Winter Runners Feel at Om

YogaWinter running. For many of us, the notion of running through a typical New England winter ranks just this side of torture. But at Groton, during this mild winter and every winter, running is an oversubscribed Faculty Sponsored Activity (FSA). Each year, at least a dozen students vie for the opportunity to spend afternoons running through sleet and snow, breathing deeply of the freezing winter air.

This winter, the group spent one day each week focusing on breathing deeply. English teacher and winter running guru Ted Goodrich pressed his wife Samantha “Sam” Goodrich into service; she taught yoga to his running crew once a week in the small barn that Sam has turned into a yoga studio. Amidst the warm wood and natural light, Groton runners began each session with a different exercise designed to increase the focus on breathing. One day, the students lay on their mats, one hand pressed to their bellies and the other resting on their chests, rhythmically breathing. With each breath these driven, high-octane kids were slowing down and recalibrating their bodies—feeling themselves breathe in a different way.

Sam began yoga shortly after the birth of their third child, Jack, 11. Suffering from a herniated disc as a result of the pregnancy and childbirth, she tried yoga to avoid surgery. The experience changed her life; not only did her back heal, she found a new vocation. Over the next five years, she embarked upon a 200-hour certification course, traveling once a month to New Haven, Connecticut to train with 14 other students under the well-known Rolph Gates. A full-time teacher for the past five years in studios throughout Western Massachusetts and now in her small home studio, Sam continues to be amazed at how the practice of yoga has transformed her life and those of her students.

Introducing Groton students to yoga was considered a way to prevent injuries and increase flexibility in the winter runners. The first lesson taught the language and movements of Vinyasa yoga. At first the students had difficulty turning spoken words into physical action, but by the fourth class they were able to move in unison with each instruction. With just one class left before the end of the winter running season, the students had moved beyond their initial trepidation and found yoga to be an essential part of their athletic experience.

Nick Fischetti ’12 said he initially thought yoga was just “fancy stretching,” but he now knows that the yoga “buzz” is real and looks forward to it after each class. Many of the runners, first-timers at yoga, noted the positive effects of slowing down and moving through the poses carefully. To Poppy Dolan ’12, the best part of the yoga class was the time it allowed her to focus on herself, which is hard to find in the course of an average Groton week. The students are also proud of the yoga poses they have mastered; Liz MeLampy ’12 is a fan of “The Crow,” balancing hands on knees with bent elbows. The Pigeon was also a fan favorite.

For Sam and for Ted, the best part has been the opportunity to provide a place and space for the winter runners to quiet their minds as well as a release valve for a group of kind and appreciative kids. The students are grateful that Sam is going to keep a slot open in her schedule this spring for Groton students; they plan to lasso their friends into joining the class. Before long, more of Groton’s athletes may be adding yoga to their regular training.

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