Yoga Helps Shaker Stay Fit Mentally and Physically

Unconventional gym option provides students with a new form of exercise

Yoga provides a gym class curriculum with an emphasis on stress management and body control for students.

Yoga was a gym option before school during what the district called “zero period” and during the day for 10th-12th graders but is now an option for all grades during the day. “Yoga has been in our curriculum for years and it continues to evolve,” yoga teacher Jill Woodard said.

Yoga has significant benefits for mental health management and stress reduction. According to The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) yoga can “help improve general wellness by relieving stress, supporting good health habits, and improving mental/emotional health, sleep, and balance.” 

Young people also benefit from yoga. The NCCIH found in a review of 27 studies with 1,805 participants total that “yoga interventions in children or adolescents found reductions in anxiety or depression in 70 percent of the studies, with more promising results for anxiety,” stated the Center. 

Yoga teacher Susan Brown says that mental health is a very important part of her curriculum, including breath control methods and self awareness. The program emphasizes “Diaphragm breathing versus chest breathing, which alleviates stress and reduces cortisone,” Brown said.

Other stress management techniques include daily journaling which reflects on prompts and quotes. Though journaling is supposed to reduce stress and help with self awareness, some students say personal writing isn’t helpful. “The stress management aspect was just vague journaling prompts and provided no actual help at all when dealing with stress,” freshman Jenna Englander said. 

The journaling and other stress management techniques are made to help as many students as possible. “Journaling is a personal, reflective experience and is for the students’ self explorations. Taking yoga may relieve or teach ways to lessen a person’s anxiety, but it is not a complete solution for all students,” Woodard said.

Students are also given an opportunity to meditate during class time, which helps some students mentally. “A lot of the time we do a yoga workout and meditation, its a perfect balance. It gives me extra time to relax before school, it prepares me for the day,” sophomore Angelena Walker said. 

Classes are held in the wrestling room or the south gym. Both areas utilize televisions to watch videos such as TED Talks and workout videos. However, personal electronics such as cell phones and computers are not allowed. 

Often, the televisions are used to teach yoga workouts, instead of the teachers instructing the class themselves. However, some students believe this isn’t an effective learning method. “The yoga was mediocre, but it was mostly just YouTube that you could take at home, so it wasn’t something necessary to have a teacher there for a grade,” Englander said. 

Teachers say that videos provide time for grading and more personal time. “I move about the entire gym to check students’ form, positioning and performance. This is critical as it pertains to grading. I cannot grade effectively if I am performing the yoga routine,” Brown said. 

The district implemented block scheduling last school year, which includes rotating odd and even days with four 90 minute class periods each day. The longer periods provide the yoga curriculum with more opportunities to spend more time outdoors, including nature walks and outdoor meditation.

Yoga gives students an opportunity to connect with themselves and their bodies, while fulfilling a gym credit. “Everybody can come to class on their own terms,” Woodward said, “There is no right or wrong answer.”

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