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about 5 months ago

The Man Behind ‘Yoga with Doug’

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For years, Yoga With Doug has been one of the most popular classes offered at the White Building. But what is it about Doug’s class that keeps a long line of students coming back each week?

When he isn’t helping yoga enthusiasts of all levels find balance in the White Building, Doug works with students and State College community members in a studio located at 220A S. Allen St. As you walk up the stairs to his study, you are greeted with bohemian decor and good vibes. Tapestries adorn the walls and inspirational quotes litter every spare space between those tapestries. A sign reading “Thirsty?” informs visitors that the bathroom sink has a Brita filter for refills and that there are plastic water bottles available for 50 cents so long as you recycle them afterwards. I removed my shoes and sat down with the passionate yogi to learn more about the man who got his own Penn State fitness class named after him.

At age 40, Doug Hayward found himself a yoga studio at 11 a.m. on a Sunday after reading a newspaper article about yoga’s health benefits. What he didn’t know at the time was that this spontaneous decision would shape the rest of his life.

“As soon as I started doing it, I realized how much I liked it,” he said. “So I thought, boy, if I like doing this I must be pretty good. Me and yoga were a match!” Three years later, he fulfilled the requirements to be a yoga teacher and began spreading his knowledge, skill, and passion with others.

But what brought the infamous Yoga Doug to Penn State? “That story goes back maybe 15 years,” Doug said. “I not only decided I was going to teach yoga, I was going to teach yoga in State College.”

He attended a Yoga Sculpt class at the White Building, and the room was too full to facilitate the number of people there. Concerned by the excessive number of Penn State students trying to attend just one yoga class, Doug asked the instructor if she needed some help. “I interviewed with them, and they ended up giving me that class,” Doug said. “All of a sudden instead of 20 people showing up, 120 showed up!”

Impressed by the abrupt popularity that Doug’s yoga class gained in such a short period of time, the building moved him to a room in the newly renovated part of the gym, renamed the class Yoga with Doug, and gave him the opportunity to bring his own brand of yoga to Penn State.

Doug fell in love with the White Building’s large classes, gorgeous facilities, and accommodating staff. At his downtown yoga studio, Doug offers a whopping 25 classes a week, including gentle yoga, Vinyasa yoga, and hot yoga.

Yoga has not only helped Doug to maintain his health and flexibility, but it has allowed him to stumble upon some incredible experiences and opportunities. “I won’t fully attribute this to myself, but a couple came to me maybe three years ago. The woman was having fertility problems,” Doug explained. “So I said, ‘Well, come and do this yoga three times a week and we’ll see how it goes.’ After six months she was pregnant.”

Doug also had the opportunity to teach Mickey Mouse himself. ”The way the girl said it, she’s not allowed to say she is Mickey Mouse, but that she knows Mickey Mouse well,” Doug said. “She had broken her back at a ‘job in Orlando’ and was told she’d never be able to do a backbend again. She came to me and started off laying on the mat and looking back with her eyes. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Now she does yoga competitions!”

If you’re anything like me in regard to yoga ability (read: you have no yoga skills whatsoever), you may have noticed that most attendees of yoga classes at the White Building seem to know what they’re doing. What advice did Doug have for the less coordinated?

“All yoga is ‘beginner yoga’ for about 10 years. Yoga isn’t something that you need to get right, it’s something that you just do,” Doug said. “As soon as you come to that realization, the whole world of yoga opens up to you.”

In case you’d like to hatch, too, check out one of his classes. Yoga with Doug takes place Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Room 6 of the White Building.

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