The Academic Stretch: What Yoga Can Do for You
Woodside High School senior Matt Ennis’ schedule includes AP classes, basketball, extracurriculars, homework, and household chores. His schedule is packed to the brim, but where is that relaxation time? That part of the day to clear his mind and do something fun and rejuvenating? The problem for some students is that there isn’t any.
Because of the high expectations placed on students to get into college and find a stable job, many students are focused on school work to the exclusion of all other activities. But in the pursuit of securing the future, many students forget to take care of their mental health.
While going through high school it is important to be aware of stress levels. High stress levels can lead to aches and pains, constant worrying, moodiness, sleeping too much or too little, and nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing). To relieve stress many students join a sport team, but playing a high energy sport doesn’t necessarily bring down stress.
A burned-out 18-year-old combating high anxiety and stress cannot enjoy high school. However, help is on the way! A newly popular method to relieve stress and anxiety has become widely accessible and infused into gyms and community centers: yoga.
Four years ago, Sequoia High School received funding from the Federal government’s No Child Left Behind legislation as part of the SAFE After School Program (Sequoia Afterschool Focused Enrichment). “The main focus is homework assistance and tutoring in the library every day,” said Margaret Marshall, a SAFE Sequoia Program Consultant.“But two years ago we started offering yoga as well.”
Sequoia junior Chelsea Texeira attended the yoga class her freshman year and attributed her mental happiness and healthiness to yoga. Research indicates that yoga does energize, provide stress reduction, and improve the quality of life. For students it can relieve academic stress, provide breathing techniques for test-taking, improve self-esteem and body image, and ease the transition into college.
Kristine Tom, Woodside class of ‘99, has taught yoga for 12 years and agrees that “high school students are juggling daily stresses ranging from social to academic, and extra curricular to professional. The benefits of taking the time to connect with their body can make them more aware of how stress can have very real physical affects.”
“Taking time, whether it is ten minutes a day, or an hour of yoga every week, teaches people to slow down, become more aware of their emotional state -whether happy, sad, frustrated, stressed, angry- and how to let some of these go so that stress doesn’t manifest itself,” she adds.
Not only do students at Sequoia take part in yoga, but teachers do so as well. “My journalism and physics teachers were in the class, and a history teacher actually taught the class. I didn’t feel uncomfortable and I enjoyed it anyway.” remarks senior Sarina Gross.
But enough about Sequoia, what about Woodside? Why hasn’t Woodside joined the yoga bandwagon and offered the same after school opportunity? The answer all comes down to choices. Woodside P.E. Department Chair Laura Perdikomatis explains that the state education code actually states that since PE was reduced from a four year requirement to a two year requirement that the schools must offer “a variety of electives in the junior and senior year.” What this basically means is that Woodside does offer a variety of electives, but at this time they are not including yoga.
New electives are not being added to Woodside’s curriculum, but yoga does not have to take place during the school day. Attending a yoga session after the hubbub of the day could provide a welcoming feeling. And leaving relaxed and energized to tackle the pile of homework waiting at home could bring some perspective, making that pile seem not as stressful as it did during 4th period.
“This would only help students in balancing school and social life, which can be a challenge for teenagers,” commented Francisco Negri, Head Guidance Counselor at Woodside. “Yoga has been increasing in popularity and is said to be amazing to help center and focus people. I believe that we are all in need of an opportunity to self-reflect and center ourselves.”
Want to start a program at Woodside? Find an instructor, get a designated space, and start recruiting students and teachers. There may be certified instructors on the Woodside staff already. Are you interested in giving yoga a go? Take our poll or leave a comment below telling us what you think.
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