“It’s not about touching your toes. It’s about recognizing what you learn on the way to touch your toes,” Kelsey Chaloux said.
Chaloux, a sophomore yoga teacher at UCF, traded in her high-paced athletic lifestyle consisting of soccer cleats and lacrosse sticks for one that now consists of “oms” and a yoga mat. Her newfound method of relaxation is something she hopes to spread throughout a university filled with more than 60,000 potentially stressed-out students.
“My whole life, I never thought of yoga as anything else but stretching,” Chaloux said. “But then, as I was graduating high school two years ago, I was in the state of thinking that things could be better. I knew they could be better, but I didn’t really know how to get to that state of better.”
Chaloux’s main sports focus in high school was lacrosse. She was a skilled player in Boca Raton as an attacker position athlete for her team at Pope John Paul II High School. She continued to play on the UCF women’s lacrosse team her freshman year of college.
But through inspirational lifestyle messages posted by yogis on Instagram, Chaloux embarked on her yoga journey.
“My yoga practice started from others sharing so much genuine light and love,” Chaloux said. “It was super inspiring and super connecting to me. It pulled me right out wherever I was to the place I am today and where I will continue to be.”
Freshman year of college, Chaloux consistently came to the yoga classes offered at the Recreation and Wellness Center at Knights Plaza. Madi Wilson, a UCF student and yoga instructor, took Chaloux under her wing. Within a year, Chaloux began teaching classes.
The desire to teach instead of simply attending stemmed from a desire to impact the lives of students at UCF.
“I have so much passion, and I recognize that I have a voice,” Chaloux said. “I think that I have a platform — no, I do have a platform to teach really good stuff, especially in a college environment where there is a lot of influence from other people.”
Being able to see others rise up alongside of her, metaphorically and physically, is an important motive that keeps Chaloux teaching.
“When people come up to me at the end and share, it’s not for my ego or for me to feel good about myself,” Chaloux said. “But when people say, ‘You have no idea how much you have helped me,’ that is what inspires me to continue to teach rather than practice myself.”
The yoga practice is not a one-sided learning experience. Not only does Chaloux teach her students how to properly breathe, balance and keep mindfulness, her students also teach her beneficial aspects as well.
“I am able to strengthen my teaching from watching students and teaching them,” Chaloux said. “I learn so much about my individual role in the community and every single other person’s individual role. I’ve learned that we all come together to connect, and when we do connect, just how powerful that is.”
Sophomore Christian Rodriguez is one of those students who has a symbiotic relationship with Chaloux and regularly attends the power yoga class every Thursday at noon.
“I look forward to seeing Kelsey’s beautiful soul and feeding off her energy and the energy of everyone else in the room,” Rodriguez said. “I look forward to a great and challenging yoga practice.”
It’s not just about the yoga poses, but rather aligning mind, body and soul, Rodriguez said.
Senior Taylor Bright also finds inspiration through words and flow from attending classes taught by Chaloux.
“She is so compassionate and very smart,” Bright said. “She’s very in tune with her body, which directly reflects in her practice and then directly reflects in my practice.”
Bright looks forward to something when she comes to class that is not very common in today’s bustling society: silence.
“The moments of silence that we have during class where Kelsey reads words are like a seed in your mind that flourishes,” Bright said. “It’s nice to separate yourself from the chaos that exists outside of this room and just be here and be with yourself.”
What is learned during the hour-long class does not cease there. The practice transcends into other areas of life, Chaloux said.
“People walk out of this room and they feel that energy, and that’s the kind of teaching that goes beyond the yoga mat,” Chaloux said. “It shapes how I live my life.”
The beauty of possessing a positive mindset is the essential foundation of living a present and wholesome life.
“If you are always giving light and love, then everyone around you is going to be like, ‘Wow I want to do the same.’ And that’s how you change, by letting go of expectations and judgments and realizing the abundance of things,” Chaloux said. “Realizing that you create your own light, and you can shine it and share it amongst everyone.”
The UCF yoga community has exponentially grown over the past few semesters.
The RWC at Knights Plaza offers 13 yoga classes this spring semester, in addition to guided and unguided meditation classes twice a week.
“The UCF yoga community is so powerful,” Chaloux said. “There is so much gunk going around, but when I come in here with everyone in these four walls we create such a loving and wholesome community and environment. I am so blessed to be surrounded by it. It is incredible.”
Bright, similar to Chaloux, was not always involved with yoga.
“Before I came to college I kind of knew what yoga was, but once I came to college and they had all of the free classes here, I really started getting into it,” Bright said. “It has been an exponential process of expansion and getting to know myself as well as everyone else.”
Chaloux sees many of the same faces in her classes from week to week.
“I’ve met so many like-minded people,” Chaloux said. “They are all coming in here with good intentions, and that carries us a really long way.”
For those who want to take yoga to get a good workout in, Chaloux explains that yoga itself is hardly exercise.
Yoga traditionally consists of seven different branches, only one of which is the posture.
“Yoga is being mindful,” Chaloux said. “Yoga is how you connect to yourself and to the outside world.”
After graduating from UCF, Chaloux intends to uproot and move to Colorado where she sees herself becoming a change agent or a change writer, someone who writes or work toward social changes in a community.
Although she has no intention of owning a yoga studio, she plans on continuing in her yoga practice.
“Regardless if I am constantly teaching, yoga will always be a part of my life,” Chaloux said. “It has definitely rooted itself. It is the best way and platform that I am able to express different channels through.”
Amanda Schoep is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.