During the late 20th century, the several-thousand-year-old practice of yoga found its way to the West.
Some use yoga for exercise. Others, for meditation or spiritual purposes.
For vocal performance major and yoga instructor Georgia Boonshoft, it brings balance to her life.
Boonshoft, a senior in the Jacobs School of Music, was a self-described “cardio junkie” before she discovered the meditative aspect of practicing yoga.
“I was aware of it, but I didn’t really understand it,” Boonshoft said. “Whenever I went to a yoga class, I’d be like, ‘What’s the point of this?’ and get frustrated and leave.”
When she began getting acupuncture treatments the summer after her freshman year, Boonshoft said the acupuncturist told her she held her breath when faced with new or uncomfortable situations.
The acupuncturist suggested she try yoga.
“Now, I don’t do any exercise except yoga,” Boonshoft said. “It’s my exercise and my meditation.”
Pranayama, or breath work, is integral to yoga practices. Boonshoft said yoga benefits her vocal performance physically and mentally.
“From a psychological standpoint, if you get stage fright or self-doubt, that mind-body-spirit connection is so essential in any performer,” Boonshoft said. “I feel like the two are extremely intertwined. I’ve seen huge changes in how I sing since I started.”
Boonshoft spent July in a month-long certification program with Sonic Yoga in New York, where she was born and raised.
She attended classes from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to complete the 200-hour program through Yoga Alliance.
“It was the best month of my life,” Boonshoft said. “It was so intense. It consumed my entire month, and that was totally OK with me.”
When she returned to Bloomington for this semester, Boonshoft said she began looking for a space to teach.
She asked people in the yoga community, including her mentor and yoga instructor Debby Harris, if any spaces were available.
Harris teaches Ashtanga yoga, which follows a set series of movements, at Yoga Mala on College Avenue. Boonshoft continues to attend her classes.
“I think I could tell right away that Georgia was very passionate about her yoga,” Harris said. “I see how her music background influences her interest in teaching yoga and her comfort with being in front of a group of people.”
Boonshoft found studio space at Blooming Lotus on Sixth Street. She said sharing her yoga experience seemed like the logical next step in her practice, and her interest in performance helped put herself out there.
“It was just this feeling that I’ve found something that changed my life so much and had such a huge impact on me,” Boonshoft said. “I wasn’t satisfied with just holding on to that and existing with it.”
She teaches Vinyasa yoga, which focuses on one breath per movement. Poses vary from practice to practice.
“I was taught in my teacher training to teach from my truth,” Boonshoft said. “I say, ‘Where am I today? What am I feeling?’ There are always poses that correlate with that.”
Each week, Boonshoft chooses a theme to follow in her classes. This week, she is teaching “fire classes” to focus on the third chakra, or the solar plexus. It will feature poses such as Warrior I and II.
“A good warrior knows when to be strong but also when to step back and when to rest,” she explained.
While poses are a central part of yoga, Boonshoft said centering the mind is most important.
“A lot of yoga is little tricks as to how to focus on the breath, or bringing your mind back to a single point of concentration, because the mind doesn’t want to relax and let go,” Boonshoft said. “That’s probably the most new thing that people experience.”
Boonshoft recently decided to cancel her 8 a.m. Tuesday class but still teaches classes on Monday, Friday and Sunday. Class times and additional information are available on her website, georgiaboonshoft.com.
A $10 donation is suggested for all classes but is not required.
While Boonshoft said yoga is a lifestyle choice for her, not a luxury activity, she understands why some people are not willing to pay to do it.
“When you talk to someone about a yoga class, in this day and age, it’s a huge investment,” she said. “Students really can’t afford to be going to a yoga class when they’re eating frozen pizza.”
Boonshoft said she wants to continue her yoga training after college and complete a 500-hour certification. Ultimately, she hopes to open her own yoga studio.
“Yoga really saved me from myself,” Boonshoft said. “It can be what you make it.”