Kirk’s carpe diem: Musings from a beloved instructor
“I am enough. I have enough. I give enough. I am enough.”
Students of Instructor Christine Kirk’s yoga classes may have heard this mantra, and it’s a mantra that Christina Ries, health promotion and student wellness coordinator, said she finds original and applicable.
Ries, class of ’04, said she first met Kirk when she took an aerobics class from her freshman year.
“As far as first impressions of college go, it was just amazing to see a person like her. She loves what she does, and you can totally tell,” Ries said.
Kirk began teaching at Linfield the same year she got married — in 1999 or 2000. She said she can’t remember which.
“I’m not one of those time people,” she laughed. “I’m kind of in the now.”
When the 53-year-old instructor arrived at Linfield, she only taught aerobics, continuing her 27 years of teaching fitness.
“I had been called by Linfield a few other times to come and teach here, but I was never in a place, you know, I had another job,” Kirk said. “By the third time, it all fell into place.”
Before teaching Wildcats the finer techniques of “Downward-Facing Dog,” Kirk managed health clubs as a trainer and instructor, but also had jobs outside of the fitness industry. She handled a catering business called SIR Hinkleman’s in McMinnville, where she’s lived since moving from California in 1969. She even worked in concert promotions in Portland and raised two kids by herself.
Kirk picked up yoga to handle all the stress that came with her work. But while Ries and many other students may call Kirk their “yoga guru,” she only began teaching yoga at Linfield in 2001.
“I took my love of teaching and my love of yoga and thought, ‘Well why not?’ Everybody needs to know about this. Everybody needs to be doing this,” she said.
Now she teaches multiple sections of aerobics, aqua aerobics and yoga. This semester, she’s even teaching an extra yoga class for Japanese students, sponsored by the International Programs Office. Kirk said Dawn Graff-Haight, professor of health, human performance and athletics, was key in adding that class.
“She thought that they needed to take my yoga class to get the full Linfield experience. That’s a huge compliment,” Kirk said.
Faculty, staff and all walks of students can be found stretching and destressing in her yoga classes.
“I think she benefits the campus by just reminding people to be conscious about themselves. You know, to take care of their health, to be an advocate for their own wellness,” Ries said. “She’s so relatable … She’s not afraid to put herself out there, to have fun, to not worry about anyone else’s perceptions and to make you feel comfortable with that as well.”
Ries’ relationship with Kirk has evolved from student to co-worker to friend.
“She has a very magnetic personality,” Ries said. “I don’t think people can know her and not find something about her to love.”
Kirk also partners with Ries to put on occasional late-night Zumba and yoga classes at Linfield, which Kirk said nearly 50 people attend.
She also leads bimonthly Ecstatic Dance sessions, a “freestyle, open, loving dance space.”
“I love to dance,” she said. “Dance is my church.”
And Kirk’s work doesn’t stop at Linfield. She leads yoga and aerobic classes for the cities of McMinnville and Newberg. She also works in wine tasting rooms and at Third Street’s Red Berry, which her friend owns.
Throughout her years of teaching and leading these programs, Kirk has developed a deep teaching philosophy that is “accepting and open and supportive and loving.”
“I don’t care what group you belong to; we’re all of one human family,” she said. “Leave your ego, leave all your other stuff over there.”
Telling students to check their egos at the door remains central in her policy of acceptance.
“You can be who you are and feel safe about it and embrace it for the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said, “Your truth is OK no matter what it is.”
Her methods don’t go unnoticed.
“There’s so many people who have just appreciated her perspective on things and how she can just help people feel at ease,” Ries said. “A lot of times, I think she forgets how deep the impact can be for some people and how personal it can be.”
Ries said students surprise Kirk with thank-you cards and e-mails at semester’s end. Some students even bring her little gifts, such as candles.
Kirk said these tokens make her happy and feed her life philosophy of giving and enjoying what she has in this life, because, she said, you never know what the next life will bring.
“Next time around, do we get chocolate?” she asked. “Do we get brie, baked brie, and really nice, red, robust wine? You know, do we get that next time? I don’t know. I want to enjoy it now because this is when I have it. This is here.”
Kirk encourages being here, in the now, among her students, too.
“It’s not a dress rehearsal, people. This is the real deal,” she said. “Allow yourself to show up everyday.”
Kirk always ends her yoga classes by recognizing the connection between us all. In one word, she both acknowledges that we are “the light, the love and the spirit” and says farewell:
by Kelley Hungerford/Editor-in-chief
Kelley Hungerford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.