Friendships through yoga

Girls participate in after-school yoga club at Jim Hill

Andrea Johnson/MDN Eighth-grade girls at Jim Hill Middle School participate in an after-school yoga club on Dec. 19. The yoga club is helping girls get in shape, make friends and feel better about themselves.

An after-school yoga club is helping girls at Jim Hill make friends and feel better about themselves. A side benefit is that it also carries over into other areas of their lives.

“Doing this really helps with flexibility,” said eighth-grader Mallory Podoll.

She and fellow eighth-grader Kayla Prestwich said they are also getting to know other girls in the class. Even if they don’t have a lot in common otherwise, the yoga club gives them camaraderie inside that group.

Sara Deutsch, a physical education teacher at the school, thought there was a need for an after-school club for students who might not be involved in other clubs at Jim Hill that are focused on sports or music. Students might be exposed to yoga as part of a physical education class, but she thought girls might enjoy more in-depth classes. Yoga also fits in well with trauma sensitive training that teachers in the school district have received that helps them in teaching children who have experienced some sort of trauma.

When Deutsch approached her principal last year about starting the club, she quickly got permission. Deutsch attended a training in New Hampshire through Childlight Yoga, a program that focuses on teaching yoga to preteens and teenagers.

Deutsch launched the club as a pilot program for eighth grade girls, offered once a week in a classroom at the school. She has had to limit enrollment in the program because of limited space.

Eventually, she said, she might branch out and offer other classes for different groups of students.

Podoll and Prestwich said they are glad the group is girls only. They might feel self-conscious if the guys were there, they said.

Deutsch said she emphasizes that the after-school group is for all the eighth grade girls, regardless of whether they have participated before or are trying it out for the first time.

During the 45-minute session, students learn different yoga poses and also focus on other exercises that can help aid in self esteem. The girls learn how to focus on their breathing as a way to help calm themselves if they are in an emotionally stressful situation.

Physical activity can be a good stress reliever, said Deutsch, who said she has found that to be true for herself as well.

“I have had girls tell me that they’ve used some of their coping skills when they begin to feel anxious or upset,” said Deutsch.

Deutsch said she is also touched by the supportive relationships that form between the girls.

“I just really love the bonding I have seen between the girls,” said Deutsch.

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