by Megan Sheehan
Thanks to the fast-growing Yoga Club, Saint Ignatius students are developing beneficial practices for their everyday wellbeing. The club takes place every Wednesday at noon in Murphy Gym, and these days you will find more than 80 students taking advantage of the built-in break in the school day.
Many students have been drawn to the club through the encouragement and enthusiasm of Strength and Conditioning Coach A.J. Short ’09.
“Yoga Club would not be Yoga Club without Coach Short,” says Will Robinson ’23. “Whether it’s taking time for individual conversations, pushing you to places you did not think you could go, or opening your mind to new thoughts, he truly impacts each kid.”
The experience of leading the club has been life-giving for Short. He believes that the Yoga Club offers students a chance to hit the reset button and check in with themselves both mentally and physically.
The majority who attend are athletes, but not all. “I have gotten to meet many different students that I otherwise may not have,” says Short. “It’s cool to see the breakthrough moments on the mat, when someone has been trying something for weeks and it finally clicks, or class wraps up and someone realizes exactly how much they needed the session.”
The value of Yoga Club affects not only the time together on Wednesdays but extends to student life and beyond.
“The students are seeing an importance in taking care of themselves. With the Formation Period, students have filled their time in a variety of ways — Yoga Club is one of them,” Short says. “Students are afforded the opportunity to come and experience yoga, breathwork and mindfulness.”
Students are taking these practices off their mats and into their lives.
“As an athlete, the amount of flexibility I have gained from yoga has immensely improved my athletic performance in concrete ways,” says Robinson, who plays defensive end for the football team. “Almost more importantly, it has served as time to focus on breathing and concentrate on myself in the middle of the hectic day of a student-athlete.”
Robinson began going to Yoga Club to recover from a demanding football season. “By taking time during lunch to relax and enter into a calming environment, I feel more energized to attack the rest of the day,” he says.
For Robinson, the impact is broad. “Whether it is through improving my individual athletic capabilities or allowing me to grow in brotherhood with the dozen or more football players who participate, yoga directly relates to my football career and the football program,” he says. “I have seen benefits in all of the things I am involved in — Student Senate, Pallbearers, Track and Field, and Philosophy Club — due to the mental health benefits yoga provides.”
Charlie Young ’25 never experienced yoga before heading to his first session and now appreciates the practices it encourages for him. “Outside of Yoga Club, I think I use the meditative techniques the most. Whether it is taking a walk and being aware of my surroundings, or breathing before I sleep, our meditative practices are something I have found myself using more and more.”
Coach Short pursued yoga instructor certification in order to bring it to his athletes. He began leading Zoom yoga for the Saint Ignatius community when the pandemic shutdowns started in March 2020. “I started doing free virtual classes to try and keep the Ignatius community connected,” says Short, who offered classes for faculty and staff as well as students. From there, Yoga Club has evolved.
“I decided to change the names to ‘Slow Flow’ and ‘Power Flow’ and invited parents to join in,” explains Short. “The Slow Flow averaged just more than 20 people and the Power Flow averaged more than 80 people a class. The largest session had 120 people. Seeing that people were willing to hop on a screen and virtually join in showed me I needed to keep this going. It is important for people to explore self-discovery in a judgment-free environment.”
Short makes Yoga Club welcoming and relatable, and he says that he “reads the room” each week to feel out what students might be needing that day. “It can be great for breaking down barriers and bringing people together,” he says.
“Every Wednesday we focus on something different,” says Jonathan Merimee ’24. “Coach Short encourages students to commit to one thing to improve and focus on throughout the session, and he leads students to improve upon what they’ve already mastered.”
“When my teammates told me to go, all it took was one time and it made me want to go more,” Merimee says. “I’m involved in both football and swimming and both sports, along with lifting weights, tire me out. Alongside those activities, being able to do yoga helps me loosen my muscles and body.”
Merimee echoed the value of the communal aspect of the club. “I’ve met people I’ve never seen before which helps me get to know them through a shared interest. I’ve also learned new movements, stretches, and how to relax and concentrate on different things in my body.”
Short dreams of integrating yoga more into student life, including service initiatives and retreats.
“We still haven’t cracked 100 participants yet, so that is a goal I’d like to reach,” he says. “I’d like for people to begin to break down any stigmas or misconceptions that they may have around yoga and realize yoga can be for anybody.”