Yoga Mat(ters)

This fall, when I was  selecting my courses for the Winter Term with my advisor, I decided to sign up for yoga as my sport. I had taken yoga in the fall, as well as in previous terms, and I found that yoga helped me to relax, in addition to being a sport that I enjoyed. Upon returning to school, I learned that I had not been assigned a sport, which meant that I had to go to the Athletic Office and pick a new one. When I asked why this was so, I was told that participation is based on a lottery. Every student who signs up for yoga is placed in this lottery, and the names that are slotted into each opening in the yoga classes are pulled from here. To my dismay, I learned that those who have taken yoga at Andover before are at a disadvantage, because lottery preference is given to those who have not taken yoga before. 

My name was not simply overlooked when the winter yoga classes were created: I lost the lottery, because I had demonstrated previous commitment to yoga. Yet, I wanted to continue practicing it for my physical and emotional health. The Andover website states that the school’s athletic opportunities “do not exist apart from the total experience [at Andover] but as an essential part of a holistic approach encompassing the intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual elements of each student.” If yoga is my sport, one that I practice at school and at home, there is no reason why I should be penalized for my dedication to what Andover deems a Lifetime, Instructional and Fitness Education (LIFE) sport. 

My experience illustrates a larger issue: the lack of recognition of LIFE sports as legitimate athletic pursuits. When I returned to campus after Thanksgiving Break, I spoke with some of the students who were in my fall yoga class. They told me that they had lost the yoga lottery for the Winter Term and expressed their discontent at having to choose another sport. They are few of the several students who feel that their dedication to LIFE sports is as genuine as others’ commitment to team sports. 

Lotteries, like the one for yoga, are not part of the process for signing up for other sports. If a student wants to participate in Indoor Track, for example, he or she can simply sign up during the course selection process and show up on the first day of sports. A runner’s participation in the winter would have no effect on his or her ability to participate in the spring, whereas a student’s participation in yoga during one term affects his or her ability to take yoga in subsequent terms. Even if a student wants to participate in a sport that requires trying out for a team, there is no system that prohibits them from doing just that. 

Andover should also include different levels of yoga, because there are many students who take yoga for multiple terms during their time at Andover. According to Andover’s website, the majority of the 31 interscholastic sports at Andover have three levels of participation. Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes would allow the students who take yoga for multiple terms to really progress, as they would if they were on a team for multiple seasons. This area for athletic growth could be applied to other LIFE sports, such as spinning. 

Yoga is a very popular sport at Andover, and everyone who wants to dedicate time to practicing it should be able to do so. Luckily, I was able to pursue yoga this winter after one yoga class had an opening. Still, the school should be able to accommodate the entirety of students who want to participate in yoga, but it cannot currently do so and therefore resorts to a lottery process. While it may be difficult for the school to allocate more resources for yoga and other LIFE sports, perhaps more students would be able to take yoga if classes were held in larger spaces when other sports teams do not occupy them. The Case Memorial Cage or the Smith Center, for example, could be open to yoga when not in use by Indoor Track or Wrestling. New time slots for yoga classes would also enable more students to participate in yoga at Andover. If classes could be offered during various free periods in addition to the afternoon sports block, not all of the students would have to be accommodated in the afternoon. 

Many students take yoga and other LIFE sports seriously, but the flawed system of athletics at Andover prevents students to pursue what they enjoy, which inhibits their overall growth. 

_Olivia Michaels is a three-year Upper from Manchester, Mass., and a Copy Associate for _The Phillipian.