Alternate students at Trail Middle School have been concentrating on their breathing this winter during a regular yoga session that has had a deeper value than just the physical benefits.
The Cooperative Learning Centre has brought Kerry Turner in to teach yoga every second Monday morning, holding one last session before Christmas break this week.
“The yoga fits right in with some of our core beliefs and philosophies of how we work with our students,” said instructor Karen Howard. “We have a lot of students who struggle with anxiety and other issues and it’s a way for us to learn how to calm ourselves down and learn how to relax.”
Under the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre, the class offers a family-like environment for students that have found the program because they left high school and decided to come back or felt that a traditional campus wasn’t working for them. Though still providing a structured learning environment like J. L. Crowe or Rossland secondary, the co-op program accepts that it may take longer for students to complete their studies.
At 9 a.m., teachers also join the teens for the gentle relaxation activity in the gymnasium.
After working on slowing and lengthening their breathing, those who wish to partake in the stretching portion of the class are encouraged while others may choose to stay in a quiet place on their mats.
Turner moves the group through basic steps like the tree pose, where individuals balance on one foot with the other pressed against their thigh of the “stump.” The ultimate goal of the class is to find inner balance and to let go of worries or anxieties that are often stored for far too long.
“That’s yoga in a nutshell, it’s a practice of letting go so we can be more open, more compassionate, trusting and unified as a group,” said Turner. “But we can’t do that if we have blocks, if we’re too much in our own head with insecurities, anxiety, depression.”
Seventeen-year-old Taylor Diakew said yoga with Turner gives her a reason to wake up in the morning.
Since she’s started to participate in the exercise, she’s noticed she can hold a stronger focus and feels like she has a tighter handle on her emotions.
“I think it’s fantastic and I don’t know why someone didn’t think of it earlier,” she said. “I think that it just makes all of the students a little bit more aware and gives them a chance to think about their actions and realize what’s a waste of time and what’s worth doing.”
Turner feels that yoga gives people basic skills that sadly sometimes aren’t achieved until later in life. The independent practice teaches individuals how to identify their habits, how to cultivate awareness, how to meet goals and let go.
“It’s incredibly individual but we’re still doing it together so there’s that sense of community but everyone’s journey is a really different one,” she said. “There’s no judgment here, every time you come onto the mat is a different experience, it’s a way to go inward and check out what’s going on.”
An exercise as simple as deep belly breathing is one that people don’t often stop and do on a hectic day. This can move someone from a stress response to a relaxation response and ultimately has health benefits for those with challenges like digestive issues, anxiety or insomnia, she said.
Turner has been teaching yoga for about five years after first being attracted to the relief the physical side of the practice had on her athletic body.
Realigning her body soon took back seat to how yoga helped her release repressed emotions.
The substitute physical education and science teacher is an advocate that good health isn’t just achieved through physical wellness but mental wellness, too.
“For these students to have this opportunity I think is amazing and it’s almost unfortunate they had to hire me in because it’s a budget problem,” she said, noting that yoga is now part of the school PE curriculum but hasn’t quite made its mark. “It would be nice to see this as a regular part of the school program.”
Forty-five minutes later, Turner has completed her class and the teens are sent onto their regular studies, perhaps with a lighter step.
For more information about Turner, visit www.kerryyoga.com