If you had told Ole Miss student Ali Roberson two years ago that she would be a yoga instructor, she would have laughed in your face.
Robertson had never taken a yoga class when she first came to Ole Miss, but she became a yoga teacher her first spring semester at the Turner Center.
“I started because I was a dancer in high school, so I wanted to find a way to keep up my flexibility,” she said. “I also started jogging at that time.”
Roberson is a rising junior at the University of Mississippi from Plano, Texas, and is a psychology major who hopes to attend graduate school.
For now, she juggles being a full-time student, holding a council position in her sorority, and teaching her students Vinyasa flow taught in the yoga fit style two mornings and one night a week.
“I’m so compassionate in everything I do, I would hate to have to give up something because I could not manage my time well,” she said. “I tend to be very organized and I am driven.
“I started teaching yoga when my teacher, freshman year, pulled me aside after one of her classes. (She) told me she had recommended me to her boss for group fitness at the Turner Center.
“So, I met with him, he told me about the certification process, and I got certified during winter break of freshman year.”
The yoga certification process entails a weekend long course, teaching eight hours in the community unpaid, and the Turner Center requires a semester of shadow teaching.
Roberson, who has been teaching yoga classes for a year and half, tries to instill in her students that yoga is not about being the most flexible or having the most balance, but taking something from each and every practice.
She utilizes a different topic each week, whether it be peace, joy, love, or kindness, and always tries to say a few words of wisdom at the end of each class.
Her three-jar concept makes the class unique. At the end of every class, Roberson puts out three jars by the exit and encourages her students to visit them on the way out.
One jar has quotes, the second has Bible verses, and the third has a coin slot where students may put spare change she donates to charity.
“I just really think people like to find happiness in helping others even if it is just two quarters,” she said.
She also enjoys sharing her Christian faith with her students. Students of all different types of religions attend yoga, which is not a traditionally Christian practice.
Roberson “felt like I was hiding my religion the first semester I taught my own classes, and I did not want to hide it, so that is why I like the jars.”
Roberson teaches foundations and power yoga and encourages anyone to try coming to a class. She said yoga is about acknowledging where you are at and knowing there can be growth where you are, physically or mentally.
“I can see it in myself and my students, and it is really cool to teach that,” she said.
Although her night class is more popular, Robertson said she enjoys seeing her regulars growing in their practice throughout the semester, or a new student who wandered in at the end.
“People stick around, and new ones come in because they are curious,” she said.
One student, Kylee Trawick, wanted to try yoga “because I needed an outlet to get away from the stress of school for a little bit, and yoga seemed perfect.”
Trawick occasionally attended Roberson’s night class and sought peace and quiet from the crazy world we live in.
“I enjoy yoga because there are no cell phones or talking for 45 minutes, and I always feel refreshed when we are finished with class,” says Trawick.
This is what Roberson seeks for her students when they walk into the yoga studio. She said one of the hardest parts for her is letting go of everything going on in life and focusing on her body for the practice.
Though life may be busy sometimes, yoga is always there for Robertson.
“There is not one thing I can name that I hope yoga will ultimately come out of my practices, but it has taken me on a ride, and I am so happy it did.”