Christopher Cataldo, BC Law ’18, holds out a deck of cards to a girl in blue leggings sitting cross-legged on a turquoise yoga mat. “Pick a card, any card,” he tells the crowd.
The entire studio is silent as she reaches out and pulls out a card from the deck.
She chooses an ace.
Now all the students in the class have to do crow. Eleven times.
Anyone who has taken one of Cataldo’s yoga classes knows this style of teaching. They are also probably able to actually do crow—an incredibly intimidating yoga pose where an individual’s entire body weight is balanced on just his or her hands.
Although he’s not a magician, Cataldo might as well be. As one of Boston College’s best yoga instructors, he has successfully helped students push past their boundaries to be able to achieve challenging poses like crow. His meaningful connections with students and his commitment to teaching has fueled his six-year teaching career at the Plex.
This past Tuesday, Cataldo taught his 500th class at BC.
Cataldo first started teaching yoga during his sophomore year as a BC undergraduate student.
“My freshman year, I lived on Newton, and I would go to the Hut, and I saw a sign that said they were looking for a yoga teacher,” Cataldo said. “So I said, that’s my literal sign and call to action.”
He promptly got certified to be an instructor that summer and started teaching that following fall semester.
He inherited his love for yoga from his mother, a yoga instructor who used to own her own yoga studio in his hometown in Hingham, Mass. Initially turned off by the idea of doing weird poses and seemingly impossible body contortions, Cataldo was resistant to his mother’s pleas to join in on her yoga sessions. He eventually warmed up to the idea during his early years in high school.
“I remembered she brought this book home that had this guy, Baron Baptiste—he’s this famous yoga teacher—doing crow pose on the cover,” Cataldo said. “I was like whoa, that’s cool. I need to learn how to do that.”
That spawned Cataldo’s appetite for yoga. For him, yoga provides an opportunity to take a break from his overbooked schedule, so that he can focus on relaxing and healing himself. He considers breathing as one of the most important parts of yoga. Often referred to as Ujjayi, or ocean breathing, this exercise is a breathing technique that draws the mind to focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly. Doing so promotes relaxation and can greatly reduce stress and anxiety.
Deeply appreciative of both the mental and physical challenges of yoga, he wanted to show others how they could also benefit from making yoga a part of their daily lives. He strives to make his classes approachable, pleasant, and most importantly, fun for everyone. Instead of scaring students away by shoving lessons down their throats about eating seaweed and drinking green juices like some other instructors might, he respects each individual’s own personal journey with the yoga tradition.
He enjoys working with BC students because he finds that they’re especially adventurous and willing to work hard for even the most difficult of poses. Whether students in his classes are first-timers or veterans, Cataldo is able to hold the same yoga session for everyone because students are open-minded and diligent.
“There’s no way you could do that in the outside world, but I can with BC students and that’s why I have a lot of fun teaching them,” he said.
The feelings are mutual.
Christiana Franciosi, MCAS ’18, who has attended many of Cataldo’s classes, loves the fun atmosphere that Cataldo has created for his classes.
“I like a yoga class to not be so serious and intimidating, and his classes aren’t like that,” Franciosi said. “His classes are truly fun, yet still rigorous, and they made me want to do yoga more.”
As enthusiastic and fun-loving a person as Cataldo is, he prefers to avoid ambivalent looks from extended family members on holidays when he tells them about his career as a yoga instructor. Thankfully for him, he’s also studying to become a lawyer—a profession that his close friends and family understand better.
Cataldo is in his third and final year at BC Law. His desire to become a lawyer stemmed from his passion for helping individuals who may not have the means to defend and protect themselves.
“I want to give a voice to people … to learn to be able to use [my] specialized knowledge in law school to help people that have problems and are kind of being victimized by a larger institution,” Cataldo said.
Part of the reason why he feels this way is because he has witnessed his mother, who used to work as a secretary at a law firm, be treated poorly. He recounted the story of his mother’s friend, who, as a secretary, was once asked by her boss to travel up five floors just to move a plant a few inches. Cataldo feels sympathetic to those who are often taken advantage of by people in positions of power and hopes to use his knowledge to help vulnerable people in legal situations.
For Cataldo, both yoga and the law call upon the same moral code. When Cataldo was in school to become a yoga instructor, he found that many principles of yoga were also moral principles. For example, one principle that he learned was the idea of not harming oneself and not harming others. He thinks of yoga as more than just a meditation or a physical activity. Rather, yoga is a philosophy that teaches individuals to treat themselves and others well. He has carried this moral way of living with him to law school, where he has also been encouraged to seek an ethical life that strives to fight against injustices of the world.
Not only does Cataldo try to help students in general by teaching them yoga, but he also plans on expanding his services to include teaching a class for BC undergraduates. Along with a fellow BC law student, Cataldo is teaching Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law & Society in the Spring 2018 semester. He wanted to teach this course because it provides a great opportunity for undergraduate students who want to study law in the future. Students who take this class receive an advantage when applying to BC Law because they can say that they’ve already taken and done well in one of BC’s law courses.
Throughout all this work, Cataldo never forgets that yoga, law, and his other pursuits are all a part of the philosophy that keeps him going every day.
“It’s not anything groundbreaking,” he said. “Be nice to people, be nice to yourself, try to have balance in your life and try to have fun along the way.”
Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff