New yoga initiative relaxes students


Credit: Maddy Chen

Upper School students participate in yoga as a Physical Education class. The new program has expanded yoga beyond its traditional offerings.

By Maddy Chen, Feature Editor

Breathe deeply and relax your body, mind, and spirit. It is the end of another long day, and the Hackley yoga studio is bustling with students. The recent uptick in the Hackley community’s participation parallels the school’s current health and wellness initiative. Often practiced as a form of meditation and stress relief, Hackley yoga isn’t just a PE requirement, but rather a healthy way for students to decompress after school.

Charles Colten, Director of Community Wellbeing, has provided a strong push for yoga’s presence at Hackley. “I believe that yoga is an excellent practice for keeping fit, focusing the mind, and cultivating a flow state. For these reasons, I am passionate about making yoga available to students and teachers at Hackley,” he said. He also speculates that yoga balances out “our high-speed, high-stress lifestyle,” explaining why “individuals [are] choosing mind/body practices that help them to slow down.”

Many of the yoga students seem to share this sentiment, finding yoga a relaxing way to decompress after a challenging day at school. “Yoga is a great way to relax and relieve stress in a fun and different way,” says freshman James Sexton-Holtmeier. Similarly, junior Delia Tager describes yoga as “a really good way to unwind after a super long day,” noting that “after doing an hour of yoga, I feel so much more relaxed and ready to tackle my homework.”

The Hackley Boys’ Basketball team has found other reasons to implement yoga into their workouts as well. As they geared up for the winter season, the boys were in the yoga studio practicing some new moves. Elaborating on how helpful yoga was for the team, senior Andrew Chung said, “we knew this season was going to be tough on our bodies, so we thought starting yoga early would help us prepare.” He also added that the team enjoyed it for the physical workout, saying “it requires full body strength,” a realization that yoga far exceeds a stretching class.

Even the little ones on campus have begun to incorporate yoga and wellness into their school days. Dimming the lights and turning on some meditation music, Lower School teacher Sue Harmon’s third grade classroom is transformed into a perfect space for “mindfulness activities” that emphasizes the importance to “be here now” in the midst of their busy lives. The kids have learned to focus on “grit” and a “growth mindset” while practicing the five elements of mindfulness: stillness, grounding, strength, listening, and community.

Next door in Stacy Kaegi’s third grade classroom, the children bring out their yoga mats for some small yoga sessions a few times a week. As a nearly certified yoga instructor, Mrs. Kaegi understands “the relationship between the brain, nervous system and body, and how yoga and mindfulness can effectively support each component.” Thus, she leads her children through various yoga techniques to help promote a sense of relaxation and focus into the classroom. “With each session, the children practice yoga poses, learn new breathing techniques and participate in relaxation exercises. You know it’s a good thing when the students ask to do yoga”, she says. Third grader Sydney describes her experience with these yoga sessions as one that “makes [her] feel relaxed, mindful, and present.” Her classmate, Emmanuelle, adds, “it helps me concentrate, and I work more efficiently during the day.”