Generations: Community Through Yoga

Bryn Mawr's online yoga classes have strengthened bonds and eased stress and anxiety during the pandemic

Courtney Morris ’99, a biology major, returned to Bryn Mawr by way of a master’s degree in kinesiology to become the College’s head strength and conditioning coach in 2014. When the pandemic hit, Morris began teaching online yoga classes for the community. She soon had an avid following for her twice-weekly Zoom sessions, including Susan Burt ’73, a professor emerita of linguistics in English at Illinois State University.

Courtney Morris

Portrait of Courtney Morris in front of a shelf full of yoga mats

When everything shut down, I decided to start teaching yoga for the athletes on Zoom and then the alumnae/i office heard about it, and we started reaching out to alums. It was just a few people at first and then it took off. I have people from all over the world right now.

Early on I was teaching from my bedroom at home, and I had a laundry basket flipped upside down with my laptop on top of it at just the right distance. Now I’m teaching from the gym and it’s a little bit easier. My teaching philosophy, whether I’m in person or on Zoom, is to understand what people might be experiencing in life, whether it’s global or super personal, and try to give them whatever they need in their heart space for that moment.

This has been such a blessing to me. It fills me up so much to see people from all ages and all phases of their lives and from all over the world. Their faces continue to pop up on the screen every week. This community has just blossomed and taken on a life of its own. I don’t know what I would do without it to be totally honest. And I guess this connection of yoga and the connection of Bryn Mawr is sort of an automatic DNA that
we share, all of us together.

I’ve gotten feedback that it’s been sort of a lifeline for people. To be able to connect with like-minded women, even if it’s completely remotely, has been extraordinary for all of us. Yoga saves the day. Always.

Susan Burt

Portrait of Susan Burt wearing a bike helmet and holding a tabby cat.

I've been retired since New Year’s Eve 2018 and I spend a lot of time trying to get as much healthful exercise as I can, while still getting some reading done. I’ve been biking and swimming and my main source of exercise is English country dancing.

Of course, the pandemic closed a lot of things down, and winter prevents me from biking. One of the regular mailings to alums had information about Courtney's class, and I thought, well, that would be interesting. And so, I tried it, and Courtney was so welcoming and so good humored. Yoga at home in my study room is nice and cozy and neither pandemic nor snowstorms can prevent me from getting there, unless the ice knocks out my power.

Courtney is so much fun. She sends love out into the world via her yoga classes. Now there are students coming as well. We don’t get to see them, but we ask Courtney to convey greetings from the Zoomies to the roomies. It’s a peculiar kind of comradery, but there it is.

When I’m in the class I put it on the speaker view so I can see Courtney because I’m always checking her stance against my own attempts to emulate. I’m not good at holding my balance on one foot so if I try to do tree poses, I’m always falling out of the tree, but Courtney gives such good alternatives. She’ll say, “If you can't do X, do Y, and if you've had it at this point, then go into a child's pose.” I just do the best
I can and then when I fall over, I laugh, and it's fine.