At 6:30 in the morning, most Belmont students are snuggled up in bed before their first class of the day. But every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, some dedicated yogis wake up before the break of dawn to start the day with some yoga.
The walk to the Beaman Student Life Center is cold and dark at this time of year.
Some of the more frequent attendees of Sunrise Yoga bring mats from their dorms to avoid using the old, sweaty mats that Belmont provides.
As students fill the group fitness room, the instructor dims the lights and plays soft, acoustic music.
There are a variety of students in the class. There are athletes and dancers, but there are also students who attend to fulfill one of their new year’s resolutions. Some have been doing yoga for years — others for only a few months. Regardless of who shows up at dawn, one thing remains constant: instructor Morgan Tweddle.
“It takes a lot, but I’ve found that the college demographic is in such need for some kind of relaxation,” Tweddle said. “They’re excited about it and personally, I just need to stretch, so it works out for both of us.”
Last semester, there were three yoga instructors teaching Sunrise Yoga, but this semester Tweddle teaches all three classes.
Instead of making students do difficult balance or strength poses, Tweddle focuses on stretching and relaxation. Her gentle voice guides the class through the poses.
First-year graduate student Raine Donley appreciates the calming atmosphere of Tweddle’s classes. She grew up as a dancer, so yoga helps her connect with her roots and mentally prepare for the day. She said getting up to do yoga improves her mood all day long.
“I think it’s just a really good way to set my mind and start my day. It gets me calm and puts me in the right mood.” Raine sighs.
Sophomore Mary Spaulding says sunrise yoga helps her recover from strength and circuit training. By doing yoga in th morning, she stretches out her sore muscles and gives herself a chance to heal.
Tweddle starts the class with simple poses, but as the class progresses, she guides the yogis into more challenging ones.
Tweddle gives a few different options for every pose, attending to the needs of each individual body.
Tweddle’s sister Reilly, a sophomore, regularly takes her older sister’s classes. She enjoys the more calming poses — especially early in the morning.
“I love child’s pose,” Reilly said of the half-crouch, half-bow pose. “After all the stretching, you just get to relax — that’s my favorite part.”
At the end of the class, the sweaty yogis are guided into savasana, a prone position that traditionally ends a yoga session. Bird calls and other soft sounds of nature play in the background.
Tweddle tells the class to think about what they have accomplished in the past hour.
The sun is up now, and the students leave Sunrise Yoga alert, relaxed and ready to start their days.
Article and photos by Liz Gresser