The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RGLP Recap: Experiencing New Culture through Hot Yoga

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This ongoing series explores sessions of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) through participant narratives. RGLP engages Dartmouth students who have demonstrated leadership skills and would like to extend these skills on a globally conscious level. In this program, students focus on and further develop international leadership competencies, which have become increasingly crucial in corporate, public and non-profit sectors today.

I breathed for the first time this term during RGLP's hot yoga session. It has been a very busy term for me, and yoga gave me the opportunity to stop and reflect, something that I haven’t had a chance to do in a very long time. Amongst the different body contortions and deep breathing, I thought about my recent trip abroad and my transition back to Dartmouth. I remembered how conscious I felt during the trip, and how the slower and more laid back atmosphere of a backpacking and study abroad experience in Barcelona compared to my current blur of Spring Term.

I signed up for RGLP because I wanted to be able to continue my 'trip abroad.' I thought learning about cultural development would allow me to reflect more on my past trip and allow me to put my experience into a framework and place my development as a global citizen on a scale in order to both understand it better and have a place from which to move forward.

RGLP has been really rewarding. I have found each speaker interesting and felt like I learned something new each session. What I think makes this hot yoga session special is that it gave me a chance to stop and think about my experience with RGLP, reminded me of what my ultimate goals are for the program, and reminded me to breath and be present in my current experience and excitement about global leadership.

-Written by William Buell '17, Spring 2015 RGLP Participant

RGLP participants experience "hot yoga" in downtown Hanover. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

There are many common activities and strategies that groups often employ in order to experience what they have been learning about in class. Hot yoga, however, is not usually one of them. Upon learning that RGLP would be taking a field trip to Hanover's Mighty Yoga studio for our fifth session, my initial reaction was to laugh, followed by anxiety and then skepticism. What could we learn from a few, sweaty yoga poses?

To my surprise, however, the session raised many interesting topics that challenged my hasty judgments. One particularly interesting theme was how each of our reactions to discomfort differed. Being someone who is not a fan of intense heat and not especially adept at back-bending contortions, I can confidently say that I was out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I could not help but giggle and look around at others every time the instructor introduced a new, challenging move. Conversely, when presented with a new challenge, others attempted an intense "game-face." Some continued doing a previous move that they had just mastered, and others simply remained in 'child’s pose.' It was as if the hot yoga session separated us from our conscious, socially acceptable responses, and we were reduced to our instinctual response.

Physical challenges add a new perspective to RGLP sessions. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

After the discussion, we reflected on the experience. I felt like I was definitely going to be the outlier who said that they were not fond of the experience and was not relaxed by the soothing ritual. I was rather panicked by the heat and frustrated with my lack of flexibility. To my surprise, however, others  who seemed to have been excelling during the session also came forward to discuss how challenging yoga was for them. Some who had seemed to struggle then came forward to talk about how relaxed and rejuvenated they felt.

I realized that each of us has different ways of expressing discomfort and reacting to challenges, and one’s apparent actions are not always a valid indicator of their true sentiment. Part of RGLP has been learning that each of us approaches situations in different ways with different perspectives, and this session further instilled how a collective experience has very different impacts on the individual, both internally and externally.

-Written by Olivia Rosen '17, Spring 2015 RGLP Participant

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences