Yoga class teaches methods to cope with stressful life

By Arielle Maxner

In the Hamilton gym, away from the main upper school campus, Amy Bird teaches her yoga class. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxed, yet focused. Students are guided through asana poses or sun salutations, concentrating on maintaining stability.

In teaching these poses, Bird wants to incorporate how to apply the tenets of yoga to everyday life.

“I want my students to know that it’s more than just physical exercise…to have some sense of the philosophy of yoga, and then how they might apply that to their life,” she said.

Stability is a key part of Bird’s yoga philosophy.

“Stability is a nice description for the way we want our bodies to be, the way we want our psyches to be…stability is such an important thing.”

She said she teaches stability in the poses, and then makes the connection between physical stability and mental stability, saying “stability of the asana practice eventually will lead to stability in mental practices…those two are linked.” Bird’s first experience doing yoga came from a book. She started during her senior year at Dartmouth College. She was studying martial arts at the time and made a connection to yoga.

Continuing this way for four years, it was not until she moved into a city where yoga classes were actually offered that she began taking them.


Yoga was something she wanted to continue doing, even as she moved away from the city.



Bird asked her teacher about creating her own classes. She organized a small, simple yoga class teaching basic poses in Maine, and her first “real” yoga job was at a YMCA in Boston.

When she moved to California, teaching yoga was just something she did “in the meantime” while looking for another job. It was “sort of by default, at first… I was looking for something to do, but I had something that I did, and that I was good at.”

Pretty soon, yoga became what Bird did for a living, something she spends “time and energy trying to incorporate into my life.”

Bird says that there is no way to completely describe how yoga has affected her life, but she knows it “wouldn’t be the same.” In other words, she doesn’t know “to what extent I would attribute the way that I live to yoga, but it certainly has impacted the way I want to live my life, the way I want to raise my child, what I deem to be quality of life.”

Some of these choices include being a vegetarian and not watching too much TV.

Yoga has impacted Bird in “all those kinds of broad, social, contextual ways.”

But Bird doesn’t expect her students to become vegetarians.

“I want to teach them good posture…how to relax, how to breathe, techniques for coping with the stressful life of Harvard-Westlake,” she said.