Every Tuesday morning at Montclair State University, students file into a spacious, hardwood floored classroom in University Hall. They unroll their yoga mats, peel their socks from their feet, sit cross-legged, and soak in the quietness of the room. They prepare themselves for a yoga class, which has proven to be much more than just learning how to stretch their limbs.
“He talks about life and real issues,” says Taryn Clayton, a Junior at MSU. The silence is soon broken by the voice of Daniel McBride, who asks his students to refer to him by his first name. McBride, who often displays the theatrical side of his personality, calls attendance while cycling through a multitude voices such as a refined British man or a crass New Jerseyite. His students begin to lighten up and laughter fills the room.
Daniel McBride is a yoga instructor with 15 years of teaching experience, as well as a multi-instrumentalist who has helped people reduce anxiety and gain restful sleep through his healing music. McBride is now an adjunct professor at MSU and is currently teaching six sections of yoga on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which satisfies the one credit physical education requirement for all undergraduates.
At MSU, McBride has a loyal following of students who appreciate his candidness and approach to life. His classes usually fill up within the first hour of registration. There are a plethora of positive testimonials of McBride’s class on RateMyProfessor.com, a popular website where students can review their professors and find out which one is the easiest or offers the best learning experience. “This class can be a life changing experience if you go with the flow and go into it with an open mind. It’s a class like no other,” says YOGA278, a reviewer on ratemyprofessor.com.
Originally from Totowa, NJ, he experienced a rather stressful adolescence, which he attributes to being the “catalyst” for his journey towards a more spiritual and peaceful lifestyle. “If my dad didn’t die, and I didn’t have the very rough and toxic relationship with him, it wouldn’t have effected and contributed to deteriorating my health the way it did,” says McBride.
McBride, a survivor of Crohn’s disease, which is a disorder of the digestive system, spent most of his twenties “trying not to die.” He overcame his illness by following a raw, plant-based diet and practicing yoga. Referring to healthy bowel movements and the digestive system during his lectures, he often throws in a “poop” joke or two to lighten the mood.
McBride’s teaching style might not be for everyone though. His humor is sometimes received with blank faces. “In all seriousness though,” says McBride, “I believe there are certain body functions that are consistently stressed out.”
McBride helps students understand how environmental and physical stressors directly affect your body’s normal functions, and how one can alleviate that stress through diet and yoga. Challenging life experiences taught him many valuable lessons, which he imparts to his students during his inspirational weekly lectures.
Today’s lecture focuses on the Sacral Chakra— the passion and pleasure center located in the pelvic area. McBride talks about emotional survival and balance, and uses relatable examples of how it pertains to our personal relationships. “He reaches students on their level,” says Jordan Cramer, a Junior at MSU.
McBride grabs a plastic sleeve of rice cakes from his desk, pulls out a yellow disk, and shows it to the class. “You’re all like a rice cake, a perfect circle,” says McBride to his students. He uses this rice cake metaphor to illustrate how we all have emotional, physical, and spiritual requirements to be complete and healthy people. He implores, “Don’t be half of a rice cake looking for your other half of rice cake.” McBride holds up another rice cake and eclipses the full rice cake over the other. “Complement your partner—don’t try to complete them.”
McBride’s students appreciate the uncensored discussions about life and the openness his class provides.
“It’s important to talk about what is taboo,” says MSU Senior Jack Naughton. “Things aren’t so weird once they are out in the open.”
McBride concludes his lecture and asks the class to come to standing at the top of their mats. He leads them through a series of basic yoga poses, walking around the room to observe and correct each individual student’s posture. “The teacher’s job is be cognizant of when a student is new. It is very easy for the ego to get caught up in the achievement of a pose, when the whole point is to accept the pose as your body lets you do it,” states McBride.
Mindful of the physical limits of certain students, he helps some adjust or eases them into a pose that might be challenging for them. He is empowering his students with the confidence to apply the yoga practice at home. “Part of the discovery of one’s self is tied to the yoga mat being thrown down in your bedroom or in the living room, at home, quietly, and practicing, and developing your own body at a pace that works for you.”
McBride turns the classroom lights off and asks his students to lie comfortably on their mats. He plays his hang drum, producing soft gong-like tones. After a minute or two, McBride adds chant-like vocals to the song that are entrancing. The classroom appears to be breathing in unison.
The final component of Daniel McBride’s yoga class involves helping his students gain more restful sleep. McBride has made available to his students, an original music track of soothing ambient music, which he asks that everyone play before bed.
Jack Naughton, who suffers from asthma, finds the music to be beneficial. “I feel my body becoming lighter and more relaxed.” he says. “It helps me find a rhythm, until I can feel my body breathing in, and breathing out.”
Montclair State | New Jersey