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Yoga Instruction Program bolstered by student-funded ‘Yoga Wall’

Yoga Instruction Program  bolstered by student-funded ‘Yoga Wall’
SCC Yoga instructor Marivic Wrobel demonstrates a yoga pose on the new Yoga wall.

The Scottsdale Community College yoga instruction program now boasts a professional yoga wall, thanks to a student-led fundraising plan that netted more than $6,000.

The fundraising included personal donations, primarily from students, that ranged from $20 to $2,000, proceeds from T-shirt sales and $1,000 from the college’s Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance department budget.  

Initially, with bids to build and install the wall coming in at more than $14,000, the fundraising effort was daunting. That is until SCC’s Facilities Department offered to take the project in house, lowering the cost to about $6,000. With the support of his supervisor Matt Kind, SCC Carpenter Robert Kelso spent about four months working on the project, with help from his colleagues Randy Sligar, electrician, and Thomas Ramey, painter.

The floor-to-ceiling structure looks intimidating. Its sophisticated system of bars, belts, ropes and pulleys assists those studying and practicing yoga in achieving some of the practice’s more difficult poses. Kelso said, “I looked at the Yoga Wall like an erector set, except I made most of the parts. In the 14 sections where the straps get tied off, there are more than 1,000 parts that nobody will ever see.”

Located inside SCC’s 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Fitness and Wellness Center, the wall, which stands 8 ft. by 20 ft., replicates others around the world. According to Carlyn Sikes, residential faculty and director of the Yoga Instruction Program at SCC, it enables participants to modify their yoga poses. The wall can accommodate multiple students at once, making it a valuable tool for group learning and teaching sessions.    

“Users utilize the wall’s rope and pulley system to help enhance their asana [poses],” Sikes noted. “People who may have a difficult time with certain poses, whether due to balance issues or other physical limitations, can use the ropes to enhance or make a difficult pose accessible.”

The yoga wall concept was introduced decades ago by BKS Iyengar, one of the world’s leading yoga teachers who is regarded as having been “the father of modern yoga.”

“Iyengar was a yoga genius who lived in India,” Sikes explained. “He believed everyone should practice yoga, so he invented the yoga wall to make it possible for all people to get into various poses.”

Sikes designed the curriculum for SCC’s Yoga Instruction Program, which includes certificate programs for yoga teaching and yoga therapy. Under her instruction, students study the philosophy and history of yoga, biomechanics, anatomy, detailed postural alignment, therapeutics, and the art of teaching yoga. 

“My students and I would discuss the value of a yoga wall and how great it would be to have one on campus,” Sikes recalled. “They began raising funds to build a wall about four years ago. The whole initiative grew from a desire among students to help expand our yoga programming.”

The grassroots fundraising effort began with monetary donations from students and community members who practice yoga at SCC. The fundraising push grew when students designed and sold T-shirts, with proceeds earmarked for the eventual construction of the yoga wall.   

“One of our students, a Vietnam veteran who was an ardent supporter of the yoga program, gave $2,000 toward the yoga wall,” Sikes shared. “The idea of a yoga wall resonated with everyone.”

The wall was completed and installed in November, and it’s already making a difference. Sikes says it has broadened the scope of her teaching and has taken the program to the next level.

SCC’s Yoga Instruction Program has 15 to 25 students enrolled at any given point. Sikes credits the yoga wall with further distinguishing the college and the program, which serves students ranging in age from 20 to 60 years old and up.