While much has been lost as our world adjusts to the new normal of quarantine, masks, and social distancing, a few new bright spots in the days of many in our community have emerged. Kelly Mara’s yoga program is one of those bright spots. Kelly has taught yoga to Belmont Hill teams for fifteen years. However, more recently, her focus has been more on the Cross Country and Crew teams. That changed when Belmont Hill announced its online learning plan. Now Kelly works weekly with most of our Varsity spring teams, albeit virtually. She maintains that her “favorite type of class to teach is live and in-person,” but she has been adjusting to the new format along with her students.
One facet of this new medium for yoga teaching has allowed her to record and analyze classes she has taught. She says she reviews virtual sessions and besides getting a good laugh out of them, she asks “Is this working? Are they with me? Do they understand the instructions?” The pandemic has certainly changed her teaching style, but the core content of the sessions remain similar. She focuses intently upon mindfulness and grounding boys in a feeling of presence. For those who have not taken one of her classes, she encourages you to engage in self-reflection. These moments do not have to be excessively long or deep, rather they can be short observations of your surroundings. She says to “extend gratitude for the big and small things throughout the day. Be curious about everything. And then come back to your breath.”
Many boys have expressed disinterest with these mindfulness practices in the past; however, they remain even more vital now as we begin to understand the circumstances we now all find ourselves in. Interestingly, many of these suggestions and tenets tie directly into the mission of Belmont Hill. Kelly says that she hopes her sessions help boys “to create space in the body, to bring clarity to the mind, and to lift the spirits.” These three buzz words, mind, body, and spirit, are not foreign to the school community and it is telling that they can be derived from the practice of yoga. As the school finds ways for boys to engage athletically and mentally away from their schoolwork, yoga provides an excellent opportunity to utilize technology in a beneficial way. Boys who have not yet tried a class should be encouraged to join one, to take a breath out of the churning of a school week, and enjoy the feeling of being present, if only for a moment.