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Yoga & Meditation Cures For Stressed-Out Teens

Relax, Just do it: Sunday yoga at Lululemon is free for all those looking to participate. | Photo by Madeline Hardy '11

Staples High school prides itself in being the best high school in the state, as appointed by Connecticut Magazine, but all that glory may come with a price—stress.

Many students work day and night to finish work, and achieve high marks. With the holiday’s coming up, students have another stressor to add to the list that already includes academics, sports, clubs, SAT’s, college applications, family, social lives, and more.

How do students cope? Well, one way is yoga.

Girls’ lacrosse has promoted this de-stressor by offering a team yoga session at Kaia Yoga on Mondays. The yoga sessions are meant to be a “good team bonding experience during the off-season, that don’t have any stress or pressure that other conditioning opportunities might,” said Kelley Hussey ’11, one of the four captains.

The hopes for these sessions, which are going to be a new addition to the teams’ off-season experience, is that they will “improve [the team] both physically and mentally . . . because it’s relaxing but also beneficial for flexibility and strength,” said Hussey.

Panagiota Tsilfides ’11, also a Staples girl’s lacrosse captain, agreed with Hussey. “[Yoga] will relax us and be a good stress reliever for the girls, if they’ve had a rough day in school, for example,” she said.

From the point of view of a yoga teacher, Sarah McGrath of Saraswati’s Yoga Joint in Norwalk agrees that yoga is a great de-stressor. “Yoga teachers teach students to listen and pay attention to what’s happening in a way that isn’t so influenced by all the distractions in our lives,” McGrath said. More specifically, yoga uses “our breath and movement in the body . . .to zoom in to what’s happening in the moment, rather than ruminating on what happened earlier in the day or what we’re anxious about in the future.”

Not only does the physical act of doing yoga release stress, but according to McGrath, the energy of a yoga room helps too.

“Sometimes just breathing and moving with a group of people and sensing the energy of a community can relieve a lot of stress,” said McGrath. McGrath believes that the reason people are put at ease by knowing they fit into a community is because of “the recognition that we don’t experience life alone, but rather we all have so much in common.”

McGrath believes that another benefit to yoga, besides it being a great stress reliever, is that “you can learn how to use the tools of breathwork in any situation.”

“Let’s say you’re having a really stressful day at school. Rather than reacting, you could apply the breathwork that you’ve learned in your yoga or meditation practice anywhere – by your locker, on the playing field, in the bathroom stall, and really shift your mood rather than letting the stress of the situation build into something completely negative,” said McGrath.

The practice of breathing to release stress is not lost outside of the yoga classroom, as was proven by guidance counselor Victoria Capozzi, who uses a tactic very similar to meditation and yoga when dealing with extremely stressed students. Capozzi first tells the student to take deep breathes, in through the nose and out through the mouth, while simultaneously verbally reinforcing that the student is in a safe place and is okay.

Another tactic to de-stressing yourself, Capozzi recommends, is “possibly taking something off the plate or learning how to rebalance what is on the plate,. “The plate, relating to the expression, “too much on your plate,” refers to classes, extracurricular activities, relationships, and social or emotional issues.

The guidance counselor has noticed that this plate seems to be overflowing quite often, and emphasizes, “it’s all about healthy stress and healthy balance.”

As well as breathing deeply, clearing your mind, and focusing on what is really important to achieve balance, Capozzi recommends exercise.

Jeremy Rubel ’11, is a strong proponent of exercise being used to calm the mind. “Exercise helps calm me down because when I put all my energy into physical exertion, it helps take my mind off of whatever’s bothering me,” Rubel said.

The stress of high school can take its toll on anybody, so experts say it is important to have a release, whether it be yoga, exercise, or deep breathing.

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