McMaster widens recreational class opportunities for students heading into the 2022-2023 school year

As the fall semester takes off, the McMaster University Athletics and Recreation Department is continuing to provide students with new opportunities and classes to take part in. One of the benefits of their recreational classes this year is the extremely wide variety to be offered. 

This fall semester, the university is providing 80 different classes for students, from ballet to spin class to belly dancing to fencing and more. Additionally, many of these programs offer different options for distinct levels of skill, providing beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.  

The classes hosted by McMaster Athletics and Recreation do not require personnel to be McMaster students, as anyone is allowed to participate so long as they are high school age and up. No membership is required, but McMaster students receive a discount on the classes. To acquire more information on the scheduling for the recreational classes, you can visit the weekly schedule for the fall term here.  

To register for the Fall term classes, you can visit the Athletics and Recreation program website here. The pricing for the programs ranges from $23.90 for yoga to $101.77 for Muay Thai, with most of the programs lasting 10 weeks. 

Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative is making teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants

Representation matters. It’s an absolutely essential part of reclaiming and decolonizing spaces for the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community. Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative, Fueling Reclamation, is bolstering the fight for representation, by making their teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants. By doing this, they are helping to decolonize the wellness industry.

Robin Lacambra had already been working in the movement and wellness industry for many years when she moved to Hamilton. As she began to practice in studios in her new city, she recognized the lack of representation of the BIPOC community in studios not only in Hamilton but also in Toronto where she grew up.

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“It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political. So it was in trying to find a movement community here in Hamilton that I woke up to a need of mine, which is to have a space that felt safe for me to be in my full expression as a queer woman of colour,” explained Lacambra.

"It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political."

Robin Lacambra

This realization prompted Lacambra to create the space that she needed. She started teaching pop-ups in 2018 and then that same year ran her first teacher training. Many of the graduates from the course went on to be the teaching staff for Goodbodyfeel when it officially opened in 2019.

While Goodbodyfeel is a Pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio, at its core it’s a place of inclusion, healing, empowerment and representation. 

“[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion,” said Lacambra.

[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion.

Robin Lacambra

This philosophy is at the heart of Goodbodyfeel and everything they do, from the classes they offer to the individuals they employ.

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“We really centre values of equity and representation, equity and accessibility. I don't ignore the hard realities of systemic oppression and the studio works to challenge systems of oppression, both in the way that we run our business and the way that we share our offerings to the broader public, in the folks that I employ . . . and we do our offerings, don't shy away from creating exclusive spaces for safer spaces. So we have classes that are exclusively for folks of colour, we have classes that are exclusively for queer, trans and non-binary folks, we have classes that are exclusively for folks in bigger bodies. And so yeah, we believe in creating these inclusive spaces for healing,” said Lacambra.

Goodbodyfeel’s teaching staff is mostly made up of BIPOC women, with 10 of 14 teachers being BIPOC and of these 10, seven are Black. Lacambra continues to offer a teacher training program at Goodbodyfeel and also offers scholarships for BIPOC individuals in an effort to make the training more financially accessible.

In February, Goodbodyfeel launched a crowdfunding campaign, Fueling Reclamation, to offer the teacher training program free of charge this year to the 15 individuals who applied for BIPOC scholarships and to help finance a BIPOC specific edition of the teacher training in 2022.

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“For me, it is the way to radically shift representation of leaders in wellness. Many wellness practices are from brown and black cultures of origin and why isn’t our mainstream leadership reflective of that . . . It started off as just scholarships or subsidies that I could afford to give and seeing that the folks who would apply for the scholarship and subsidies were growing every year. I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?” explained Lacambra.

I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?

Robin Lacambra

This campaign is an example of an easy, concrete way the larger Hamilton community can support the BIPOC community and contribute to decolonization.

