Lauren Verzilli demonstrates the high push-up position in preparation for Downward-Facing Dog, a basic yoga pose, for her students at the Yoga House in Boardman. Photo by Dustin Livesay/The Jambar.

Get down on the floor into a push-up position. Make sure your pointer fingers are straight ahead, with the rest of your fingers spread as wide as possible. Bring the core of your body upward while pressing your feet on the ground. Do all of this while focusing on proper breathing. Take a breath in for four counts while raising your core. Now, take four counts to let it out while flattening your feet.

These are the steps necessary for the Downward-Facing Dog, a basic yoga position.

For Lauren Verzilli, a Youngstown State University student and psychology major, yoga is not only a type of exercise, but it is also a way to focus her mind.

“When you sit in the quiet, things come back into your mind, which is part of the challenge. Chances are, whatever comes to your mind has been weighing on your life,” she said.

Verzilli began doing yoga in 2008. She became a certified yoga instructor a year ago, and started teaching her own classes at the Hidden Path in Struthers over the summer. Since then, Verzilli has moved her instruction to the Yoga House in Youngstown. At the beginning of the year, she also started instructing at Body Movin’ Fitness upon the opening of its new location in New Middletown.

Despite her experience, Verzilli said she has a lot to learn and still considers herself a beginner at teaching.

“My first yoga was hard. I remember being in downward dog. I was the only person looking around,” she said. “One of the challenges is to relax and that’s normal. … People think, ‘I can’t do it,’ but they don’t need to know what to do to take a class.”

During her classes, Verzilli teaches her students a variety of positions, explaining the importance of each and how their bodies will react. She said the science on yoga is important to learn to fully grasp the concept.

“You need to have soil in your garden for it to flourish. You need to understand the foundation of yoga,” she said.

Jessica Becker-Schmidt has been doing yoga for a month and said it has helped her. Recently, Becker-Schmidt took one of Verzilli’s classes and said the pace is slower than other yoga classes she’s taken, but that she liked Verzilli’s approach more.

“I started doing yoga because I was going through some personal issues,” Becker-Schmidt said. “It’s really helped me just focus and take my mind away.”

Verzilli found that after doing yoga for a while, her education in psychology began to blend with her physical training. She said that something as simple as mat placement can tell her a lot about that person.

“How you react in yoga could be how you react in life,” Verzilli said. “Some people give up easily; others stick with it until they get it. You can see those people’s earnest devotion,” Verzilli said.

In India, “Namaste” is a common salutation. Its deeper meaning, as illustrated in yoga, is a concept of both peace and of acknowledging our existence. It is taking the mind into a place of kindness, love and compassion. At the end of the lesson, the students raised their hands in prayer formation and in unison said, “Namaste.”

“I think the world would be a better place if everyone did yoga because of this,” Verzilli said.

Share this: