Stretch to destress


Marge Eckard

Yoga teacher Annie Gupta reads a motivational message to yoga participants as they relax.

By Scout Molder, Piper High School in Kansas City, Kansas

Starting last fall, a yoga class consisting of a small group of students has taken place each Tuesday during seminar. The class was started by counselor Marge Eckard, with the purpose of helping students who struggle with anxiety.

Eckard said that the idea for the class stemmed from her own experience with yoga.

“There’s such an increase in anxiety and stress [among students], and I realized how it made me feel after I went to a yoga class,” she said. “Each time I would go, I would feel so much better afterward.”

After discussing the benefits of yoga for anxiety with yoga teacher Annie Gupta, Eckard asked her to teach a class at the school. Gupta agreed.

Senior Lauren Textor was one of the first students to participate in the class. Like other students invited to the class by Eckard, Textor was struggling with high levels of stress and anxiety.

Initially, Textor said she was uncertain about attending the class.

“The first class I was kind of self-conscious just because I knew a lot of people in there, but not necessarily well. I feel like yoga is kind of revealing about yourself, especially the way we do it,” she said.

However, over time, Textor said the class began to help.

“For me, it was probably better than therapy, especially the group aspect of it, because everyone there was going through the same things I was going through, and you don’t necessarily get that with a therapist,” she said.

Senior Savannah Vasquez, who also started the class last fall, said she had similar results. For her, though, it was being around Gupta that helped her destress.

“Annie teaches me how to breathe and tells me it will get better,” she said.

In January, Eckard received a $1,000 grant to support the yoga program, which she used to buy yoga mats and to pay for Gupta’s class fees. This allows the class to be free for the time being, but it also limits the number of students who are allowed to participate. The group is already two students over its 10 person cap, so Eckard said that at this time no more students will be admitted to the class.

“Unfortunately, not everyone can do it, although everybody who’s taking it thinks everybody should do it,” she said.

Eckard said that in the future, she would love to see an entire P.E. class dedicated to yoga. Although creating a new, school-wide yoga class would have to be approved by superintendent Tim Conrad, Eckard said that it’s an appealing idea.

“I think it’d be a popular class,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be cool to have yoga as an offering? It helps you with everything.”

Both Textor and Vasquez agreed.

“It would help a lot of kids that we don’t even know have stress and anxiety,” Vasquez said.

For now, though, the class seems to be doing what Eckard intended: reducing anxiety for struggling students.

“It definitely puts me in a better mood for the rest of the day,” Textor said. “Going into yoga is just kind of like taking a few minutes for yourself and not focusing on the stuff that’s going to come after.”

This story was originally published on KC Piper News on September 6, 2018.