Milton High School Yoga Club helping members get physically, mentally healthy

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Neil Johnson
Saturday, January 26, 2013

— Milton High School has an after school club where students can let their inner light shine.

Inner light is a good thing because in this club the room lights are almost always turned off.

Instead, LED candles flicker. Electric fountains trickle water and soft, New Age music floats from the speakers of a small CD player in teacher Mari Sroda’s classroom.

It’s the Milton High School Yoga Club.

“No pain. No anxiety,” Sroda said softly to 11 students at the yoga club, which meets Thursdays after school.

The students, all girls during the club’s meeting this week, were lying flat on their backs on foam rubber yoga mats rolled out on the floor of Sroda’s classroom. On the wall above them, a neon dry-erase sign read “Yoga Club Tonight!”

Except for one student’s tie-dye shirt, the neon sign was the loudest statement in the room.

Sroda opened and closed a flexible plastic sphere and told the students to match each expansion with a deep breath in and each contraction with a long exhalation.

“Do you notice any thoughts in your head?” Sroda said. “I want you to notice them, and then allow them to just float away.”

For about a half-hour, Sroda ran students through a yoga routine that involved stretching, technical yoga poses and balance exercises.

The students laced their arms under crossed legs, practicing a “butterfly” pose. They spread their arms and legs in a sort of Greco-surfer stance pose known as “the warrior.” The students balanced on one foot and swayed their arms as though they were trees in the wind.

At the end, the students lay on their yoga mats, listening to a recording of ocean waves crashing. Sroda asked them to imagine lying on a beach with saltwater winds blowing in their hair and the sun beating on their faces.

Then she rang a small bell.

“Take a minute to notice how relaxed you feel,” Sroda said.

Sroda, who teaches at-risk students at the school, is a certified yoga instructor. She started offering the yoga club as a way for students to be active, fit and flexible—and to manage the psychological stress that can come with life as a high school student.

The yoga club now has about two dozen members, Sroda said. They include male and female students—some are student athletes. A few girls have brought along their boyfriends to get them to try something new.

The club is free and open to all students at Milton High School—even those who have no experience with yoga.

Club member Amelia Faist, a freshman at Milton High School, has a full plate of honors classes plus band, show choir and cheerleading. Faist calls herself an overachiever, and admits she puts a lot pressure on herself to get straight A’s.

Finals were last week, and Faist said it was a rollercoaster ride. She said yoga club helps her manage.

“While I’m here, I’m a lot less stressed. This helps a lot,” Faist said.

She said after yoga she’s energized enough to dive into homework. And, Faist said, she’s learned to use deep-breathing and relaxation strategies from yoga to stay calmer and more relaxed through the school day.

Since she started going to the yoga sessions, Faist said she has noticed she’s more alert and focused in class.

“It just carries into the next day and through the week,” Faist said.

Studies show that yoga results in increased blood flow and increased brain activity, Sroda said.

A handful of players on the Milton High School football team heard about yoga club and decided to try it . Sroda said she has held a few sessions for the players, including one after the regular club meeting this week. They approached her at the end of football season.

Sroda and assistant football coach Matt Lee, who does yoga with the players, said the players are using yoga as a part of off-season training to improve their flexibility, balance and strength.

Sophomore football player Dion Weberpal was one of three football players this week at the yoga session. He said it was his second or third time doing yoga. He likes how yoga exercise seems to counteract the physical stress of lifting weights.

“The big thing is it helps to loosen me up after lifting, but it also really helps relieve mental stress after school,” Weberpal said.

Earlier this month, 15 of Weberpal’s teammates were going to yoga club after school. Only three showed up this week. Weberpal said the other players seemed to have fallen off the yoga wagon, but he plans to stick with yoga.

“It’s cool,” he said.

Last updated: 8:13 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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