“It's overdue. This kind of investment into BIPOC leadership is overdue [and] it's easy reparations for the folks who are like, “Oh, I'm so overwhelmed. How I can contribute to anti-racist work?” Here you go, here's a really easy way to do it. Just help fund it, help spread the word, help empower our future changemakers. If we're fully fueling BIPOC leadership, we are fueling an equitable future,” emphasized Lacambra.

By: Natalie Clark

The definition of “Thrive” is most simply put as “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.” This definition embodies the true meaning of McMaster’s first ever Thrive Week, beginning Feb. 4.

Thrive Week is a week-long series of events focusing on improving and maintaining good mental health of students, staff and faculty on campus.

Events include yoga, Zumba, meditation circles, stress management workshops and various panels for students to get information on a variety of topics such as career planning and suicide awareness.  

Although Thrive Week is new to McMaster, the wellness event has been a part of many schools around Canada for the past 10 years.

 

“Thrive began at [University of British Columbia] in 2009 and since then, a number of Canadian colleges and universities have adopted the spirit of Thrive,” mentioned McMaster wellness educator, WilPrakash Fujarczuk.

“The wellness education team decided to join these schools for a number of reasons…  one reason is to connect students to pre-existing services on campus… we know that there are a number of departments that promote mental wellness in ways that may not be so obvious,” said Fujarczuk.

Fujarczuk mentions “Sketching Thursdays” at the McMaster Museum of Art, which is a weekly event that allows students to distance themselves from their devices and work on mindfulness and creative expression.

Thrive Week is intended to promote events similar to “Sketching Thursdays” on campus and add additional resources and events throughout Thrive Week for students to participate in to further their mental health journey.

“Thrive is also an opportunity to bring in community partners to showcase the valuable expertise that Hamilton community resources have to offer,” mentioned Fujarczuk.

Some of the community partners that are taking part in Thrive Week at McMaster include Healing Together Yoga, The AIDS Network and Asian Community AIDS Services.

 

Body Brave, another Hamilton-based organization, will also be taking part in the event to introduce students and staff to their off campus support system. Body Brave’s main purpose is to address the major gaps in resources for eating disorders, raise awareness and reduce the stigma around eating disorders, particularly with those who are over the age of 18.

Kelsea McCready, a McMaster student who holds the position of secretary on the board of directors at Body Brave, mentions the barriers that individuals may face when struggling with an eating disorder and are looking for help.

“Programs within Ontario as a whole have a limited capacity which means that many individuals who are struggling are left on long waitlists without any kind of specialized support,” mentioned McCready.

McCready notes that although Body Brave is not a direct replacement for professional specialized support for eating disorders, the organization offers a variety of affordable treatment programs such as workshops, individual treatment and support groups.

“It is a priority for Body Brave to engage more with the McMaster community as an off-campus support in addition to on-campus services,” said McCready.

Body Brave’s involvement in Thrive Week is important for those who may be suffering from an eating disorder and are wary to seek out support. Thrive Week introduces programs and organizations to the McMaster campus that are similar to Body Brave in order to make these services more accessible to students.

“Given that it’s our first year running Thrive, we are hoping to use it as an opportunity to evaluate programs and build on for future years,” said Fujarczuk.

While Thrive events will only be taking place for a week, the path towards bettering the mental health of the McMaster community needs to be addressed and explored on a consistent basis. Thrive Week is the first step towards shedding light on the services available on-campus and in the community.

 

Thrive Week will be running on campus from Feb. 4 to Feb. 9. More information about the event can be found on the Student Wellness Centre’s website, which includes the Thrive Week schedule and other mental health resources found year-round on campus.

 

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Graphic C/O Robin Lamarr

When yoga instructor Christopher Bourke began a queer and trans yoga class at Andrea Soos Yoga Studio in Dundas, a consistent piece of feedback he kept hearing was that it wasn’t accessible due to its location. Many current and prospective attendees were hoping for a yoga series downtown.

Bourke began to think about solving this problem and that’s when he crossed paths with Robin Lamarr of movement and wellness collective Ritual Island. Together they collaborated to bring his queer and trans yoga classes to the most bustling part of the city.

