Martin brings mindfulness to the classroom

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Throughout Sarah Martin’s life, she’s done her own thing.

She’s spent time in different countries, served coffee at Starbucks and, for a while, worked in the nonprofit sector to eliminate petroleum use in transportation through such initiatives as installing public electric vehicle charging stations in Colorado Springs.

At 27, Martin enrolled at UCCS and later received bachelor’s degrees in biology and philosophy, then master’s degrees in geography and environmental studies. Now a yoga instructor and geography and history lecturer at Pikes Peak Community College, she takes messages she uses at the yoga studio and weaves them into classes at PPCC.

“Being at Pikes Peak reminds me how much stress people can have in their lives,” said the 38-year-old. “So at the start of class, we do a three-minute meditation and write down what we’re grateful for that day. We sit in silence and I give them some simple directives on checking in on how they feel inside their mind and body, and then give them permission to tap into their breath.

“This is my third or fourth semester of doing that and I’ve received amazing feedback.”

How long have you lived in Colorado Springs?

I came here with my parents in 1988. We were living in Los Angeles and my dad was in manufacturing, engineering and aerospace. With his job, he was going to have to start moving around a lot and so my family decided to move to Colorado Springs because they had friends here.

Why did you attend college later in life?

I came back from Brazil, and I’d never seen poverty like that before. Women do not have the type of opportunities we do here, and it was really eye-opening to me. I came back, applied for financial aid and enrolled as a non-traditional student. Originally I was only studying biology but I had a professor who keyed in to how I question things. She said, ‘You have a different way of seeing things and I think you should look into double-majoring in biology and philosophy.’

And I love being outside, so environmental studies and geography made sense.

Where did you work after you graduated?

I worked for a nonprofit called Clean Cities Coalition, which is a U.S. Department of Energy program focused on alternative fuels for transportation. I worked there for only about 18 months. It was really important and interesting information and initiatives, it just wasn’t an awesome fit for me. I’d been looking at what universities had to offer for positions and PPCC had an opening for a geography adjunct professor, so I applied and serendipitously got the job.

Have you always had a desire to teach?

I don’t know that I would say I’m a clear-cut teacher, but I think teaching is where my strongest skill set lies — connecting with people. Teaching does resonate with me.

How often do you teach at PPCC and the yoga studio?

I average out having approximately three classes per semester at PPCC and have three classes on the schedule at Hot Asana Yoga.

How did you get into yoga?

When I was working at Starbucks, the owner of a Core Power Yoga studio came in and gave me a free week card.

Pretty quickly I enjoyed practicing yoga. I started teaching yoga at UCCS first in the rec center and then started teaching in a studio six months later. I’ve been teaching since 2008 and the type of yoga I teach is called Vinyasa, a very modern version of yoga. It includes a heated studio, quicker [movements], modern music.

What is your next goal?

I would really like to find a more integrated approach toward physical movement in the learning process. Not necessarily learning about movement, but being able to get people to move and be more awake.

Inside the classroom, there are a handful of people interested in what I’m saying. I just think a lot of the traditional ways of learning bore people and when we’re talking about complex solutions that need to be happening, boredom is not the energy we need to cultivate solutions.

I’d love to be able to create … context where we’re able to get people more into their bodies and then have more dialogue. The idea being, how do we create a more dynamic experience for people to start stepping into their lives in a way that matters and not just in a way that checks a box?

What else is important to you?

I love being able to laugh. I find lightheartedness inside of the space is gold. I take my students outside if we can, just to get some fresh air and get people into their bodies. I’m all about therapy. I think a lot of times there can be a lot of shame around therapists, but I believe one of the most important things we’re faced with is, where do we need to heal ourselves in order to be the type of person we want to be?

What advice do you have for other young professionals?

Stay away from social media and be more thoughtful with your time. I think there are so many aspects of creating a name that are very similar to a popularity contest, which is fitting in. I think [being] more thoughtful … can be a really powerful [way] of making a name for yourself.

What do you appreciate about Colorado Springs?

I have good communities here — spiritually, for yoga — and I have a great group of friends.

It’s also a beautiful area where I can mountain bike. Are there things that could be better here? Sure. But at the end of the day, I think we’ve got it pretty good.