Meet Tanja Szabo, a former student of the Linguistics department, who has been working at Georgetown University since 2005 as both a language instructor and as a yoga instructor at Yates. Tanja was the instructor for Faculty/Staff Yoga when it was first piloted by GUWellness in 2006. “It began in the New South Dance Studio with some brave souls,” she recalls. Now held each Friday at Yates Field House and led by Szabo and co-teacher Karen Hodges, it is open to all levels and free to faculty and staff.
GUWellness: Tell us more about the weekly Faculty/Staff Yoga class.
Tanja Szabo: It’s an all-level class, which I co-teach with the amazing Karen Hodges. The focus of the class is to listen to your body as you move through yoga poses, which can be as gentle or challenging as you decide. My take on yoga is that it opens up spaces in the body, and when that happens, you feel better, and spaces in the mind can open up.
GU: Who would benefit from trying it out?
TS: I think most would benefit from it, but a number of different folks come to mind:
- Anyone who has been unsure about the whole ‘yoga’ thing (it’s not scary, and you DON’T need to be flexible to do it)
- Anyone who can’t unplug for an hour
- Anyone holding onto to stress or tension in the body or mind
- Anyone who just needs a break!
GU: What do you like about yoga? What benefits has it brought to your life?
TS: There are two very broad ideas of what I love about yoga – the mental aspect and the healing aspect. The mental aspect has helped me to frame my thinking and has cultivated calmness in me. That doesn’t mean I’m always calm – but at least I know when I’m out of whack! I also just feel better when I take time to do this – I feel healthy just by giving myself this time. But my yoga therapy training has also really made a difference in my life – I see and read about the countless cases of how yoga and meditation have improved the minds and bodies of veterans, trauma victims, people with a variety of health issues, and of course, those who are beaten down by stress. I believe yoga has a place in healing many kinds of pain.
GU: Why did you decide to become a yoga instructor?
TS: I wanted to learn more about yoga and had the opportunity to do so through a teacher-training course. I had no real aspiration to teach yoga, and didn’t for a while thereafter. Later, however, as I challenged myself to teach and was lucky to find that Yates was partnering with GUWellness with this initiative, so I took the leap. Since then, I’ve gone on to teach at other places, and to train up in yoga therapy and reflexology, which is ongoing.
GU: How does yoga help you “be” and “stay” well?
TS: As I said earlier, yoga helps me to frame my thinking and to make healthy choices more than I might otherwise, and that comes from simply being aware. Being mindful about the choices you make – from how you react to situations to what you choose to eat and the work you do– is the best gift we can give ourselves. As I get older, I want to keep my mind and body as healthy as possible to enjoy life!
This Fall, GUWellness is interviewing employees about the ways they integrate well-being into their daily lives in our Wellness @ Work series. Want to talk about what wellness means to you? Drop us a line or leave a note in the comments.