Yoga professors discuss their online experiences and the benefits of practicing yoga

Yoga Professor and Womens Basketball Coach Coral Sage in her living room performing a yoga pose. Sages yoga videos are used for her online classes and are accessible to her students and everyone on YouTube.

Hannah Villarreal

Yoga Professor and Women’s Basketball Coach Coral Sage in her living room performing a yoga pose. Sage’s yoga videos are used for her online classes and are accessible to her students and everyone on YouTube.

Kinesiology professors, Kari Nahlen and Coral Sage, discussed their motivations to practice and teach yoga, the benefits of practicing yoga, and how they’ve navigated teaching through zoom during COVID-19.
Nahlen is the women’s volleyball coach and a professor of kinesiology and has been teaching yoga at Cosumnes River College for five years and practicing yoga for over ten years. She said she began practicing yoga and incorporating yoga into workouts after being referred to it for muscle tightness.
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life, I’m also the volleyball coach for our school, and as I was being an athlete myself I was getting very tight and yoga was referred to me by some doctors and athletic trainers, to help loosen up my muscles,” Nahlen said.
Yoga is well known for being an exercise that incorporates a lot of stretching, however, it does involve a lot of strength building.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what yoga is,” Nahlen said. “There’s either the idea that it’s really hard, or it’s just stretching, or too mild of a workout and it doesn’t work. My response is to try a class.”
Nahlen said her inspiration to begin teaching yoga came from her own experiences of having many different yoga instructors.
“My inspiration was having so many different types of yoga instructors that I would go through,” Nahlen said. “There weren’t that many that incorporated yoga in a way that was simple to comprehend and very athletic orientated, so a lot of my courses I really try to do as much simplifying as possible, as well as trying to make it current with athletics.”
She further described her method of teaching as starting with the basics, explaining why she’s having her students do a certain pose or breathing techniques, and explaining how these are beneficial to the body.
Nahlen also said that practicing breathing is incredibly important in yoga and beneficial in everyday life.
“We’re always consistently working on our breath and being able to feel your breath go through your nose, down your throat, through your stomach, and opening up the chest,” Nahlen said. “We actually work on breathing the very first day of our class because if you can really focus on breathing when you’re in a really stressful pose, that’s another way of practicing when you are stressed out in life.”
With classes being held over Zoom now, Nahlen said she gets frustrated during her yoga classes because she can’t tell if her students are doing a pose correctly. She can’t properly correct them and make sure they understand
Despite the online challenges, Nahlen tries to stay positive and has used the extra time at home to take care of her newborn baby.

Sage, who is another yoga instructor, is the women’s basketball coach and an associate professor of kinesiology and fitness, has been teaching yoga at CRC for over 16 years.
Sage said her involvement in yoga began in college because she got a lot of injuries while being an athlete.
“My interest in yoga went way back to like college because I had a lot of injuries when I played basketball in college,” Sage said. “ So I kinda stumbled into yoga but I never really got into it until I started teaching it at CRC and a fellow professor friend of mine was teaching yoga classes there.”
While being at CRC, she said she decided to take some classes for herself and once she did, she saw her life completely change. She fell in love with the way her instructors taught yoga.
While teaching, she wanted to incorporate all aspects of yoga: breathing, meditation, chakras and the spiritual elements of it, Sage said.
“I love the whole aspect of yoga,” Sage said. “For me, the way I teach my classes is in a holistic approach so we do meditation and the breathing work.”

Similar to Nahlen’s issues with online learning, Sage said the biggest challenge has been connecting with students.
“I think for me the biggest challenge has just been losing that personal connection I have with my students,” Sage said “You’re not there, you can’t put them into the correct positions and make that emotional connection.”
She said losing that personal connection she had with students has been difficult for her because it’s one of the aspects of teaching yoga she loves and is fulfilling in her life.
Despite this challenge, Sage mentioned a benefit of going online was being forced to step out of her comfort zone. Prior to going online, her students had encouraged her to record and publish yoga instructing videos online, but she had kept putting it off.
Now, she has recorded and uploaded several yoga instructing videos on Canvas and on YouTube to help her students improve.
Yoga is a very important aspect in her life and it’s the one constant in her life, Sage said.
“I love what I do, I love yoga,” Sage said. “I have taught a variety of classes over the last 20 years here. That’s the one thing that will never change for me.”

Charissa Pham, 19, a business administration major is a previous member of Nahlens’ volleyball team.
Pham said she has known Nahlen since her sophomore year of high school when she used to play club volleyball.
She said when she first met Nahlen, she was intimated because she was a college coach but once she got to know her, she realized Nahlen was a very relaxed, funny and caring person.
“I would say, inside and outside, she projects a sense of caringness and true kindness,” Pham said.
Pham noted that she always incorporated yoga into her coaching and that this incorporation helped her understand the basics of playing sports and how related physical and mental health are.
“Physical health and mental health are intertwined,” Pham said. “And something like yoga where you’re forced to sit there and focus on your breath, focus on your technique, it’s in some ways different from playing a sport but it’s also really related.”
Pham said one of her favorite stories with Nahlen was when she was about to enter college. Pham said she was incredibly stressed out and struggling to find any classes available when she decided to contact Professor Nahlen and ask about joining the volleyball team.
She said she was surprised when Professor Nahlen actually called her immediately and wanted to get her an appointment with the athletic counselor the very next day.
“That was probably one of the most stressful things I’d ever gone through because I didn’t want my parents to help me out, I didn’t want them to tell me what to do, I wanted to figure out this journey on my own,” Pham said. “And for her to offer that guidance in a time of uncertainty and turbulence for me. It was comforting.”

Women’s Soccer Coach and Kinesiology professor Cesar Plasencia has been working at CRC since 2004 and has known Sage since he began. He described her as a very nice, funny, respectful and competitive person.
He said that the majority of athletic coaches are competitive, but Sage is slightly more direct in her competitiveness.
Plasencia also said she is very professional and good at what she does.
“She teaches a lot of classes in our department that are very good and enhances the offerings that we already have,” said Plasencia. “She gets involved in curriculum stuff so she’s a professor that brings the department up.”
Plasencia added that she’s also benefited the school and contributed to the department by adding new ideas and classes to it.
“She teaches a sports psychology class that she created,” Plasencia said. “She, and other professors, are heading up our yoga side of the department, so just bringing new ideas to our department and creating curriculum is great.”

Both Nahlen and Sage practice and teach yoga. However, both have different approaches to teaching it. Nahlen, as she described, focuses on teaching simplified yoga with an athletic approach to it, in order for students to easily understand.
Sage explained her teaching style as holistic. She wants her students to also understand the spiritual aspects of yoga while still focusing on the physical.
Nahlen and Sage, despite differences, are both motivated to teach because they want to help others experience the same happiness and benefits they have gotten from yoga.
“Yoga saved my life in so many ways,” Sage said. “So I just try to share my love and passion for helping others through yoga.”