By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend
There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.
Nate Magee, research technologist at the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation (CORE), was stressed out and nursing a mild back injury when he stumbled upon an ancient Indian remedy for what ailed him—yoga.
“Penn State Behrend offers free yoga and Pilates classes for faculty and staff twice a week at lunchtime and I had heard that yoga was good for recovering from injuries and decided to give it a try,” Magee said.
Bearded and a little burly, Magee doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a yoga enthusiast. But he said he was sold from the first downward dog.
“From the very beginning, I enjoyed the peacefulness of the practice,” Magee said. “I learned that I held a lot of stress in my chest and many yoga poses help to open your chest and release it. I also gained flexibility and strength fairly quickly while also noticing a reduction in back pain. It just made me feel great, both physically and mentally.”
Magee found yoga to be so rewarding that he is now studying to be an instructor.
“Practicing yoga is the best thing that I have ever done for myself and I want to be able to share that with others,” he said.
Becoming a certified yoga teacher is not an easy process. Magee has been training through Soma Movement Arts, an Erie yoga studio, twice a week for a year and has attended several intensive training weekends. In addition to putting in plenty of time on the mat, he has had to hit the books, too, studying the philosophy and language of yoga.
“Even though everything has been translated into English, some Sanskrit terms do not have precise translations, so it’s helpful to know more about the original language.” Magee said. “Also, while yoga poses may have several English names depending on the style of yoga or who is teaching, there is usually only one Sanskrit name for each pose so it’s a more consistent language. It is a hard language to learn though.”
He will have a chance to practice his Sanskrit with other yoga devotees at the end of March when he travels to Canada for the Toronto Yoga Show, a conference and expo that draws participants from around the world.
“I’m registered for thirty hours of workshops over the four days I’ll be there,” he said. “I’ll be learning from some of the best and well-known yoga instructors in the world.”
When asked to name his favorite yoga pose, Magee names most of them.
“I enjoy inversions, twists, headstands, and backbends…I guess I like them all,” he said with a laugh. “I’m currently trying to master handstands. Even though many poses look relatively simple, there are a lot of details in each one and it takes every part of your body working together with your mind to master the pose.”
Magee is currently teaching portions of classes at Soma and will be required to teach some full classes before he can be certified through Yoga Alliance, the professional organization for yoga teachers in the United States.
He encourages people of all ages, body types, and physical ability to try yoga.
“It’s very accessible and there are always modifications for those who need them,” he said. “Yoga will make you feel better physically and mentally. It is great for stress relief, improving focus, and boosting confidence. I really can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the practice.”
Want to give yoga a try? Penn State Behrend offers free yoga classes for faculty and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Erie Hall at 12:10 p.m. The college also offers yoga as a physical education credit for students. Or check out a class at Magee’s fav studio, Soma Movement Arts, or any one of a dozen other studios in the Erie area. Not in the Erie area? Search online for studios in your area.