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CEC offers flexible medium for students to practice yoga amid COVID-19 pandemic

Third-year communication student Jade Gullery leads weekly virtual yoga sculpt classes from her apartment in Westwood. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin)

By Maddie McDonagh

May 29, 2020 3:06 pm

Planted in front of their computer screens, more than 20 students stretched into the downward-facing dog pose as their yoga sculpt instructor shouted words of encouragement from her apartment in Westwood.

“You guys are doing amazing!” Jade Gullery said, crouching down to make her face visible.

Gullery, a third-year communication student and member of the UCLA Campus Events Commission, uses the videoconferencing tool Zoom to lead virtual yoga sculpt classes on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Yoga sculpt combines yoga with strength training and cardio exercises to achieve a higher-intensity workout. It typically requires a yoga mat and weights, but Gullery encourages attendees to find substitutes for traditional equipment, such as soup cans.

A number of the Zoom class attendees are familiar with yoga sculpt classes from CorePower, a yoga studio company, and find the CEC’s version an inexpensive alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gullery said.

At the beginning of each class, Gullery introduces an intention for the day, such as gratitude or self-love and asks attendees to keep it in mind as they go through the workout.

Movements often complement the day’s intention. For example, Gullery might add extra air punching and cardio sets to emphasize empowerment, she said.

Gullery guides attendees through the positions and exercises and suggests people keep their cameras on so she can give feedback and enhance the feeling of community.

“I was nervous about a lack of community,” Gullery said. “Although it’s not the same (as an in-person workout class), … seeing a group of people together and moving, even if it’s in tiny little rectangles on my screen, … I think you can still cultivate that feeling.”

The class is a great way to switch things up under the circumstances, said Maya Ebrahimpour, a third-year communication and international development studies student.

“I think it’s hard for a virtual class to be the same as an in-person class,” Ebrahimpour said. “This class is a close second. … Jade can see us through the screen, watch us, make corrections, and I still get a great workout.”

Anna Cosmin-Spanoche, a first-year aerospace engineering student, initially found the yoga sculpt classes through the CEC’s Instagram page and attended the first class, which had a special themed playlist: “Tik Tok Bangers.”

Each Sunday, classes have playlists centered around themes like “middle school throwbacks” or ’70s and ’80s music.

Though the movements can be difficult, Cosmin-Spanoche said she kept attending the weekly classes because she enjoyed Gullery’s energy and choice of music.

Brice McKeown, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student who regularly attends Gullery’s classes, likes how she makes attendees feel welcome, even if they choose to leave their camera off during the class.

“I know there are a lot of people who feel uncomfortable being in front of other people, … but on Zoom you can just turn off your camera,” McKeown said. “(Gullery) will make commentary to people she knows on the call, but she always says she is proud of everyone that has their camera off.”

Gullery was certified as a yoga instructor with CorePower and began teaching in-person yoga sculpt classes a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic. She continued to practice yoga in her apartment with her roommates when Los Angeles first implemented stay-at-home orders in mid-March.

One of her roommates, the 2020-2021 Campus Events Commissioner Alice Naland, noticed her dedication to yoga and suggested Gullery lead her own classes through CEC.

“I was super nervous at first because I had just gotten used to (teaching classes) in person, and the idea of being on video is daunting,” Gullery said. “Once I started easing into it, I got way more comfortable. I still get nervous, but everyone is super understanding since this is such a novel situation for everyone.”

Gullery’s yoga sculpt classes are a break from CEC’s usual programming, said Tara Steinmetz, the 2019-2020 Campus Events commissioner.

The commission typically focuses on bigger events like guest speakers and concerts, but with most people away from campus, CEC wanted to help students feel connected to UCLA, said Steinmetz, a fourth-year French language and literature and global studies student.

The yoga sculpt classes could help students with overall mental health, even providing structure and something to look forward to each week, Steinmetz said.

Since her first year of college, yoga at CorePower has been both a stress-relieving and social activity, Gullery said. She added these classes have allowed her to maintain a sense of calmness and community during the pandemic.

“I still feel connected to UCLA through this because it’s through CEC,” she said. “I feel like it’s a way of bringing everyone together and working out which is just always great.”

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Maddie McDonagh | Slot editor
McDonagh is a 2020-2021 slot editor and occasionally covers News.
McDonagh is a 2020-2021 slot editor and occasionally covers News.
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