Yoga Class in the DFC

Mark Baker Sanchez helps his student Leah O’Connor to stretch. Photo by: Hawie Veniegas

“Inhale: drop the belly. Exhale: curve the spine.” Graphic Design major Mark Baker-Sanchez kneels at the front of the dance studio in the Driscoll Fitness Center the evening of March 20, demonstrating cow and cat poses to his yoga students. On their hands and knees, students curl and stretch to the rhythm of their breathing as Baker-Sanchez guides them through each movement. Every Monday at 8:15 p.m., students roll out their yoga mats to unwind and get in a bit of exercise.

The DFC yoga classes have been taught by Baker-Sanchez since the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester. After the previous yoga instructor stopped teaching at the gym, Baker-Sanchez’ friends expressed their disappointment and soon Baker-Sanchez began teaching them Ashtanga yoga, a modern-day take on classical Indian yoga. “People always ask me why I’m so happy and it’s because I do yoga… [My friends] told me, ‘We want to start doing yoga because we see the benefits that it does for you.’” With the dance studio open, Baker-Sanchez began teaching his close friends yoga every week. Soon the word got around and students Baker-Sanchez didn’t even know started showing up for his classes. Not long after, former DFC Director Ron Nunnelly put Baker-Sanchez on the schedule as the official yoga instructor for the gym.

The yoga class follows Mark Baker Sanchez as he performs another yoga position to help his student’s spinal column. Photo by: Hawie Veniegas

“[Baker-Sanchez] is really relaxing, more so than other teachers I’ve had. He does this thing where he puts a blanket over you during Shavasana and I really like that,” says freshman Creative Writing and Literature major Erin Hill. Shavasana is the pose that ends most yoga practises where students lie on the floor and meditate. Hill has been going to Baker-Sanchez’ classes for three weeks now. She says she enjoys yoga because “instead of speeding your heart rate up like cardio workouts do, yoga slows your body down.” Hill has asthma and feels that yoga is a better exercise option for her for that reason. “I don’t have to be running to get exercise.”

Film School senior Johnny Vigil just started attending classes this past week but he’s already excited to continue in the practise. “I got involved after I returned home from Spring Break in Southern California. I was active on the beach, either walking or taking the occasional dip. On the flight home, I was wondering what I could do… to maintain that level of physical activity,” Vigil says. The next day, Vigil found out about Baker-Sanchez’ class via Facebook and joined the class that evening. “I feel like yoga is open to all levels of newcomers. Mark was great explaining the various techniques, in such a rhythmic flow into the different poses.”

Group of SFUAD students stretches as they get ready for yoga class. Photo by: Hawie Veniegas

Baker-Sanchez tries to “feel out” the room before each yoga class. “Sometimes when I sense everyone is kind of tired, I do a slower practise but other times when everyone seems ready to go, I’ll pump things up,” he says. During the class that landed on Midterm week, Baker-Sanchez focussed on a more relaxing and rejuvenating practise to help students through the stressful week. “He’ll make you work but [his class] is also really relaxing,” Hill says.

Baker-Sanchez holds yoga classes every Monday from 8:15-9:45 p.m. in the DFC dance studio. Students interested are encouraged to bring water and a blanket with them for Shavasana. Student may also bring their own mat, although mats are also provided by the DFC.