The result was Q+T Solidarity Moves, a beginner friendly queer and trans strength, mobility and restorative movement series at Redchurch Café and Gallery on King Street East. The $15 one-hour class — or $40 for all four classes — is taking place at 3 p.m. every Sunday from Nov. 18 to Dec. 9.

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Like with other Ritual Island classes, Q+T Solidarity Moves intends to be enjoyable and inclusive. By taking the practice outside of a yoga studio and promoting an accepting environment, the class attracts individuals who don’t feel represented in traditional yoga spaces.

“There is just a vulnerability around… yoga wear or… being in those spaces and not feeling comfortable to be in your body… I've had people come to me in previous classes who aren't out at work in terms of their gender presentation or their sexual identity. So it's just nice for them to come to a space where they can actually be who they want to be,” Bourke explained.

As the name suggests, solidarity is a pillar upon which the class is built. Attending provides participants with a free coffee or tea after the class or a 25 per cent off discount to a lunch up to $10. Bourke intends to hang around at the cafe after the classes to mingle with any participants who would like to socialize and meet new people.

Bourke likes that the class is providing another venue and opportunity for socialization following the closing of Hamilton’s LBGTQ2S+ bar, Embassy. On the other hand, socialization is not expected or obligatory and Bourke welcomes people to come even if they want to leave right after the class.

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[spacer height="20px"]Bourke believes in the healing power of being and moving together as a community. The strength built during the class will be connected to the strength needed to face one’s day-to-day challenges.

I wanted it to be very purposeful from the beginning that we're coming together and the intention behind what we're doing isn't just to do movement, it’s to integrate the skill that you get from movement to build our solidarity as a community… and then… actually use the resources that we get in that space to do work outside,” Bourke explained.

Bourke is leading the charge on this work by donating his proceeds from the classes to Rainbow Railroad, a charity that helps LGBTQ2S+ individuals escape persecution and violence in one of the 71 countries around the world where being LGBTQ2S+ is still criminalized.

Bourke chose the charity in light of the recent crackdown of LGBTQ2S+ individuals in Tanzania, which is personal to him as he has friends living there. He also wanted to donate to Rainbow Railroad as they are in the midst of their #60in60 Campaign to raise $600 000 to save 60 lives in the final 60 days of 2018.

In this way, Q+T Solidarity Moves aims to stand in solidarity with people all over the world. Yet despite those heavy undertones, the movement series will definitely be light-hearted and fun, with a dash of Bourke’s humour and Robyn’s dance-pop tracks playing in the background.

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When Robin Lamarr was 19 years old, she purchased a 30-day pass to a Toronto yoga studio and instantly fell in love. She later became a certified yoga and Pilates instructor, delving deeper into the mindful movement practice and learning new ways to help others feel good in their bodies.

She became fascinated with integrating functional range conditioning, strength and mobilizing exercises, as well as dance, into the yoga atmosphere. Lamarr teaches movement in a way that allows attendees to tap into how they’re feeling in the moment, rather than focusing on what they look like.

Dr. Emily Bennett grew up appreciating movement and dance, but her heart was set on attending medical school. After a traumatic experience with an illness, she was introduced to a naturopath who helped her develop a better understanding of her body and the root causes of her illness.

Bennett found reassurance and comfort in the unique whole-system approach naturopathic medicine takes to address illness and wellness. The experience inspired her to change careers and pursue naturopathy.

Bennett wanted to take a more holistic, welcoming and community-based approach to make complementary medicine more accessible. She started her own private sliding scale practice where fees are adjusted based on the patient’s ability to pay.

Her private practice prospered and Bennett was able to open the Inland Island Community Wellness Centre on the corner of King Street West and Locke Street. Since 2015, Inland Island has been offering community acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, therapies and workshops all on a sliding scale.

After learning about Bennett’s commitment to decreasing financial and social barriers to wellness, Lamarr was inspired to approach her with an opportunity to collaborate. They connected and thrived off of one another’s energy.

