As curious Boulan Park Middle Schoolers look on from the hallway, students in the after-school Yoga Club begin their stretches.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)
As school ended for the day, Boulan Park’s band room became a yoga studio. The drums, music stands and chairs were pushed to the side and replaced with colorful, unrolled mats. Since play practice was going in the cafeteria and sporting events were taking place in the gym, the band room seemed the next logical locale.
It’s better than doing it underground.
“We started doing this in our basement over Spring Break last year,” said Geeta Venkatesh, one of the visiting instructors. “We thought, ‘why only Indian kids; why not do this for everyone,’” she continued. “We approached Mrs. Kwasny and she was so gracious, giving us permission to start the club.”
Thirty one students, two instructors and one seventh-grade math teacher stretched, played games, breathed calmly and learned new poses.
“We’ve noticed in society that kids are more anxious, more stressed, so we thought that yoga would be the best way to bring that anxiety down and make them more calm, more peaceful,” continued Venkatesh.
“All the side effects are positive,” she said.
The students all seemed to agree. “I think it was really relaxing and peaceful. It just helped me take my mind off things for the time we were here,” said sixth-grader Grace Liu.
Several more kids, waiting for the bus, kept poking their heads in, smiling and watching. “We may have even more kids joining next time,” said math teacher Mark Martin afterwards.
“We’ve gotten a very good response so far,” said Venkatesh. “Yoga is much more than just poses. You calm your mind with breathing control and work toward a feeling of connectivity.”
“It helped me get calm and take my mind off homework or any tests I have coming up,” said sixth-grader Harshitha Suryadevara.
For the better part of an hour, as the outside hallway calmed down — as if in concert with the band room — students in Yoga Club spent their second session finding out more about the practice.
“These are some tools they can use in life whenever they’re going through a rough phase,” explained instructor Veena Kulkarni. “They can always rely on deep breathing and asanas (yoga poses).”
“It was really good. I got peace and it was nice that we played games,” said sixth-grader Tharunika Ramanathan.
Seventh-grader Shalin Kakasani echoed that feeling. “It’s pretty helpful for me. I’ve been doing yoga by myself and I’ve seen it help me. I’ve been more concentrated and focused,” he said.
As the club wore on, the middle-schooler’s self consciousness gave way to consciousness of self.
“Yoga is really necessary for people throughout their life. It’s a life skill that helps you physically, mentally and emotionally,” explained eighth-grader Amruta Venkatesh.
“I don’t usually do this a lot, but Yoga Club helps me relax,” said seventh-grader Skanda Vijaykumar.
It isn’t just for students.
“Already my back feels a little better and I feel a little bit limber, a little looser,” said math teacher Martin. “I’m a runner; I’ve run marathons many times. But this is different than running. I’m thinking I want to build this into my weekly routine. Already it feels kinda good,” he said afterward.
He must feel good after throwing himself under the bus.
“I’ve been meaning to try it and I just never got myself to,” Martin continued. “But when I heard ‘Yoga Club,’ I thought two good things. First, I’ll get in there and learn some moves and get going on it. And then I figured the kids would get a kick out of having a teacher in there, seeing me struggle, doing my best. I’m thinking, they can look at me and think, ‘well, I’m better than him!’” he said with a laugh.
There is no judgement in yoga.
“Yoga has no religion, no cast, no nationality; anyone can do it,” explained Venkatesh.
“I like it. It’s different and there aren’t many clubs like it,” commented seventh-grader Nathan Green.
“It’s fun and really relaxing. I’ve learned some poses that help you when you’re stressed or tired. I’ve inhaled and exhaled before exams when I’m really tense and it works!” concluded Chinmayee Mannava.