Yoga instructor builds body awareness

By Christine Harris
Flapjack staff

“Take a breath. Now let it out.”

The room is cool from the cold morning air and the air flows through the arena. Everyone’s conversations echo a bit from being in the Lumberjack Arena. Soft mellow music plays as you find your seat and lay out your mat. As you sit down on your mat you begin to allow your heartbeat to slow down a bit and settle into your spot.

Kristen Ince is an instructor for Humboldt’s Kinesiology department and teaches courses in yoga, stretch and relax, and a class she created herself called fitness fusion.  At 44, Ince has been teaching these types of courses since she was 15 years old, and she has now been teaching for almost 30 years. In a sense teaching is in her blood. When she was younger her parents, who are also teachers, had always told her she needed to become one,

“I always said no no no cause they’re my parents and I wanted to do something different,” she says. “So I didn’t really realize that I was going to be a teacher. It just kind of happened.”

Ince’s career path was shaped in three major ways. First, she was influenced by her parents because they were an active family that always exercised. The second area in which she was inspired was at her first job,

“It was called Body Shapers where there were lots of beautiful women that were strong and they encouraged me on in teaching,” Ince says. “So I learned a lot from them.”

The third area that has influenced her career is when she came to HSU. At the time she was taking a class with the head fitness coordinator who saw Ince’s experience through her movements.

“She’s the one that gave me the jobs here. It was just teaching one or two at first, and then finally she had to make a choice,” Ince says. “They were going to fire her, or she had to choose that I and the other girl who was working under her would get fired. So she decided to let go of her job and give it to me and this other girl. And so in her doing that, I mean I’m so appreciative of her, she lost her job she went on into retirement, but I just kept going from there. This has become really what I do and love.”

Teaching and being a mom is such a huge part of her life. Her student’s well being and happiness is so important to her and the flow of her class. She starts off every class asking her students how they are doing and how their other classes are going for them. Also, she asks her students what areas they would like to focus on that day. Ince loves all the classes she teaches and has a tough time deciding which she prefers.

“I would a lot of times say I love the stretch and relax class the best, but I really can’t say that,” she says. “The fitness fusion class I teach, the more active class, is one I kind of created and put together so in that way I love being active. Then yoga is my least favorite, but that is also not exactly true it compliments everything I do. I am qualified to teach it, but at the same time there is a lot deeper stuff to yoga ancient learning.”

Kayla Daniel, 21, is a junior and a communications major. She is Ince’s student assistant for her 9 a.m. stretch and relax class. Daniel has taken at least one class every semester since her freshman year, so she has taken a total of seven different classes with Ince. She has been able to take every class Ince offers and intends to continue to take more courses with her.

“Kristen is just relatable; it’s her personality,” Daniel says. “She has the whole 80’s aerobic teacher vibe and that’s what makes her classes so enjoyable. Also, she tries to shape all her classes for her students not just what she wants to do.”

Ince is not the type of teacher to just tell her students what to do. She actually does the movements and goes into details of what you should be feeling when doing the movements. So after a fitness fusion class not only would you be slightly out of breath, and so would she. If she sees that you may be struggling with a movement or a pose she will come right next to you and show you how to do it.

Ince’s favorite part about being a teacher is 100 percent her students, she says. She loves being able to reach and connect with so many different types of students and being able to share positive movements. Within each class they both have different positive movements, exercises, and stretches and each class have ways in which she can share positive ideas.

Nora McDevitt-Hickey, 20, is a kinesiology major and a junior here at HSU. She has taken a total of five classes with Kristen so far and loves her energy during class. Out of all the teachers that she has had Ince is the one teacher who interacts with her student on more than just a teaching level. McDevitt-Hickey feels that she truly cares about her students and their well-being.

“My favorite class that I’ve taken is the stretch and relax class,” says McDevitt-Hickey. “It’s really calming and the voice she used is like a mediation voice so it helps you to focus and be calm during class as well as after class.”

For students who are completely new to these types of classes and are unsure Ince wants you to feel comfortable while taking her classes. She says the most rewarding part of being a teacher is when she is able to help her new students feel that they are in the right place. Over the years she has had to learn to reach out differently to different types of students because she wants to make those connections and allow the student to feel comfortable in class.

Heather Werner, 20 is a liberal studies and elementary education major. This is her first class with Ince and she feels that she has already made an impact in her life,

“Every day she inspires me to be more aware of my body and to take better care of it,” Werner says. “From taking her class I now know and understand my body’s limits. Because she asks what we would like for that class and makes a conscious effort to learn everyone’s name she makes her classes unique.”

Ince is helping students to feel comfortable with their bodies.

“It just reaches people in different ways, and that is cool,” Ince says. “I had some students last semester say ‘You helped us build our confidence”, I’m like wait I’m just teaching exercise. To hear those words ‘build your confidence’, it’s touching people a little more deeply than just the exercise that is the most rewarding to me.”

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