Ommm…Yoga in the Penthouse

Soft, tranquil music played in the background as the midday sun shined through the large penthouse windows directly onto the backs of students engaged in a yoga session. The yoga class was thrown in honor of Women’s History Month in the Student Center last Thursday around noon. The class was structured to focus on female reproductive health and marked the last event held by the Women’s History Committee.

Kiersten Cregger, the yoga instructor, said she was delighted to be invited by the Brooklyn College Women’s History Committee. She also teaches a yoga class every Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday at Brooklyn Yoga Collective on Franklin Avenue.

Nearly 20 million Americans are practicing yoga according to a 2012 study published in Yoga Journal. A 2014 article about yoga published in The Huffington Post praised the practice for being useful and increasingly popular. “The mind-body practice is frequently touted for its ability to reduce stress and boost well-being, but it also offers wide-ranging physical health benefits that rival other forms of exercise,” wrote Carolyn Gregoire, senior writer for The Huffington Post.

The on-campus event was put on by the committee with intentions of empowering women through a focus on their health and body. When two male students showed up to the class they were also welcomed to join in the activities.

“The aura in the room was really comforting,” said Devon Webster, one of the two male students who attended the event. Webster, a communications major, said he enjoyed partaking in the yoga session. “I closed my eyes and I wasn’t really here,” he said.

Kelly Guillet said he attended the event to get more flexible. Guillet is currently studying Kinesiology, the study of movement in humans. “It was alright. Yoga is always difficult,” said Guillet.

During the session, Cregger smoothly transitioned about 11 students on yoga mats through different poses like the Mula bandha, Surya A, Goddess Pose, Camel, Frog, Eagle, Seated Spinal Twist, Supta Baddha Konasana, legs up the wall, and more. While constantly reminding students to breathe in and out, she maneuvered the large room staying mostly at the front to demonstrate each pose and occasionally leaving her post to assist an individual with a difficult movement.

The class was taught in Hatha-style, an ancient form of yoga that emphasizes physical postures. Each stance had a different effect on the body geared towards improving women’s reproductive health, like increasing blood flow, adding direct (or indirect) stimulation as needed, or relaxing tensed muscles. Certain poses, such as the Plough, decreased stress hormones while others, like the Savasana, activated hormones only produced while resting.

The students did about 13 different poses in total with some appearing more difficult than others. Alternative stances were provided to accommodate students who were not as flexible. All the while, Cregger’s voice spoke just above the music encouraging students to “let yourself feel stuff.”

“We live in a culture that teaches us to work really hard, but we don’t live in a culture that teaches us how to rest, take time and take care of ourselves,” said Cregger.

At the end of the session all the students rested with their backs against the yoga mat and their eyes closed for about five minutes. During this time, Cregger offered each student a brief temple massage with essential oils. She also encouraged students to say something nice in appreciation of themselves.

Sophomore student and secretary of the women’s history committee, Truth Opaleye, wiped a bit of sweat from her brow as she gathered her things, admitting the class was hard. “But I tried that’s the point. I’m so stiff from class lately,” said Opaleye. “Gotta treat myself.”

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