Mind, Body and Soul

Katie O'Brien

Breathe in, breathe out. As I walked into Studio B in the Fitness Center on the Mount Carmel Campus, I felt a little anxious. I’ve been doing yoga for about a month now and am most definitely still a beginner. Not sure what the next hour was going to bring, I rolled out my purple mat and sat crisscross on the floor.

“You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga,” Justine Salerno, a sophomore and certified yoga instructor from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., said while turning on “Do You Know Me,” a slow, mellow song by John Mayer. Salerno led the class of about 15 people through a variety of poses, both toning and restorative, relaxing and rejuvenating.

Yoga focuses on breathing. Salerno explained to the class that being aware of the breaths you take during the practice is an essential part of yoga.

The first pose of the practice was a motion called “cat,” where the class, with their hands and knees on the ground, curled their toes under and pulled their backs up toward the ceiling. After holding for a few breaths, Salerno led us into “cow,” where we pushed our ribs and navels down towards our mats, directing our gazes toward the ceiling. These two poses countered each other, creating a restorative balance in my back in between the two poses.

After the cat and cow variations, we moved into “downward facing dog,” as we fixed ourselves into an inverted-V pose, with our hands and feet on the mat. After holding this pose for a few breaths, you might think the only thing happening would be a giant headrush. However, I felt the stretch in my hamstrings the most and what resulted was a full leg stretch.

Next, we moved into lounges and lounge variations, which I felt stretching from my calves all the way up into my shoulders. Moving from a low lounge into a high lounge created tension in my abdominal muscles and challenged my balancing abilities. From here, Salerno led us into a V-sit position which pushed my abs even further.

Salerno ended the class with “bridge,” a pose which required me to lay on my back with my knees bent. I then lifted my hips up and held the pose for about eight breaths. I felt the burn of this pose in my thighs and calves.

Although the poses and variations throughout the practices helped me unfold, breath deeply and balance, the most relaxing part of the class was the final pose.

Salerno instructed us to lay on our backs with our hands at our sides, close our eyes and breath deeply. She then put on different music and slow sounds of John Mayer turned into what sounded like wind chimes and raindrops. We rested there for about five minutes, focusing on our breathing. When the class ended, I propped myself up and slowly opened my eyes.

For those who think yoga isn’t a workout, you’re sadly mistaken. Throughout the entire practice, I could feel my shoulders, back, legs and abdominal muscles working. I would suggest this class to beginners and pros alike. Namaste.