A group of groggy students dragged themselves out of bed at 5 a.m. yesterday. These girls braved the early morning cold and fog and stood in line to register for spots in popular courses — not perennial academic favorites such as Cold War and Modern China, but classes such as power yoga, Hatha yoga, squash and beginning golf.

The Department of Athletics offers a wide variety of physical education classes at Payne Whitney Gymnasium each season. Registration for the first set of classes — yoga, sports skills, squash and weight training — started Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. Some got in line at 5:15 and two hours later, there were still approximately 100 people waiting to reserve spots.

“I meant to set my alarm for 5:45, but I ended up waking up at 6:29. I was so upset,” said Ayesha Faines ’08, who was signing up for power yoga.

These non-credit elective classes range in price from $15 for weight training classes to $375 for horseback riding lessons. This year, the Department of Athletics slightly hiked the prices for selective classes. For example, the cost of the 11-week aerobics step class doubled from $10 to $20. The six-week beginner squash class was raised from $20 last year to $30 this year. Larry Matthews, Associate Director for Sport & Recreation Athletics, explained the change as a “nominal increase for inflation and instructors’ salaries.”

Yale dropped its physical education requirement in the early ’60s, according to Professor Emeritus Gaddis Smith, who fondly reminisced.

“[Freshman year] I went out for boxing and got beat up very badly,” he said. “I had just come back from working on a ranch in Wyoming. I was strong as an ox. I could climb a rope without using my legs.”

Yale has offered optional gym classes after it dropped the requirement, Matthews said.

“The classes provide an outlet for sound mind and sound body,” Matthews said. “After a day of rigorous classes … you can blow off steam.”

According to Matthews, there have always been classes offered for a fee. Two years ago, about 60 percent of the classes had fees. Last year, however, Yale decided to charge for all classes.

“We looked at all the other Ivy League schools, and, with the exception of [Harvard], no Ivy does not charge,” he said. “We went to a fee system and tried to implement a fair and equitable system. We did not want to make the classes cost-prohibitive.”

Despite this minimal price increase, the classes are still wildly popular. Carol Martens LAW ’06 woke up at 5:50 a.m. to get in line to register for a Hatha yoga class.

Emily Johnson ’05, who arose at 6:30 a.m. to sign up for a yoga class, echoed the sentiments of many who registered for classes, as she found the prices “very reasonable, especially compared to what you might find at a gym.”

The Dean of Silliman College, Hugh Flick, waited in line with his wife, Evie Lindemann, to sign up for a yoga class.

“[Flick] has a doctorate in Sanskrit, he loves this sort of thing,” Lindemann said.

While Flick and Lindemann said they usually get in line at 6 a.m., this year they arrived at the gym at 6:30. Flick noted that when the Athletics Department began charging for yoga classes in 2003 “the lines were cut in half from the previous year.”

The physical education program offers a myriad of classes in the areas of dance, exercise, yoga, martial arts, squash, sports skills, weight training and special interest. There are over 70 sections of classes this fall — ranging from Afro-Brazilian capoeira and Argentine tango to therapeutic massage and deep sea fishing. New classes this year include restorative yoga, pregnancy fitness, horseback riding lessons and NIA (neuromuscular integrative action).

Despite all of these exotic options, Matthews said, “Yoga is the hottest activity, and we offer it in the morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night to accommodate everyone.”

With 14 different yoga sections there should be a yoga class available for every last student dozing off in the winding line out of Payne Whitney.

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