What I Learned From Teaching Yoga After The Fort Hood Shooting

Emmalyn Gaertner
What I Learned From Teaching Yoga After The Fort Hood Shooting

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, five minutes before I left to teach my 5:30 pm yoga class I got a text from a friend saying "active shooter on post, check on your husband." Immediately my heart started racing, I quickly sent a text to my husband, a soldier stationed at Fort Hood, and rushed to leave for the yoga studio. We live about five minutes from Fort Hood and rush hour usually consists of soldiers and civilians leaving work…but that day, the streets were empty.

Focusing On The Practice

When I got to the studio we pulled up the live news coverage, but there wasn't much information being shared in the short time since the event took place. My students began arriving with a mix of worry and anxiety on their faces, but still knowing they needed time on their mats. I continued checking my phone waiting to hear from my husband, and a few minutes before I started class, I got a text saying he was ok but would probably not be home for a number of hours due to the lockdown.

At the beginning of the class I acknowledged what was going on a few short miles away by telling my students that this was their practice, and to do whatever they needed to for themselves. As a whole, we focused on being present and letting our time on our mat be our own. We began by finding the beautiful connection between breath and movement and realizing how powerful an inhale and exhale can make us feel.

Releasing Tension

As I got more in touch with my own breath, I felt myself relax and moving into a space where I could provide support for my students in whatever form they needed. I taught a simple sequence and gave my students space to find their way through the practice and let it support what we were all going through.

As we transitioned from the rhythmic movements of Vinyasa flow to deeper, longer held poses, I felt the energy of the room shift to a sense of release and openness. I dimmed the lights and let my students into Savasana, the end relaxation pose. I made sure my students were comfortable and took my own seat.

What I Learned

While I sat, I reflected on the magnitude of the past two hours. In that short time, tragedy had come over our community but people still came to yoga. They gave themselves the time to start processing the events that hit so close to home by spending time on their mat.

The biggest lesson I learned from offering this class to my students is that the practice of yoga has the ability to give all of us exactly what we need when we need it. Some of my students felt the release during the fluid movements of Vinyasa, others during the relaxation poses towards the end.

And maybe some of them didn't find it until after class, but their time on the mat allowed them to bring the connection they get from yoga into the rest of their life.

My thoughts and prayers are with all the families directly affected by the tragic events on April 2, 2014 and the community around Fort Hood.