“If you’ve ever gone to Inland Island, it’s so welcoming, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what age you are, how much money you have, you feel welcomed in her space. Those are the sorts of values that we want to put forth,” explained Lamarr.

Soon enough, the idea of a few workshops grew into the Ritual Island collective, where Bennett focused on delivering workshops and community programming relating to naturopathy and nutrition, while Lamarr focused on movement offerings.

“Wellness [practices] continue to be inaccessible to most people for a variety of reasons, not just financial. [Some people feel] like they’re not welcomed in these spaces or classes. Ritual Island is a collective that aims to explore barriers to access and it’s important to do this so everybody can benefit,” explained Bennett.

Bennett has been running a variety of workshops around the city, from smoothie making workshops that deploy properties from traditional Chinese medicine to eating right for the season and prenatal classes.

Lamarr started off teaching classes at Little Big Bowl, a downtown restaurant, once a week last summer. Even though she was new to Hamilton, the response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. Attendance continued to grow at her workshops and other businesses started joining the movement.

“There were times when I didn’t know if what I was doing was good enough to warrant a following outside of a studio, but every time I host a class and people show up, it reaffirms that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing and that what I’m sharing does have value,” explained Lamarr.

Now Lamarr can be found teaching R&B Pilates at Sous Bas, core dynamics at De La Sol Yoga, pay-what-you-can Pilates at OM on Locke, and Ritual Flow at the Art Gallery of Hamilton on a weekly basis.

“Everyone deserves to feel amazing in their bodies. Our body is the only vessel in which we get to experience this life. We [should] all learn and get tools to feel amazing in our experience,” said Lamarr.

As the Ritual Island community continues to thrive, Bennett and Lamarr have big plans to evolve Inland Island, including Bennett’s private practice and the other practitioners at the Community Wellness Centre, under one roof with Ritual Island in the future.

“We are definitely working towards having a truly collaborative space where Emily and I can both [practice in]. … We are working towards having a space big enough to house the dreams and community that we’ve been building,” explained Lamarr.

While they are looking for a more permanent home for Ritual Island, Bennett and Lamarr hope to continue collaborating with business and host satellite popups around the city. The duo will continue to bring people together to work towards better access to wellness to the city of Hamilton.

C/O Anna Wiesen

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By: Annie Mills

Yoga instructor Jennifer Scharf had been offering free weekly yoga instruction at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Students with Disabilities for the past seven years. 60 students were enrolled, with and without disabilities, to take part in this year’s class. That is, until Scharf received notice in September that the class had been suspended. The rationale from the centre was that yoga had become too controversial due to “how it is being practiced” in regards to cultural appropriation.  In response, Scharf offered to change the name of her class to “mindful stretching,” but in the end, the class was cancelled regardless.

There is no doubt in my mind that the practice of yoga has been culturally appropriated. Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture, often historically the oppressor, borrows elements of a marginalized, historically oppressed culture without considering its cultural significance. Yoga is a practice that millions of Westerners now turn to as a means of improving their health, wellness and fitness. It is a trendy, commercialized practice, and is now a multi-billion dollar (Westernized) industry. Between out-of-my-price-range elitist yoga studios and stylish Lululemon yoga apparel, it appears that yoga has transformed from an up-and-coming “exotic” practice to a mainstream fitness regime. This has completely erased the cultural significance of yoga and its history.

It is part of a disturbing trend of the significant practices and symbols of marginalized cultures being tweaked into something considered trendy and fashionable. Examples include the prevalence of First Nations headdresses in the fashion industry, celebrity Selena Gomez donning a bindi in concert and Kendall Jenner putting her hair in cornrows. Yoga is a prime example. It has been misrepresented and altered in Western society, illustrating the power imbalance that exists between those who have wealth and privilege, and those who have been marginalized. The cultural rights of those who practice yoga are not being respected, and this cannot be ignored.

opinions_decolonizing2

Yes, yoga has been culturally appropriated; however, here comes the infamous “but.”

