Sports competitor turned guru Grace Bennett ’14 found strength and healing through the independent practice of yoga. Eager to share the benefits of her training, she began collaborating with the Personal Fitness Club to help Arcadia students improve cognitive functions and reduce stress through exercise, breathing and meditation.
In August 2010, Bennett arrived on Arcadia’s campus for New Student Orientation with a desire to start a student yoga club. Acting on a recommendation from her orientation leader, she approached Nick Bongarzone ’14, who was getting the Personal Fitness off the ground. They agreed to work together to bring yoga to the campus community. Due to the collaborative efforts of Bongarzone and Jack Jephson, Director of Intramurals and Recreation, Bennett teaches yoga once a week under the Intramurals and Recreation Activities schedule of events.
Bennett wasn’t always a yogini. As a dedicated athlete in high school, she suffered several injuries during track and basketball seasons. “I was that girl who had both ankles taped and then braced and had my knee wrapped and still walked with a limp but still played the whole game,” she says. To stay fit through her recovery process and also build flexibility and joint mobility to prevent future injury, she began practicing yoga. It revolutionized her overall health and outlook, and inspired her to become a vegetarian, she notes.
“It was the best decision that I ever made,” she says. “When I practice yoga, my whole body relaxes and I feel like there is energy just [radiating] off of my skin. In class, I try really hard to get [students] to feel what I feel. I love doing that because then it makes them feel like this class is for them, which it is.” Bennett works hard to accommodate student requests, which include specific movement variations and poses and meditation.
“The study abroad program was the reason that I looked at Arcadia,” she says. “But as soon as I stepped on campus I knew that I was going to come here and that I could never leave.” That said, Bennett has found plenty of portals to the world through Arcadia’s College of Global Studies. She participated in the First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) in London during the Spring 2011 semester and is planning to study in Cape Town, South Africa as well as Turkey or Shanghai before she graduates.
As for the future, Bennett has some ambitious goals. She hopes to teach English abroad and eventually intends to launch her own nonprofit organization that builds community centers that double as refugee camps in impoverished and third world countries.