Members of the Breath Hope Yoga Club pose for a picture. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Rinehardt

Members of the Breath Hope Yoga Club pose for a picture. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Rinehardt

Ohio State students are raising awareness about cystic fibrosis while contorting their bodies into positions that many yoga outsiders could only describe as painful.

Breathe Hope, a student organization co-founded by the group’s president, Hannah Rinehardt, organizes yoga classes on and off campus in an effort to educate people about cystic fibrosis while raising money for the cause. All of the proceeds are donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

According to the CFF’s website, cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes lung infections and a buildup of mucus in several organs. This causes difficulty breathing as well as a slew of other symptoms.

Rinehardt, a fourth-year in chemistry, said she became interested in starting Breathe Hope after spending a summer volunteering at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. There she worked with kids who were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

“I saw this need for a presence on campus,” she said.

Although Rinehardt had been practicing yoga for a while, the idea to make Breathe Hope yoga-based didn’t come to her right away. She initially thought about organizing something like BuckeyeThon.

However, when she realized how well yoga and cystic fibrosis tie together because of the importance of breath, she said she knew that it was the right fit.

“With yoga there’s a really big focus on breath, mindfulness and acceptance, so I thought there was a good connection there,” Rinehardt said.

Breathe Hope’s largest on-campus events have drawn more than 50 people, and the group raised $1,000 at its most successful fundraising event. Rinehardt credits much of Breathe Hope’s success to the team.

“Everyone works really hard and is passionate about the cause,” she said.

Leslie Lucas, the executive director of the CFF’s central Ohio chapter, works closely with Breathe Hope to help people with cystic fibrosis live full and productive lives. She said the group is always very easy to work with.

“It’s amazing to see a group of individuals who have multiple options of things to do choose to be generous with their time,” Lucas said.

Lucas discussed the importance of the manpower and fundraising Breathe Hope provides to the CFF but also emphasized the value of charity and kindness in general.

“Having a student organization like Breathe Hope is not only a comfort because we know we have people to rely on, it’s also exciting to see the young professionals of our future working to help others,” she said.

Breathe Hope’s vice president of communications, Hailey Schwertner — a third-year in health promotion, nutrition and exercise sciences — instructs on-campus yoga classes organized by Breathe Hope. Classes are held in various places, including the RPAC and the Oval. She became interested in yoga after suffering an injury in high school that forced her to quit sports.

“It was a way for me to heal myself and gain my flexibility back,” she said.

Members of the Breath Hope Yoga Club during a session. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Rinehardt

Members of the Breath Hope Yoga Club during a session. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Rinehardt

Schwertner has been with Breathe Hope since its creation in May 2014. Since then she said she has been in near-constant contact with Columbus yoga studios, collaborating with them to hold donation-based yoga classes to raise money for the CFF.

Schwertner appreciated the health benefits of yoga long before joining Breathe Hope, and the value of breath and gratefulness is something she tries to incorporate into her classes.

“Since yoga is such a big part of my life, I really believe in the importance of breath and I try not to take it for granted. It’s such a gift to be able to breathe with ease on a daily basis, and I like to set a grateful intention in my yoga classes so that students cherish their ability to breathe as well,” she said.

Being able to meet and help students with cystic fibrosis has proven to be a rewarding experience for all members of Breathe Hope. Rinehardt said her main goal for the organization continues to be providing support for fellow students who are living with this disease and let them know they aren’t alone.

“There are Buckeyes with (cystic fibrosis),” she said. “Let’s show them that we care about their cause.”