Yoga session empowers patrons

“Our intention here today is to be open and accepting of what the universe has to offer,” said yoga instructor Leanne Pizio.

Pizio led the yoga session hosted by the JPS 350 course, “Women, Crime and Criminal Justice,” on Feb. 27. The session was held in the West Gallery of Founders Hall.

The event was hosted in celebration of Love Your Body month and was an introduction to a gender-specific approach to a resilient life path. This approach encourages individuals to create healthy social environments with family, peers, communities and social institutions.

The approach is especially significant for students who often have trouble navigating the social environment of college.

“Yoga can remind us to use our breath to center us,” said Pizio. “When you’re a student, you are pulled in a lot of directions and yoga can help to center us.”

The “Women, Crime and Criminal Justice” class meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings and discusses a variety of topics, including underrepresented women, sexual harassment, intersectionality and women in the criminal justice system.

The class will hold community events throughout March for Women’s History Month. These events range from interactive panels to symposiums and research presentations, and will focus on different topics discussed in the class.

“We’ve learned a lot, honestly,” said Early College student Kayleigh Cook, who is currently enrolled in the class. “I think one of the most interesting things to me is learning about intersectionality, and how not only being a woman might affect your experience in the criminal justice system or as a professional or anything else, but also race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and anything else can affect your experience in the system.”

The yoga session educated attendees by sharing factual information. Attendees received a gift bag with small food items and paper slips. These paper slips contained inspirational quotes, facts about domestic violence and information about women in the criminal justice system.

In addition to educating, the yoga session also worked to empower attendees by reminding them of the importance of advocating for others.

“We must continue to speak out,” said first-year Meriam Mckey, a community and justice studies major. “When we see another woman being harassed, then you have to speak out for her too because she might be scared about what might happen if she speaks out for herself.

“So if you are able to say it loud and protect that woman, then she will be able to speak out for the next person and then the next person.”

The event also allowed attendees to reflect on how the messages of empowerment they received were relevant to their own life.

“This reaffirmed that I don’t have to just be one thing,” said senior Donzahniya Pitré, a community and justice studies major. “I am a person, and I am not the gender roles that I am expected to fall into.”

At the yoga session, students in “Women, Crime and Criminal Justice” shared information about the topics they discuss in class and what they have learned. They were also able to share how they got involved in the class.

“(JPS 350 will help me) find better ways to empower other women to protect themselves against harassment and rape,” said McKey. “Those perpetrators are going to run away next time because they know that she’s going to fight back.

“There are some people that will touch you or make comments about your body to you or to others. You don’t have to tolerate that.”

During the yoga, attendees were also able to encourage higher self-esteem. While many attendees were challenged at various points in the yoga session, the group setting allowed them to laugh together and see that they were not alone in their struggle.

“Everybody falls a little or caves a little,” said Pizio. “And it reminds us that we are human and that absolutely none of us are perfect.”