Meet UVAC Yogis Jennifer Armstrong and Kate Schaefer
Eastern and Western medicine and research praise yoga’s benefits for practitioners of all ages.
Can practicing yoga improve your mental health, clarity, strength, flexibility, agility, spatial awareness, and balance?
We recently connected with Yoga Instructor, Jennifer “Jenny” Armstrong to dive deeper into these questions.
While she was studying for her 500-hour yoga teacher training, Armstrong began applying yoga techniques to her daily life. She discovered her yoga practice helped with self-regulation, reduced her anxiety, improved her sleep, and increased her sense of calm and patience when challenges arose in her daily life.
Armstrong described overcoming a back injury, and detailed what drew her to teaching and practicing yoga: “As a person who has been active my whole life, I find that yoga has really helped me with my competitiveness and tendency to be very judgmental. Part of what was so hard about the experience of altering my practice due to back pain was this thought that I wasn’t keeping up with those around me and feeling like I should be able to as a former dancer and now fitness instructor.”
She attended an open-level class during her teacher training with Angie Hall. What Armstrong witnessed in this class shocked her: “Nobody was doing the same thing! As a lifelong dance student where conformity and looking identical is the goal, seeing people doing completely different things was revolutionary to me,” she said.
Armstrong finds inspiration through students in her classes and from other instructors in the Upper Valley. She focuses on exploring what’s happening internally, rather than how the external poses appear. “This idea of feeling and noticing has helped me immeasurably,” she said. “Yoga has helped me be more present to what’s going on right in front of me and learn to appreciate whatever is happening right now. Not in the sense that I enjoy every moment of my life, but that I try not to put pressure on myself to enjoy every moment, and that is a big step,” said Armstrong.
One of Armstrong’s students Kate Schaefer agrees. “The philosophy and practice of yoga, over the years, has opened my body, mind, and heart.” Schaefer, 72, took her first Kundalini Yoga class in her early 20’s.
In 2004, Schaefer became a Kripalu yoga teacher and later became an Anusara Inspired Yoga teacher. Schaefer echoes Armstrong’s sentiment: beyond the deep physical opening that can occur in a yoga class, the present moment awareness and resulting calm offer life-changing gifts. Schaefer said, “The inspiring teachers that I’ve worked with, including Jen Armstrong, have continued to challenge and refine my practice. Yoga, on and off the mat, has become a lifelong practice for me.”
UVAC offers a variety of fitness and yoga classes for all levels. Check out our offerings at: http://uvacswim.org/schedules/
By Chris H. Hadgis journalist, cyclist, and UVAC member