Can Bliss Be Found in Properly Contorted Bodies?

By Keith Estiler on Jun 13, 2011

Casey Constantine, 20, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and English, said that her yoga class” gets more difficult as the class progresses.”

“The poses learned in this style of yoga take a lot of practice,” she said about the Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class she was enrolled in during the spring semester. Wearing a white cardigan and black vans sneakers in her interview on the third-floor crosswalk, Constantine said, “It is important to not kill yourself when trying to imitate the professor’s poses.” The instructor encouraged students whose bodies weren’t particularly flexible to modify their poses, she said.

“For example, I had to put one leg over my other knee and bend down till I can touch my toes, but I couldn’t do it. I modified it by placing my leg a little lower so I can get an extra bend,” she said.

Besides Constantine, four other students interviewed for this article were enrolled in Hunter Recreation’s Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class that met the spring semester Tuesdays and Fridays on the sixth floor of Thomas Hunter Hall. According to information at, the term “vinyasa” refers to the alignment of movement and breath. These yoga rituals are an intricate series of movements that center on an individual’s breathing patterns. The unruffled cycle of inhales and exhales provides the yoga practitioner with a tranquil mental focal point.

Muhammad Ahmed, 19, a sophomore taking classes in women and gender studies, said, “It’s all about the breathing, stretching, and not getting any cramps.” Everything that was learned from the first class must be done over and over, he said. “Most students, like me, have a hard time getting the body aligned to where they specifically need to be in certain poses, but it’s a good thing that we have modifications.”

Wearing a blue button up shirt, black skinny jeans, and black converse sneakers, Ahmed said, “The worst is when you ate something before coming to class and have to deal with several stomach cramps.” Ahmed’s instructor said that her students should not eat two hours before the class and must wear loose clothing. “Before going to class, I ate two slices of pizza and during class, I wore a tight shirt. It was very painful and felt like the pizza slices were slicing my stomach as I did those intricate bends,” he said.

Ahmed said that he had to modify one of the sun salutations, which are the first poses learned in the class. It requires participants to plant their hands on the floor and stretch them as far as they can while their heads are upside down and facing the back of the room. “I had to modify what I already modified due to my poor eating habits,” he said.

“This isn’t a relaxing type of yoga, it’s a hell of a work out for your body,” said Justin Martinez, 21, a junior majoring in media studies. Wearing a true religion denim jacket and khaki pants, he said that without the right breathing patterns, it can be hard to get the right poses. “The Uttanasana B pose is when you bend your knees until your fingertips reach the floor and then straightening your knees and making both hands touch the floor. After a couple days of practicing, I finally knocked it out,” he said.

Carmen Yi, 20, majoring in chemistry, modifies few poses she said, because she is very flexible. “I took ballet when I was younger and the disciplines in the stretches were almost the same as this style of yoga,” she said. “I am planning to take yoga 2 in the fall and might have to modify some of the poses.”

“My favorite part of the class is in the end when you get to rest,” Lily Santos, 20, majoring in psychology, said. “I am probably the least flexible student in the class and have more of a hard time breathing between poses,” she said. Most of the students desperately need these modifications, she said.
Keith Estiler can be contacted at