The only way to really catch up with fast-paced Farah Reynoso is by sitting down. As a full-time graduate student in Fordham’s School of Social Work who also serves as the MSW ’22-’23 Member-At-Large on the board of the National Association of Social Workers New York City Chapter, a Parent Coordinator and Social Work Intern at International Community High School in the Bronx, and a freelance certified Vinyasa Yoga instructor, this woman is almost always on the move. “Well, not always,” she smiled, “I make time for my own practice on the weekends.” Devoting a couple of hours every Saturday and Sunday to sitting in meditation, chanting, and playing crystal singing bowls, Farah values the silence, stillness, and flexibility of yoga and is committed to making it a central part of her life and social work career.
Farah only came to yoga at the end of the gap year the Guttman Human Services major and class of 2019 salutatorian took after earning her bachelor’s in Social Work at Hunter, and it was almost an afterthought. “All my friends were talking about what they were going to do after graduating and instead of saying ‘Nothing!’, ‘Study yoga’ just sort of blurted out to me. It wasn’t until the last month of my gap year that I took my first class.”
Since becoming a yoga instructor, Farah is passionate about sharing its benefits with others and is intentionally dedicated to bringing yoga to people of color. “My first experience teaching yoga was ten sessions at a senior center in the Bronx. They loved it. They had no hesitation with something that was typically only offered for white people to experience,” she explained. Since then, Farah has utilized social media to position herself as an independent instructor. She teaches yoga classes to anyone interested while learning new skills to deepen her practice and gain new certifications, like guided meditation, that allows her to reach more people with different modalities. “Last week I taught a parent-child class in Harlem. That was fun, trying to do poses with 5-year-olds and 40-year-olds at the same time!” she said.
Between classes, and after work and her MSW internship, Farah teaches yoga to groups in auditoriums, parks, and classrooms all over the city, lugging the heavy singing bowls made of crushed crystal quartz with her on a little cart she “stole” from her father. She is interested in how the dynamic sound vibrations promote ease and relaxation for the participants, especially for people experiencing acute or chronic stress. As part of her clinical research into evidence-based practice, Farah recently completed training in trauma-informed yoga with Exhale to Inhale, an organization that empowers individuals surviving domestic violence and sexual assault to use yoga as a therapeutic tool.
She feels most compelled to make these tools available to Black and Brown young people, and her regular yoga sessions at Guttman allow her to do that. With heightened attention to the mental health crisis among college-age youth in the wake of the pandemic, higher education is focused more than ever on the relationship between student well-being and persistence and completion. Working with her former Human Services professor, Dr. Anya Spector, Farah is especially interested in how self-care could intersect with the curriculum. “There’s so much talk about the importance of students taking time for self-care in college and yet opening the space for that is not clearly prioritized,” she pointed out. “Think of the kinds of messages professors can communicate to let students know their mental health is of value. Give them reasonable choices, like determining their own due date for an assignment, missing a class to de-stress without penalty, or a syllabus statement letting them know they can gain some extra credit by attending a campus event they’d enjoy. Talk about how they make time for themselves,” she suggested. “That little signal, that self-care is important for all of us, can be healing for everybody.”