UNL student connects with community through yoga

Wellesley Michael turns on the music, then stops. She takes a long breath and tells her 4:15 p.m. hot flow yoga class at Lotus House of Yoga in downtown Lincoln to breathe with her and leave their worries at the door.

Before she starts the flow, the 19-year-old at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln surveys her class. She sees many familiar faces in the room, which is one of the perks of the job.

Michael said her favorite part of teaching yoga is watching her students grow as they get more willing to try new things with their bodies and begin to perform more advanced poses.

To her, that’s part of what yoga is all about — the people.

“Everybody that comes in and everyone I get to work with is really fun,” she said. “I get to connect with people that are a lot like me.”

Becoming a teacher

Michael became a registered yoga teacher over the summer by getting her 200-hour certification.

Her entire month of July consisted of yoga. From 8 a.m to 4 p.m. every weekday she was in a class with 20 other students in Lotus in Omaha, her hometown, listening to lectures, studying flows and practicing yoga.

At 18, she was the only person in her teacher training class under the age of 21.

“Every day was a different experience,” Michael said. “Some days we were holding poses for what felt like 10 minutes until we got them perfectly, other days we were sitting by a lake reading yoga books.”

Michael attended her first yoga class when she was eight after she convinced her dad to sign her up. She only lasted one class and would not return to yoga until she was 13 because of some encouragement from her violin teacher.

She started teaching because she believed in the benefits that yoga offers and wanted to inform others of the ways they could improve their mind body and spirit.

Connecting with the community

One of Michael’s students, Carson Ohm, a junior at UNL, said he enjoys yoga because it allows him to relax and get a good sweat at the same time.

“I feel a lot better afterwards,” he said.

Ohm embodies what Michael wants to bring to her classes, people of all different backgrounds and experiences. She said she has fellow certified teachers in each class as well as people like Ohm, who just started doing yoga six weeks ago after his roommate told him about Michael’s class.

His experience in Michael’s class inspired him to go to a yoga event with his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta and the Delta Gamma sorority.

“It wasn’t as good as Wellesley’s class,” Ohm said with a laugh. “Hers flowed way better and it’s not even close.”

While some of Michael’s yoga students are college students most are middle-aged people from Lincoln.

“I feel like it’s weird when 30- and 40-year-olds come to my class come to your class and they are like, ‘This person is clearly younger than me and they’re supposed to know more about this than me,’” she said. “I have to cross that barrier right away and get them to recognize that I actually do have a lot of knowledge.”

Her main goal: Share her love of yoga while developing camaraderie with her students.  

“I guess I just can’t stop practicing yoga,” she said. “It’s helped me build a lot of relationships and connections within the Lincoln and Omaha yoga communities.”

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