Mats, blocks and ropes are distributed and students quickly get into position in the dance room of Yanitelli Recreational Center. Saint Peter’s English professor and yoga instructor Rachel Wifall directs the students and together they enter a place of relaxation.
After an hour of yoga, the class concludes with some quiet Zen time in the dark as students connect with their most inner self and relieve the stresses of everyday life.
This semester, more students have expressed an interest in yoga classes and attendance has increased. Instructor Rachel Wifall started leading the classes at Saint Peter’s for several years and has seen a gradual growth in attendance. However, this semester attendance has hit a peak.
“One reason is that we moved the classes from Fridays to Wednesdays, and more people are available then,” said Wifall. “ However, there's more to it than that. It seems that word has really gotten around and each week I see new faces, besides the ‘regulars.’”
Wifall began practicing yoga at 29 after completing her PhD. She wanted to do something different in her life and saw yoga as an opportunity to focus on other parts of herself.
“I had been focusing on intellectual pursuits for so long and felt the need for a mind/body integration,” said Wifall.
Wifall recently wrote an article for the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, about yoga and cura personalis, or care for the whole person. She explained how in yoga, you combine physical poses with mindfulness and breathing exercises, to care for your entire self.
This past Wednesday, Delford Wheatle attended his first of Wifall’s yoga sessions. He said he had wanted to attend a session for a while and after a friend persuaded him to go, he did.
“It was an enjoyable experience,” he said. “Certain moves were pretty difficult but the yoga itself is relaxing. It’s a light-headed feeling.”
Sophomore Ashalee Madden says she regularly attends Wifall’s yoga sessions to relieve stress.
“When I first started, I was like, ‘What is this?’ but now I find it good to stretch. I also use yoga for meditation,” said Madden. “It’s a good time to get out of my room and away from everyone.”
Wifall decided to lead these classes because she loves yoga and simply wanted to expose the students on campus to it.
While yoga is most known for its relaxation purposes, it is also said to be beneficial for athletes or people who are work out often. In an article entitled “Why Every Athlete Should Practice Yoga,” writer Claire Petretti explains that sports and strenuous physical activity can lead to injury of the muscles. According to Petretti, the body must remain balanced in all parts of the body in order for the body to be completely healthy.
“Athletes stretch pre- or post-workout, they are usually just stretching the muscles in the same direction and plane of motion in which they will be exercising. Yoga goes beyond simple stretching by working the muscles and joints through all ranges of motion--activating the little-used muscles that support the primary movers,” said Madden.
Wifall holds independent yoga sessions for different athletic teams such as the baseball team, tennis team and swimming team in an effort to help keep their bodies healthy. Wifall tailors these classes to their specific needs and possible injuries.
Saint Peter’s Recreational Program Coordinator Edward Daniel says that he recommends Wifall’s yoga classes. For Daniel, who works out often and does weightlifting, yoga is a time to unwind and relax his muscles.
“It’s very relaxing,” he said. “It’s all about the mind, the body, and the soul.”
Wifall sometimes teaches yoga in downtown Jersey City at Yoga Shunya studio.
“I really enjoy working with students and colleagues in this capacity,” said Wifall. “ It's fun to relate on a different level”
Rachel Wifall leads her yoga classes every Wednesday at 5:15pm at the Yanitelli Recreational Life Center.