Anna Balbach, a mechanical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has always been a fitness enthusiast, but it was an injury that first led her to yoga. As the USC community takes final exams and prepares for a holiday season that might keep us away from loved ones, she shares her expertise as a yoga instructor in a six-minute flow designed to help create a positive, peaceful mental and emotional space from which to approach the challenges ahead.
Here are some of her thoughts of yoga, its intersection with engineering and how we can all find peace during a stressful time period.
What first drew you to yoga? Why is it important to you?
I am an avid runner and fitness enthusiast. The summer going into my senior year of high school I had a terrible IT band injury. It left me unable to run for some time. I needed an outlet for my stress and emotions, and yoga provided what I needed at the time.
After awhile, I wanted to further my understanding of yoga, so I signed up for the RYT 200 training (which allows for yoga instructor certification after 200 hours of teaching) that winter. I have a type A personality, and yoga has helped me relax and enjoy life more.
Yoga is sometimes referred to as “inner engineering.” Do you feel like engineering and yoga are interconnected as disciplines?
Yes, I believe that engineering and yoga are interconnected as disciplines because we can engineer our body and mind to function for our benefit. Yoga helps to connect our minds to bodies, which results in better performance in our daily lives. Yoga is engineering a connected system within our bodies, so we can sense when something is not right and fix it.
What happens in your body is reflected in your brain. Do you believe this? How does your yoga practice address this?
Science has proven that how we feel is directly connected to how we perform—both physically and cognitively. If we do not take care of our bodies, it will take a toll on our mental health. Yoga helps to stretch and move the body to release stress and anxiety.
How do you think yoga can help other students through the current pandemic?
This is a trying time in everyone’s life because our normal has been completely altered. This has resulted in a large decline in mental health across the world. Yoga helps to counteract some of the negative effects that come with not having a routine. Yoga helps to connect the mind to the body. Identification and awareness of problems like anxiety or depression gives us knowledge to then make a plan to get better.