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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Downward Dog in the Woods: Spotlight on Yoga at Hanover

Two writers report on the opportunities for yoga on campus at the Student Wellness Center and off campus at Mighty Yoga.

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Whether you’re partaking to rejuvenate your mind or strengthen your body, yoga has something for everyone. According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga offers an extensive list of the physical and mental benefits, which range from increased flexibility to better cardiovascular health to improved mental health. Luckily, the Dartmouth community can try their hand at yoga both on and off campus. Two popular options are Mighty Yoga, which offers classes in the Town of Hanover, and the Student Wellness Center, which hosts free yoga sessions right on campus. 

Mighty Yoga — less than a 5-minute walk from the Green — serves the College community and larger Hanover area, helping people improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Located on Allen Street, the studio typically stays open between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., with slightly different hours on Saturdays and Wednesdays. 

With passionate, experienced instructors and lively other staff members, the studio offers yoga flows, barre classes, Pilates workouts, restorative relaxation sessions and much more. This year, Mighty Yoga is celebrating their 10th year in business, and their success has been helped in part by the attendance of many Dartmouth students.

Studio manager and instructor Haley Martell has been working at Mighty Yoga since 2017. She said she had never taught yoga before joining, but now she credits yoga and the studio as a whole with “changing her life.” Yoga has “helped [her] through struggles with mental health” and continues to serve as an outlet and form of self-care. 

Martell explained that Dartmouth students  have played a large role in Mighty’s journey due to their regular presence in classes. 

“[Attendance has] always been consistent,” she said. “Going along with the Dartmouth schedule, in the fall and January, we’ve always gotten huge waves of students. And they’ve always been a really big part of our community because so many of them come here and stay coming here.”

She highlighted the lasting relationships that result from Dartmouth students’ involvement in Mighty Yoga. 

“Even the students that graduate and end up staying around Hanover a lot of times have stayed on as members, too,” Martell said. “So we’ve known people a really long time in some cases, which is really special.” 

At the same time, it can be intimidating for newcomers to jump into the classes, especially at a studio with trained instructors and regulars. To help ease any fears, Mighty Yoga places an emphasis on being extremely open to those who have never done yoga before. 

“Our studio values community more than anything else,” Martell said. “People that are new, we want to welcome you in and make sure that you feel comfortable and feel good.” 

Willa Shannon ’24 was one such newcomer at Mighty Yoga when she first joined. After retiring from the varsity track and field team the winter of her sophomore year, she sought out a studio for both the fitness and community. 

“Before then, I had never really taken the time to sit down and stretch and do all these really beneficial yoga positions that are also strength workouts,” Shannon said. Nearly two years later, she has both taken many classes at Mighty Yoga and also worked at the front desk.

“Dartmouth can get overwhelming, so it’s really nice to have a place to go where I can see local Hanover moms, [school teachers] and yoga teachers, too,” she said. “[We] became friends, and it was nice to have something outside of this busy Dartmouth community.” 

Meeting new people doesn’t have to be part of your Mighty Yoga experience, though.

“I go before I’ve had my coffee in the morning!” joked Lily Scott ’24, a regular Mighty Yoga class attendee. “I’ve gotten to know the instructors, but I’m not a big talker.”

A popular membership option among Dartmouth students who attend Mighty Yoga is the $39 first month pass, which includes unlimited access to in-studio and livestream classes for 30 days. According to Martell, the pass is a great way to try out classes and begin getting into a regular practice. 

“Yoga doesn’t have to be every single day or five days a week — it just has to work for you,” she said.  

Scott, who has practiced everything from Bikram yoga, a style of hot yoga, to vinyasa, a transition-based style of yoga, said the scheduling flexibility at Mighty Yoga is part of what makes it so convenient for Dartmouth students. 

“Their schedule is really in line with what students need,” she said. “I go to the 8 or 8:30 [a.m.] class — it alternates days of the week — and I feel like that’s the perfect time for students who want to get up early but still be done and able to go to a 10 or 10A.” 

It also doesn’t hurt that Mighty Yoga offers hot yoga classes. As Shannon said, “[They’re] in a warm space, so you’re not freezing cold in Hanover!” 

However, the membership fee at Mighty Yoga makes it inaccessible for many. 

“The price can be a concern,” acknowledged Shannon. “Especially for college students.” 

In closer proximity to campus is a more cost-effective option to maintain healthy habits — the Student Wellness Center — located in Berry 178. Through both in-person and remote offerings, students have free access to wellness check-ins, mindfulness meditations, a Headspace subscription, therapy dogs and, of course, yoga. Classes range from Yoga Nidra — which promotes a sleep-like state of relaxation — to Hatha Yoga, intro flows and more. 

SWC staff member and yoga instructor Laura Beth “LB” White explained how the SWC focuses on inclusivity, especially with yoga.  

“We really want our yoga classes from the Student Wellness Center to embody a sense of accessibility and inclusivity, meaning that they’re really open to all and to everyone,” she said “We take a trauma sensitive approach with our yoga classes.” 

Some might feel intimidated to take the next step in their wellness journey, but “the SWC is there to help with no judgment,” White said. 

White also believes yoga is a “tool” — it may work for some, but also might not be a fit for someone else. Instead of “forcing yourself to practice or only sticking to a specific subtype of yoga,” White encouraged diversifying your yoga practice and trying something new. There are so many wellness practices out there, and it is up to you to decide what works best, she added. 

Furthermore, although the COVID-19 pandemic halted many opportunities, since then, attendance in SWC classes has seen positive growth. 

“Once we started coming back in person from the pandemic, our classes tended to be full. And that’s what I love to see,” White said. “The people that are coming to our classes are coming from all different backgrounds, all different identities, which is exactly what the type of space that we're trying to provide.”

Although they both approach yoga in slightly different ways, Mighty Yoga and the SWC both work to empower the community through the practice. School can be stressful, especially at Dartmouth, where the quarter-system moves rapidly, and yoga can be a great way to cope with the stress. 

That’s where Mighty Yoga has a need in the community for different types of yoga,” White said. “Someone could say maybe Student Wellness Center Yoga isn’t my thing, but I really am attracted to Mighty Yoga, and vice versa. And that’s why I think just having these different entry points in is really just such a huge help.”

As a preventative measure or healthy coping mechanism, yoga can be a hugely beneficial practice to integrate into your day-to-day routine. It’s easy, low-cost and flexible … pun intended.