Breathe in, breathe out

You’ve made it through the stressful week filled with writing papers and taking tests, and you can’t wait to finally relax.

Luckily, there are free Yoga Jam classes held every Friday evening on the second floor of the Erie Art Museum. The museum, located at 411 State St., is within walking distance from the Gannon University’s campus. It is open to anyone; all you have to do is come in and sign up for either of the sessions – one at 4 p.m. and the other at 5:15 p.m.

Because of their convenience, the yoga classes allow you to relax before you even walk through the door. First, the classes are absolutely free, so you can come and enjoy the class even if you’re on a budget. The two sessions also allow for easy scheduling.

Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about bringing any equipment because they provide everything for you, including yoga mats, blocks and blankets.

Allie Overfield, a junior occupational therapy major, said she enjoys going to the classes for several reasons.

“My favorite part about the yoga class is that it’s free, and it’s so close to campus,” she said.

The only downside to the classes is that the mats are used by many people, so you might end up with a mat with a slight smell. However, people are welcome to bring their own mats as well.

The Yoga Jam room is almost the perfect place for these sessions to be held. The afternoon sun shines through the many windows and onto bright green plants that sit on the window sills. The white walls display a few yoga mats decorated with various nature scenes, helping you relax during the session.

Although the room is aesthetically pleasing, it could be a bit bigger. If a lot of people come for a particular class, it can get a bit crowded. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t go as deep into a pose as I would like to for fear of bumping into the person next to me.

The classes not only appeal to the visual sense but also to many others. The instructors always play soft music in the background to ease the mind during the class.

Overfield said the yoga classes are an ideal finish to her week.

“All of the instructors are very good at setting the perfect mood,” she said. “The classes are so relaxing and calming, and I really look forward to going every Friday that I can.”

The most important thing about yoga is how you feel during and after a session. Although everyone’s experience is a little different, I’ve heard plenty of students say they really enjoyed it.

Among these students is Alicia Mycyk, a freshman biology major, who said she loves the feeling she gets during and after classes.

“What I really enjoy about yoga is that I feel more calm when doing it and after I’m done,” she said. “I also enjoy stretching and yoga is a great way to become more flexible.”

Different instructors conduct the classes every week – all with various teaching styles – so you never get bored.

Collectively, the poses different instructors use are pretty easy yet effective.

Mycyk’s favorite pose is the Downward-Facing Dog pose.

“I like the challenge to try to put my heels on the ground,” she said. “It really stretches out the legs. I also like stretching my sides out and trying to touch my toes.”

The same pose used to be a favorite of Susan Black-Keim, a yoga instructor at the museum and owner of the studio. After not being able to fall asleep one night, Black-Keim got up and did the Warrior II pose, which stretched every part of her body and has become her favorite since.

If you are looking for an advanced yoga class, these sessions probably aren’t something you’d be interested in. However, it is a great class for beginner yogis.

When the class starts, the instructor has everyone sit cross legged on a yoga block, placed on top of a mat. This helps you to sit up straight and lengthens the middle of your body. You then breathe in deeply, feeling the air rush the whole way down the center of your body. With an open chest, more air is able to flow in than normal and you realize just how shallow regular breathing is.

Then, you release the air in your lungs and everything negative about the week seems to escape with it. After several more deep breaths like this, your mind and body are ready to begin the yoga class, and the instructor moves on to some stretching poses.

One of the poses we do is called triangle pose. Standing up, you spread your feet far apart, the right foot facing the front of the room and the left foot facing the wall. You then place a yoga block behind your right foot and balance your right hand on it. You lift your left arm straight up, stretching your fingers to the sky.

Looking up in the air, you can feel your chest opening up to receive more air, and the breaths of oxygen you take while holding the pose satisfy your body. All the while, you feel the strength in your arms from holding your body up and a pleasant ache in your side from the muscles elongating.

Breathing out, you rise up to a regular standing position, feeling empowered and pleased. Then, you repeat on the other side.

After all of the main poses, you move into what is called relaxation pose. You lie down with your back on the mat and your legs slightly bent at the knee. You can put your arms down at your sides, or you can put them on top of your stomach. I prefer the latter because it feels as though you’re giving yourself a hug; however, you are encouraged to do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Then you close your eyes, and it feels like you are taken to another place.

One instructor said that you should come as close to falling asleep as you can without actually falling asleep. You forget that you are in the class and that you are lying down on a yoga mat – you simply feel released from everything. The instructor tells you to slowly come back to the room, gently sit up, and open your eyes. The class is then ended, and you leave a completely changed person.

This pose, too, is one of Mycyk’s favorites.

“The feeling of just letting the body slowly clam down is incredible,” she said. “I really can feel the difference the lesson has made on my body.”

Black-Keim said she enjoyed helping her students get the same experience she gets when doing yoga.

“I love to see the inner pleasure and joy people get from it.”



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