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Yoga video star wants to help students find inner peace

"Just five more breaths," says the yoga teacher to students as they fit themselves into a position perpendicular to the floor.

"Bring your hands to your heart," he says. "That's it — you're almost there."

Tim Senesi, a 32-year-old, toned and cheerful leader, is teaching poses and breathing techniques designed to quiet the mind to a full vinyasa flow during a Tuesday morning class at YogaWorks in Laguna Beach.

The 60 students are participating in the yoga style that coordinates movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next.

"Great class, as always," Senesi says while walking between mats.

"You've got it," he tells a woman who is maintaining her balance through a handstand.

There's a reason Senesi's class is packed to capacity.

Senesi's rise in popularity owes not only to his engaging teaching methods but also his yoga videos. The one for stress and anxiety was recently named a top yoga video by Healthline.com.

His YouTube channel, YogaWithTim, boasts nearly 90,000 subscribers, his Instagram account attracts more than 6,500 followers and more than 10,000 people visit his professional website a month.

"I never want to miss his class," said student Sean Byerly, a Laguna Beach resident who has attended Senesi's classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the past three years. "He's very dedicated to helping you grow in your practice, has this great energy, intensifies his work and, you know, all the women find him good-looking."

If his guidance can change a life, Senesi is the first to say yoga saved his.

Growing up in Huntington Beach, Senesi was overweight and he lacked confidence and had little self-esteem. A poor outlook on life manifested in bad posture, leaving him with a sore neck and shoulders.

In his first year of college, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Then he attended a lecture given by a health enthusiast as a requirement for his psychology class at San Diego State University.

The man leading the class was the Bert Morrow, a world-record track and field hurdler who landed a three-year stint on national television as the Chiquita Banana Man, running hurdles and breaking records in his 80s after starting every morning with his grains topped with a banana.

Morrow explained to the college students that a secret to health and longevity was to stretch every morning.

With that, Senesi enrolled in a college yoga class and began his journey in wellness — though it was hardly smooth-going.

"I sucked," he said with a laugh. "I was shaking and falling, but I felt like I had a great workout, and I felt more balanced and less anxious. It taught me the importance of self-discipline and that if I continued coming back, I'd get better at it."

Soon, Senesi was practicing yoga every day. He stayed away from junk food and late-night drinking, and he found supportive friends who encouraged him to grow in his practice.

After graduation, having taught yoga classes in college, Senesi embarked on a path to becoming a master yoga teacher by training with Megan Bello from Orange County Yoga Studio. He apprenticed with yoga instructors, took workshops and studied with Iyengar teachers — who are held to an unusually rigorous standard of knowledge and training — which helped foster his own blend of vinyasa flow.

In 2015, he became part of a Yoga Journal Conference, where he was asked to share his vinyasa flow classes. The conferences are held annually in different cities.

Senesi, who has taught yoga for the past five years in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach, said he enjoys practicing yoga at home, and this inspired him to create his own YouTube channel, so that viewers of all experience levels could practice for free.

Viewers from all over the world have sent him messages, thanking him for his outreach. A group of women in Iran wrote that they watch his videos in secret because the subject matter is censored in their country.

"He's amazing and one of the best," said student Huty Contractor. "Every class is like a workshop and he recognizes you. His life is making a difference."

Senesi, an avid surfer and skateboarder, said he also hosts seven-day retreats every year so students can practice yoga and find a path to inner peace. His next retreat will be held in Fiji in March.

"I hope people get stoked on yoga and feel how a regular practice can help them be the best version of themselves," Senesi said. "I hope to help them feel healthy, strong, balanced and grounded."

Class times and prices vary. For more information, visit yogawithtim.com.

kathleen.luppi@latimes.com

Twitter: @KathleenLuppi

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