Defending yoga against desecration is one thing, but halting the benefits it incurs is another thing entirely.

Yoga has transformed from an up-and-coming “exotic” practice to a mainstream fitness regime.

Suspending a free yoga class provided to students with disabilities is not an effective means of addressing the cultural appropriation of the practice of yoga as a whole. While it is crucial that the commercialization and misrepresentation of yoga be addressed, stopping its practice by westerners altogether only serves to further misconstrue its true purpose. Yoga was globalized before the practice became a multi-billion-dollar industry. In its fundamental form, yoga was originally intended to prepare one’s mind and body for unity with the spirit, and to liberate a person from every worldly attachment, and ultimately attain enlightenment. While significant to religious worship such as Hinduism, yoga was not necessarily meant to be an exclusive practice. While some are thrilled at yoga’s newfound popularity, not all Hindus are as content with the practice of yoga in the West. The Take Back Yoga movement is speaking out against the commercialization of yoga. It aims to bring to light yoga’s Hindu roots, and convey the underlying meaning and philosophy of yoga that they feel are being lost.

Clearly this appropriation needs to be addressed. However, this cannot be accomplished through generalizations that treat all Western practices of yoga as identical. Instances of cultural appropriation are varied in nature and thus need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In some instances, the appropriated practice may need to be stopped altogether; other cases need only be practiced in a more respectful, and educated manner. What is important is that we take into consideration the voice of those who feel something from their culture is being appropriated, and make changes accordingly. It is possible to do this by incorporating an educational aspect into non-religious yoga, where teachers explain the historical and religious roots of the practice.

Incorporating religious symbols and meditation is not necessarily positive, and in fact if practiced incorrectly, could lead to further cultural appropriation. Rather, mutual understanding and respect for the complex historical practice, and considering its lack of accessibility due to commercialization are positive steps towards allowing people to respectfully enjoy the practice.

The practice of yoga by Westerners does not need to be eradicated; it needs to be decolonized.

Photo Credits: Peninsula Pilates and Huffington Post

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Miranda Babbitt
Assistant LifeStyle Editor

Having a panic attack on Valentine’s Day? First up, breathe. Second, peruse through the following suggestions to some common problemos.

I’m the only one alone!!!
Even though you’re not someone’s “one”, you’re not “the only one” single. 40% of the population won’t be going home to a cuddle-mate. Unless you count your furry friends in the feline and canine world, in which case 56% of us are going home to a glorious night of adorable cuddles. Bonus, they’re not expecting chocolate anytime soon (as in they die from it, yes).

My movie life is bombarded by rom-coms.
Teary eyes on Valentine’s Day are only okay if they’re from ROFLing (but I get if that’s too much physical activity - LMAO is cool too). So ditch the “rom” and stick to the “com”, with the near-classic, Bridesmaids. Or get in touch with your inner cooties-believer and watch “Frozen”, which graced the Oscars so it’s worthy for our adult, cultured eyes.

People think I have no plans.
Well, here is the riskiest but perhaps the easiest: lie. Nothing too grandiose, like saying you’ve been asked by three tall, dark, and handsome men if you would accompany them to Hawaii, but a small, “A fella from my stats class asked if he could make me dinner. Can’t give up a cooked meal on V Day.” Then go on about how you both love food, because I think that’s a universal similarity between all humans on Valentine’s Day. Or, stay moral, and say you’re planning on rounding up a bunch of gals and hitting the clubs (clubs, as in a sleepover for twenty-somethings who love the Notebook).

General anxiety issues.
Let me hear you say, namasteeee! Throw yo hands up in the air! But only if you’re doing a sun salutation, because we want you in that addictive meditative state all yogis strive to achieve. Yoga has the ability to reduce stress and decrease physiological arousal (in terms of symptoms related to stress… yoga doesn’t harm your sex life), so you can walk away super calm and super cool.

