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Yoga newcomers and lovers find campus and city groups

Get rid of midterm craziness with a few ujjayi yoga breaths.

Yoga has many different goals, from improving health to achieving moksha, which is liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death. It can also be used to establish a deeper connection with a higher power. More commonly, however, yoga refers to a series of traditional physical and mental disciplines that originate in India and are associated with meditative practices.

For those interested in becoming yogis, there are several affordable options to explore as a Columbia student. For one, various groups on campus practice yoga. A group led by Gadadhara Pandit Dasa meets every Thursday at 7 a.m. for meditation sessions, and Columbia’s Bhakti Club hosts two yoga retreats each semester that include 90-minute introductions to the hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa branches of yoga. The Bhakti Club also hosts mantra meditation, lectures by senior monks, and kirtan, which is the chanting of mantras accompanied by musical instruments.

At Barnard, students can sign up through FITbear, a fitness program at the school, for a weekday yoga pass that costs $40 and allows two one-hour sessions per week. There is also the option of purchasing a weekend pass for $20 and one hour-long session every Friday. At Dodge, the registration for the spring semester is now closed, but yoga classes run between $50 and $99 for a one-hour session. Dodge offers a wide selection of yoga courses, including courses in hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa.

For those who don’t find on-campus offerings to be sufficient, there are inexpensive yoga collectives in the city. For beginners, the Integral Yoga Institute in the West Village (227 W 13th Street, between seventh and Greenwich avenues) offers a few free classes during work hours.

Yoga to the People in the East Village (12 St. Marks Place, between second and third avenues) is a yoga collective that also offers free classes, but these tend to be crowded, so for those who desire individual attention, this is not the best place. Yoga to the People also offers vinyasa, or hot, yoga classes for $5 at their second studio located at 38th Street and 8th Avenue.

Closer to home, Lululemon Athletica (1928 Broadway at 64th Street) offers free Sunday night classes at 8 p.m. in the store’s studio. Or, for the super intense yogi, Pilates Shop Yoga Garage (2805 Broadway, between 108th and 109th streets) offers 75-minute individual yoga sessions for a mere $150. Free might be worth the longer trek.

The several branches of yoga include raja, karma, jnana, bhakti, and hatha. Hatha yoga is the most common branch of yoga, and its postures are used as a form of exercise. They are also excellent for addressing stress-related issues. Between 75 and 90 percent of visits to the school physician are for stress-related issues.

Yoga and other forms of meditation have been proven to help alleviate stress and to help with posture and flexibility. Recent studies suggest that months to years of intensive and systematic meditation training can improve attention­—so campus crammers may want to study up.

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