Discover MHK with Dené, Episode 2: “Namaste at Noon”

You don’t need to know what pose bakasana is or wear really trendy leggings for Noontime Yoga — and that’s the point. Born out of K-State’s Campaign for Nonviolence program in the early 2000s, the weekday yoga class in 301 Ahearn Gymnasium is free for any students, faculty and community members to participate in. Volunteers lead each session, and the non-competitive nature of Noontime Yoga fosters a quiet camaraderie between its attendees as they squeeze in some exercise and relaxation during the lunch hour.

Discover MHK with Dené is a weekly radio segment on Wildcat 91.9 in which host Dené Dryden shares stories from the Manhattan, Kansas area featuring local events, organizations, entrepreneurs, and cultures specific to the Flint Hills region. New episodes air on Fridays during the noon hour on 91.9 FM.

Listen to the second episode here:

Questions? Comments? Contact the host at

Music from “Wholesome” by Kevin MacLeod (
License: CC BY (


(Sound of a person walking up steps and opening a door.)

Dené Dryden: The air is stiff and warm inside the hallways of Ahearn Gymnasium, but that doesn’t stop the usual crowd from coming to the yoga class. The A/C units help, too.

Dan Swenson (instructing): Let’s extend our legs out along the mat … reach over our heads and stretch through our fingertips …

Dryden (over gentle music): Noontime yoga is a volunteer-run nonviolence initiative that fosters a serene, non-competitive community. This is Discover MHK with Dené. (pause) Noontime Yoga started back in 2002 as a K-State Campaign for Nonviolence program. Held every weekday during the noon hour, the no-cost class is open to all. The number of participants fluctuates depending on the day and the semester.

Swenson: It ranges, you know, from five people to maybe ⁠— fifteen would be a big class for the summer.

Dryden: Fifteen?

Swenson: Yeah, five to fifteen.

Dryden: So what’s it like during the semester, with students here?

Swenson: Again, you know, everybody’s enthusiastic so classes are big, and then they kind of fade off.

Dryden: New Year’s resolutions.

Swenson: Yeah! So, it varies but ten to fifteen is a good, good class.

Dryden: That’s Dan Swenson, one of the Noontime Yoga leaders. Instructors for the daily sessions started off just as participants themselves.

Swenson: So every day … it’s available every day of the week five days a week, and every day has a different instructor. So every instructor’s different. So, my class, I tend to focus on the calisthenics side of yoga, so it’s kind of like an exercise routine. Whereas I know other people, other leaders have different, you know, modes of working.

Dryden: The current coordinator for noontime yoga is Crystal Strauss, who now works in the economics department but first found this yoga community as a student.

Crystal Strauss: Honestly, I think it was word-of-mouth how I found out about it at that time. But then about, I would say, 2014 I started, you know, attending regularly, and then I started leading in May of 2015.

Dryden: With extra yoga mats available for participants, all a person needs to bring to Noontime Yoga is themselves.

Strauss: It’s acceptable to leave early, come late. We know peoples’ schedules are tight. Yoga classes are for all levels and abilities. We’re not a competitive group. If you don’t do something, we’re not judging you. If you modify, do what your body is telling you to do.

Dryden: So let’s set the scene for a class. The A/C units provide white noise. There’s a whiff of orange and lavender in the air from the homemade yoga mat cleaning sprays. Soft slaps on the studio’s wooden floor when people unroll their mats. And there’s a small group of varying ages and abilities, something that makes this program special, says Alex Smythe, who’s new to the Manhattan community and is also an instructor.

Alex Smythe: It’s free yoga, and it’s not like super sexy L.A. flow yoga, which is fine — there’s a place for that, too. I like those classes as well. But this is not that. And at the place that I was at, that was not what I needed. This is what I was looking for.

Dryden: For Dan, noontime yoga offered a new way to stay active.

Swenson: I used to be a jogger, and then I had a hemorrhage on the base of my brain. That was really — it occurred while I was jogging. So I kind of decided I needed to ease up a little bit on the running part. So I started doing yoga then, and then I used to also be faculty right in that building over there, engineering faculty. So it’s very convenient to just come over at noon, do yoga, go back to work. So I come — I think it helps keep me strong.

Dryden: Others expressed a sense of community with this program as well as a non-judgemental exercise space.

Strauss: The community of people, the people I’ve met here are just wonderful, and we keep up throughout the years. And, you know, even those who kind of attend sporadically, even if they come back, we’re all like “Oh my gosh, how have you been?” It’s just, it’s just a super supportive community.

Smythe: I mean you have cool tights on but like, it’s fine. There was a dude who came in jeans for a while, you know. I think he’s gotten some sweatpants but like, it’s nice to be able to go, to have those classes and not worry about people looking at you.

Dryden: How you look.

Smythe: Yeah, not worried about how you look.

Dryden: Though each instructor has their own personal style when it comes to leading the class, it usually ends with the yogis taking savasana, lying on their backs and closing their eyes, letting their bodies be still after a practice, soaking in the stillness and the serenity before going back to work or class. This has been Discover MHK with Dené. Namaste.

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