I just want someone to buy me a drank.
Turn on some Beyonce and and get your hands dirty! A blood orange margarita promises that Valentine’s Day festivity without the potentially sleazy offer of that guy lurking on you from down the bar. Invite a friend or two over and you’re night is now flawless.

Miranda Babbitt
Assistant LifeStyle Editor

Having a panic attack on Valentine’s Day? First up, breathe. Second, peruse through the following suggestions to some common problemos.

I’m the only one alone!!!
Even though you’re not someone’s “one”, you’re not “the only one” single. 40% of the population won’t be going home to a cuddle-mate. Unless you count your furry friends in the feline and canine world, in which case 56% of us are going home to a glorious night of adorable cuddles. Bonus, they’re not expecting chocolate anytime soon (as in they die from it, yes).

My movie life is bombarded by rom-coms.
Teary eyes on Valentine’s Day are only okay if they’re from ROFLing (but I get if that’s too much physical activity - LMAO is cool too). So ditch the “rom” and stick to the “com”, with the near-classic, Bridesmaids. Or get in touch with your inner cooties-believer and watch “Frozen”, which graced the Oscars so it’s worthy for our adult, cultured eyes.

People think I have no plans.
Well, here is the riskiest but perhaps the easiest: lie. Nothing too grandiose, like saying you’ve been asked by three tall, dark, and handsome men if you would accompany them to Hawaii, but a small, “A fella from my stats class asked if he could make me dinner. Can’t give up a cooked meal on V Day.” Then go on about how you both love food, because I think that’s a universal similarity between all humans on Valentine’s Day. Or, stay moral, and say you’re planning on rounding up a bunch of gals and hitting the clubs (clubs, as in a sleepover for twenty-somethings who love the Notebook).

General anxiety issues.
Let me hear you say, namasteeee! Throw yo hands up in the air! But only if you’re doing a sun salutation, because we want you in that addictive meditative state all yogis strive to achieve. Yoga has the ability to reduce stress and decrease physiological arousal (in terms of symptoms related to stress… yoga doesn’t harm your sex life), so you can walk away super calm and super cool.

I just want someone to buy me a drank.
Turn on some Beyonce and and get your hands dirty! A blood orange margarita promises that Valentine’s Day festivity without the potentially sleazy offer of that guy lurking on you from down the bar. Invite a friend or two over and you’re night is now flawless.

Being yourself is easier said than done. Achieving a bold mental and physical peace can feel like a lot to take on when you're also juggling school, work, roommates, and everything in-between.

Mac Alliance for Body Peace is a club focused around helping students find and achieve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. Founded earlier this year, the club is pleased to open up to the McMaster community for the first time this September.

"I came up with the idea in March of last year," explains Katarina Polletto, President of Mac ABP and a second-year Health Sciences student. Polletto, whose two close friends struggled with eating disorders, knew that she needed to do something to help both men and women dealing with similar issues.

"Every guy or girl may look in the mirror and see one thing, or many things, that they do not like, and it can really be something that bothers and gets to you," she adds.

The club is founded on a mandate defined by "The 4 E's": Encourage, educate, empower and enhance. The first two E's involve encouraging people to make peace, and educating the public on what is a healthy approach to improved body image and wellness.

"We want to empower people to say 'I am who I am, and I'm going to do what I want', even if it is something weird or uniquely different, you can still feel comfortable and feel like you," adds Polletto when defining the third E.

The fourth E involves enhancing the McMaster community to be more aware and accepting. To make this happen and bring body image issues into the public eye, Mac ABP has planned a series of events for the upcoming year that will be open not only to their members, but also to anyone interested in learning more and getting involved.

The club's first public event will be "Yoga for Every Body" and will be taking place on Oct. 2 on the BSB field.

"Yoga does a lot for your body, not just physically but also mentally… it really helps you relax and think of absolutely nothing," she says laughing. "We want people to know that regardless of flexibility you can come out and do something- I can't touch my toes! It's one of my goals for this year".

