MC Students Fill Up Free Yoga Class

by MEGAN UY, Contributor

On Feb. 8, The Kelly Commons Great Room was filled with Manhattan College students for a free yoga class offered by the Fitness Center.

Through the Vinyasa style of yoga, which consists of steady inhale and exhale movements, 37 students filled the room for an hour to relax, stretch their bodies and clear their minds of any stresses. This was the biggest turnout that the college’s yoga program had ever seen.

The yoga class concentrated on the consistency of everyone’s breathing while incorporating popular yoga poses like the cobra, downward facing dog, warrior one and two, child’s pose and pigeon.

The class was taught by MC’s very own registered dietitian nutritionist, through Gourmet Dining Services, Jennifer Senecal.  Senecal started doing yoga when she was in college and began teaching shortly after she moved to New York in 2008.

Because of an interest with working with the body and different injuries, Senecal got her certification as a prenatal yoga instructor because, she said, it was “a niche market in the city.”.

When asked about her favorite thing about yoga, Senecal said, “The stress relief.  We had almost 40 people in this room tonight and just feeling the energy.  Everyone is talking and chatting and then centering everybody down just by simply focusing on our breath is my favorite thing about yoga because you can do that anywhere.”

Throughout the class, Senecal was a constant motivator and was letting everyone in the room know to move at their own pace, do what their body can handle and to loosen up because the weekend was only a few days away.

Natalia Aviles, a freshman international studies major, loved the class.

“It was my first time and I loved it.  I love yoga and I’ve done it before.  This class was really relaxing,” Aviles said.

Bianca Lopez, a freshman international studies major, had nothing but praise as well.

“I really liked it.  I think it’s really helpful for stress and anxiety,” she said.

This was Lopez’s first MC yoga class, and she plans on definitely coming back to the next one.

Yoga classes have been offered at MC by the Fitness Center since fall of 2014. Christopher Policastro, director of fitness, wellness and recreation, has worked hard to build the program from the ground up.

In 2014, Policastro was working with the school dietician at the time about integrating nutrition with the Fitness Center’s workshops and programs.

During this time, he had found out that the dietician was also a certified yoga instructor.  Knowing that yoga was a big fitness trend, Policastro hired her to teach a couple of yoga classes.

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The Fitness Center’s free class, held in the Kelly Commons Great Room, had its largest turnout on Thursday, Feb. 8. MEGAN UY / THE QUADRANGLE

Policastro ran about two classes a semester just to start off the program and to see how it would set off with the students. It was not heavily attended but that did not stop him from pursuing the program and growing from then on.

When Senecal came along as the new (and current) dietician nutritionist, Policastro had also found out that she was a certified yoga instructor as well.  From there, the two teamed together to form a solid yoga program that Manhattan students could access with a steadier schedule.

“Last year, Jenny and I worked and put together a little bit more of a comprehensive yoga program.  We started offering it a little bit more consistent every month.  We did like one or two every month,” Policastro said.

Location has been an issue throughout the years as it is difficult to find a reliable, large space that can offer the desired times for the class and fit all the yoga attendees.

Policastro has been able to work with the Mini Gym in Alumni Hall as well as the fifth floor of the Kelly Commons, but a space is still not officially set in stone.

This location matter has played a huge role in why we do not see a routine schedule of yoga classes.

“I really like the class and I think it’s really awesome that they offer it to students.  I wish they offered it more every month but I think it is a really nice outlet for stress relief,” said Heyi Cheng, a sophomore economics major.

As the class becomes more well-known throughout campus and more students attend, MC students might have more opportunities to attend yoga classes.

A perk of these yoga classes is that they are free.  Instead of having to pay $30 or more at a studio or gym to take a class, students are just steps away from a professional yoga session.

“I purposely tried to limit the roadblocks of students to participate.  No fee.  No yoga mat.  Just show up.” said Policastro.

If MC’s yoga classes continue to grow and have as big of an attendance as they did last Thursday, the program will only get bigger.

From the looks of it, it seems like this is just the beginning to even more success for an amazing program that will greatly help students physically, mentally and spiritually.

The yoga program will be hosting sunrise and sunset yoga in the college’s upcoming Earth Week beginning April 16.