night — which is basically the process of inhaling and exhaling through the nose, filling and emptying the lungs completely. She also is in the process of learning a variety of handstand variations to add to her yoga practice. These are the more difficult poses to attain. These challenging poses require a lot of patience and practice and usually are instructed at the end of a yoga class. The goal when achieving these poses is to practice normal breathing and continue the normal yoga flow that was present the entire session.

Not only is the physical side of wholesome living in Athens something important for students, but so is what they put in their bodies.

Chipotle, Jimmy John’s, Wings Over, and Brenen’s are all examples of the quick eating on Court Street that students use as a fill to get through their day. These options may seem fine at the time, however, they are not among the healthiest choices. The fluorides (chemical ion) contained in these foods are very high since these foods are so processed. The more fluorides present in foods, the more processed the foods are. Of course, the more processed foods are, the unhealthier the food is.

Since time is of the essence, using fresh ingredients and cooking generally aren’t at the top of an OU student’s list, but the incredible health benefits can aid the mind, body, and soul.

The Farmacy, an independent natural food market a short distance from Court Street, at 28 W. Stimson Ave., sells ethnic, vegetarian, organic, and special-dietary-needs food.

“What you put in your body is so important,” said Jen Wagner, an employee at the Farmacy. “I’ve always strived to be as healthy as I can be. We strive to keep our products [at the Farmacy] to be natural as possible. Flourides are terrible for your brain.”

The Farmacy was established in 1971 as a place to buy hard-to-find items like brown rice, oats, dried fruits, and nuts. Today it has flourished into a full-service natural food market.

Along with serving natural foods to Athens, The Farmacy also has a café and sells natural beauty products along with herbs, vitamins, and supplements. It uses two main wholesalers, Tree of Life and United Natural Foods Inc. Farmacy also gets fresher foods like produce from local, smaller brands and food auctions.

“My personal favorite smoothie from the café is the spirulina smoothie, which is an algae smoothie. The health benefits in algae outweigh even spinach and kale,” Wagner said.

They also supply muffins and sandwiches to Court Street Coffee, a local coffee shop at 67 S. Court St. Students can have their coffee and eat Farmacy too!

“We really want to expand the herb section of our store and move some things around so we can make that area a lot bigger. Herbs are very underrated and we want to make this change so people can be more aware of their benefits,” Wagner said.

Herbs actually provide many health benefits. They help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. One might not think about herbs when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but they really can help the body.

Escaping from the normal college town health habits is quite the task. Taking Chipotle runs and the occasional McDonald’s hangover fix out of the routine can be a challenge. However, it is not impossible! There options in Athens that allow for a wholesome lifestyle  in a convenient way. Take one week to make this change. Take a yoga class or pick up some fresh ingredients and cook something on your own. Living healthy will help your mental health, which is vital to have as a college student. See what happens just after one week, and it might become a change that lasts a lifetime.


Michelle Sebastian is a junior at Ohio University majoring in strategic communications at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is a social media junkie and hopes for a career in the industry one day. She enjoys coming up with clever Instagram captions and drinking iced coffee. In her spare time she can be found practicing yoga and reading Man Repeller blog.