The event will run from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. with a professional Moksha yoga instructor and admission is by donation. 50 percent of the proceeds raised that day will be going towards Danielle's Place, the only eating disorder support and resource centre in the Hamilton area.

In addition, Mac ABP will be hosting coffeehouses; monthly hikes through Cootes Paradise, stress workshops, and an on-campus colour run in the spring.

One of their on-going projects will be an oath-signing campaign. Over the course of the year, the club will be going around campus and having students sign a giant mural with their oath for body peace. The oath, available on the club's webpage, outlines a series of beliefs and commitments that will help participants understand what a healthy body image means, and assist students in making a commitment to find wellness and positive self-esteem. Students can sign the mural with a donation of their choice, with all of the proceeds also going to Danielle's Place.

The final line of the oath reads, "I am brilliant. I am brave. I am breathtaking. I am BOLD". The word "bold" was selected for its gender-inclusive properties, and also serves as an acronym that defines the club's beliefs.

"BO stands for body, L stands for love, and D stands for diversity," explains Polletto. "Because that's what you are, you are a bold and unique person. That is a fact that should not be celebrated just by you, but by everybody. We want everybody to be bold".

 

Alon Coret / Student Health Education Centre

 

The other day, I attended a yoga class for the first time in my life. I made this decision for a few reasons: a personal challenge for myself (escaping my comfort zone), the fact that my mother keeps telling me about how much she enjoys it, and curiosity. I had no idea what I was going into, but I can definitely say it was a worthwhile experience. This was essentially my first workout in months. Yes, a workout indeed. The class I went to was Dahn yoga, a Korean form of yoga that focuses on energizing the body. Dahn yoga sees the body as composition of chakras, or energy centers. The various stretching exercises are meant to tap into our bodies’ potential and strengthen our core (dahn jon).

We started by standing around in a circle and doing basic stretches and breathing exercises. Gradually, things became more intense. I found myself having to do sets of pushups and abdominal bicycle crunches. Embarrassingly enough, the lady beside me was doing everything far better than I was, even though she could easily be my grandmother. “I have been doing this for months,” she said. The class continued for an hour and a half, going through a series of stretches and moves for every muscle in the body. At the end, we all lied down in the “Sleeping Tiger” position, which is far less comfortable than it sounds (Suffering Tiger, I thought to myself). Marek, our instructor, told us to internalize our negative thoughts and self-judgement as we were doing this exercise. He then let us relax for a few minutes, and I nearly fell asleep from getting too comfortable.

 

Overall, I was not too surprised by the physical exercises – except that they were more difficult than anticipated. What I was surprised by was the immense focus on mental and spiritual well-being. Marek was smiling, and had a positive attitude for the duration of the session. He constantly reinforced the importance of happy, constructive thoughts and in making everyone feel like a part of something greater than themselves. He laughed with members of the class, complimented them and corrected their positions. He made us greet the people standing beside us both at the start and finish of the session with “Ban-gap seum-ni-da” (nice to meet you), and “Chun ha haseyo” (be the fulfillment of your soul). (I claim no expertise in Korean, so I apologize if my transliterations and translations are incorrect.)

One poster I noticed in the studio was called “Map of Consciousness.” It shows a ranking of different levels of consciousness, or brain energies, measured in LUX. I am not certain about the science behind the theory, but the main point is this: it takes far less effort to think negative thoughts, and have emotions of guilt, shame, and regret. Reaching happiness, peace, and joy is a higher level of consciousness we should (and can) all strive for. “Love yourself, and respect yourself,” said Marek. “Then you will be able to receive love and enjoy life.” This may not sound like anything new, but it is a life lesson we seldom keep in mind.

I would like to conclude with a verse from another poster I saw in the studio, called “Prayer for Peace.” This poetic prayer was written by Ilchi Lee, the originator of Dahn Yoga, and was read at the United Nations’ 2000 Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

 

“I offer this prayer of peace, with all my fellow earth people; For a lasting peace on earth”.

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