Finding Namaste



A reflection on Hemenway’s yoga classes.

Hemenway is a great place for students living in the yard. Much closer than the distant Malkin Athletic Center (MAC), Hemenway offers all of the same equipment, but in much smaller quantities. Hemenway is like the local produce store compared to the mega-superstore that is the MAC.

However, unlike your local fruit stand, Hemenway is packed to the gills with (surprisingly aggressive) graduate students and professors who, believe me, will not hesitate to mercilessly rip you off of the treadmill if you dare to go so much as a single second past the 15 minute sign-up block.

Compare this to the ghost town that is the MAC. Walking into the MAC, you still tumbleweeds go by and are driven to madness by the sound of dust falling on the ground.

Without a doubt, Hemenway’s convenience comes at a distinct price. I went for the big purchase and decided to go for a nighttime group exercise class. Scanning the weekly offerings, I settled on an intermediate yoga class, assuming that I had retained enough of my yoga prowess from high school to out-limber awkward law school students.

I arrived to class a tad late (curse delightfully long-lasting Annenberg dinner conversations), but thankfully was able to get a pass to the class with less than 15 minutes to spare. This is not a tactic I recommend; usually classes fill up rather quickly, and passes become available as early as 30 minutes before the class is scheduled to start.

With my florescent green yoga mat (it was on sale) under my arm and my hair in a high ponytail, I was ready to stretch out and do some deep breathing. The class began late as a spin class walked out of the room on shaky, over-exerted legs. The gender ratio was overwhelmingly female, with women outnumbering men around 5 to 1. Unlike the sage law students I had expected, the class looked more like a bunch of Harvard undergrads aged five years or so.

The instructor guided us to the “props” designed to aid yoga poses and lamented about the short supply – going into great detail as she described the much more numerous equipment available at the MAC. She encouraged us to tell the facility workers in an attempt to restore the balance between the two gyms to more equity.

Once class actually got on its feet and began, I realized how in place I felt. Though the room was filled to capacity and there wasn’t a single square inch of floor area uncovered by yoga mats, there was a Zen-like calm that permeated through the air, fitting every stereotype of yoga you can imagine. Our instructor pushed us to our limits early in order to prepare us for an unpronounceable move that involved a great deal of hamstring stretching and hip opening.

Even after an hour of intense core and flexibility exercises, the move was still difficult for the great majority of us; however, there was something wonderful about having set a goal, albeit a small one, and attaining it.

It was nice to have done something immensely personal and self-gratifying without considering a deadline or how it would look on a resume. Spending some time doing deep breathing, calming the mind, and working the body against the influence of gravity all came together to produce a wonderful, meaningful moment of peace and tranquility, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since before coming to Harvard.

Battling the over aged 22 crowd at Hemenway was well worth it, especially knowing that I would not have to make the frigid walk to the MAC. I learned that it was not at all odd or strange to start attending a group exercise class in the middle of the semester, that nobody would look at you like you were an outsider if you could not do the moves properly, and that I could benefit in an incomparable way by devoting some time to my own well being.

So take the time out to go to the gym, to get some sleep, to pray, to meditate, or to do whatever you do to get in the zone and restore your harmony with the universe (even if you have to walk in the cold or fraternize with grad students to do it).

Dominique Luongo ’17 (dominqueluongo@college) now frequents group exercise classes, or bikes when she is too late to get a pass.