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Oster loosens students’ minds and bodies with yoga

Lonnie Simpson (11), Yousif Hussein (12), Dylan Heaston (12), Rayleigh Salmon (12), Cecilia Hatch (12), Ximena Olguin (12) and Nalani Steele (11) pose in the Warrior I/Virabhadrasana I lunging pose that opens up the hips and chest.
A period to clear your mind and learn the history behind mind, yoga is available for all grades. Students used a yoga wheel that helps to deepen the poses to improve flexibility and help with developing balance.
Ximena Olguin (12) uses a yoga wheel to strengthen core strength and improve balance.

Exhale. Inhale. Close your eyes and hold the lotus pose for 25 seconds. As students practice their meditation and stretching, they have learned the more complex benefits of yoga thanks to Molly Oster, yoga, English and marketing teacher.

Yoga class was introduced to White Station students three years ago by Oster. Today, Oster has two class periods for yoga that are available for all grades.

“Several years I had a period between July and the following spring break where five of my former students died from either overdose or suicide, and that told me that they are letting kids get out of here without any fundamental skills and resources, so that was kind of the launching point for that,” Oster said. “[My part was to] figure out how we make class out of something that provides those foundations.”

In order to keep the class engaged, Oster has different agendas for each day. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they do vinyasa yoga. This exercise involves a flow of various poses that makes it manageable for beginners.

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 “I call it more of a cardio yoga [because] the idea is ‘One movement and one breath,’ and [on] Thursdays we tend to do yin yoga which is holding stretches [and] poses for a longer amount of time,” Oster said. “It’s just a different speed and focuses on different things.”

The class demands focus, dedication and passion in order for students to reach their full potential.

“Some students have the perception of thinking it’s going to be an easy class or that you just sit around and then close your eyes [but] my class is not for that,” Oster said.

Without an understanding of what yoga is or where it came from, some have found the yoga itself much less fruitful. As such, the class studies the history behind it on their academic day, Tuesday.

“[Besides stretching and meditation] we learn about the history of mind yoga, [which] I find really interesting,” Chloe Littlejohn (12) said.

Studies have shown that yoga can help relieve stress and improve academic performance. More importantly, it has been shown to increase the person’s self esteem.

“I have had a number of students who had eating disorders either while they were in my class or before they were in my class [and] being in the class helped them better appreciate their body and build self-esteem,” Oster said. 

Compared to standard gym classes where each coach has bleachers full of students, this class size is much more intimate, this semester consisting of 16 students for each period. However, most students do not feel the tension or discomfort of a small group.

“You think [this class] would be more awkward because it’s a small class but the awkwardness goes away and you [actually] enjoy it,” Littlejohn said. 

From comforting anxiety to relaxing after a stressful school day, students have found yoga to be beneficial physically and mentally. As a less physically demanding form of exercise, yoga teaches students the balance of strengthening the body and mind simultaneously.

“[I’m] definitely [going to take a yoga class in college] just because I like this one so much,” Littlejohn said. “I recommend taking this class to everyone who can.”

This story was originally published on The Scroll on January 31, 2023.