By Sunny Leal
Photos by Yanhuan Ji
With her nose buried deep in Goethe’s “Faust,” Aliyah Conley doesn’t immediately stand out nestled in the corner of a crowded coffeehouse. Reading for her world literature class with a stack of various books at her side, Conley seems like just another student studying for class. But for Aliyah Conley class is always in session. As a Plan II freshman at the University of Texas at Austin and the youngest instructor at Black Swan Yoga studio, her time is stretched between learning and teaching.
After finishing high school, Conley completed an intensive, month-long program to be a certified yoga instructor. “I started to see yoga very very differently than I had before. I started to see its versatility, how healing it could be for people and just how it can be something different for everyone,” Conley says. “It was super humbling.”
Conley entered the world of yoga for exercise, but throughout the course of her training she began to appreciate the practice for its spiritual and healing benefits — benefits that she herself hopes to spread both in and outside of the yoga studio. As an instructor, she enjoys seeing the relieving qualities her classes give to her students, but to Conley her vision for incorporating yoga into her future career as an OBGYN is even more inspiring. “During yoga teacher training we learned about how many poses will bring up a lot of emotions with them. So often, that’s especially the case with women who are victims of sexual violence,” Conley says. “I think bringing yoga to communities like that is really important because it reestablishes comfortability and trust with yourself.”
Outside of the studio, Conley teaches a free weekly class for UT law students. She is also a member of the Delta Gamma sorority and on the Plan II Student’s Association. “I have to stay busy or else I feel like I get way too much in my head. Which is why yoga, I think, is really beneficial,” says Conley. “It helps me slow down in a safe place.”
Not many college students can credit their part-time job as a source of relief, but Conley is an advocate for the benefits of yoga in all aspects of her life. “It’s not about being good at yoga. It’s not about being bad at yoga,” she says. “It’s about getting better and using things that you learn on the mat and applying them to your life off the mat.”