The normally bright lights of the Morse High School competition gym are dimmed, and soft music plays as students settle onto their mats. Teacher, Johnna Stanton, begins guiding them through a centering exercise helping to calm the energy in the space while inviting the students to stay present in the moment. While many students found themselves stressing over midterms, the students of Johnna Stanton’s yoga elective were centering, stretching, and preparing mind and body for their yoga practice.
Before the class began, students were abuzz with anticipation as for the first time, members of the community were invited to attend the class as part of the student midterm for the course. Laying out mats and yoga props like blocks and blankets for their guests and greeting them as they walk through the gym doors, many of them, for the first time. Students had the responsibility of inviting at least 15 people to the class. In the end, 18 members of the community joined for this special class.
Johnna gave her students a few options on just what that midterm could look like and in the end, they chose hosting a yoga class for the community. Arguably, yoga as a midterm is much less taxing on students than a more traditional exam may be. But that’s part of the reason students chose this elective to begin with. “I took this class originally because I like Mrs. Stanton, but then it also has helped me a lot physically and mentally. I felt much more rested, much more stretched. That’s ultimately why I’m taking a second semester. It’s been good for me.”, says Senior Riley Gale. Another senior student, Nick Pesce, invited his grandmother to the community yoga class and was able to practice alongside her, showing not only what he’s learned in this class, but how beneficial the practice itself has been. “This was a new class for me. I’ve had Mrs. Stanton as a teacher in other subjects for the past 3 years, so I know she’s a great teacher, and I thought this yoga class would be great too. My expectations were met. A really fun class and it’s been great for sports. It’s made me a better player,” says Pesce.
One shared theme for many of the students was their admiration for their teacher Mrs. Stanton. “I chose to do yoga because I love Mrs. Stanton and she was teaching the class”, shared Junior, Gwendolyn. Panetski. But while Mrs. Stanton’s reputation as a great teacher may have brought students to the class, yoga is what brings them back. “I’ve been wanting to do yoga more and this has been a great opportunity to learn and do yoga in school.”, said Panetski.
The science of school based yoga may be relatively new but there are a growing number of schools are showing promising results in improving mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral health in students with school-based yoga classes. The growing interest in yoga in schools has led many teachers looking for ways to bring the practice to their classrooms. For those interested, Johnna Stanton will lead the Integrating Yoga in Education Conference, hosted at Morse. This one-day conference for educators will provide the basic tenants of yoga in the classroom and 5 continuing education contact hours for those attending. The conference, hosted at Morse High School, is Wednesday, May 17, 8am – 2pm.
Registration is required. Register: https://bit.ly/3Df3Gr1