Gables is known for its many after-school activities. From sports to clubs to tutoring, it is easy to stay busy once the school bell rings. One of the most popular groups is made up of yoga enthusiasts. Having been introduced only last year, yoga at Coral Gables has since taken the school by storm and has skyrocketed in popularity.
This yoga program was started by a former environmental science teacher at Gables, Ms. Ansaldi. Her goal was to improve the mental health of students through relaxing experiences such as these after the community was rocked by the Parkland mass shooting. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Cavaliers go to Ms. Kiely’s class (room 2109) to join the sessions. The classes are led by professional instructors that show students the proper methods of stretching and meditation.
The classes start at around 2:45, with light stretches. The students warm up with relatively easy poses, such as downward-facing dog, low push-ups, chair pose, half-way lift and warrior one. As they focus, the instructors attend to each individual to improve their form and give them tips. Soothing music plays in the background to add to the relaxing atmosphere.
“Yoga is a very fun activity to do especially after school. It really helps manage your stress. We spend a lot of our time doing community service, doing things to help other people and working on school work and grades, but it is really nice to have some time for ourselves with a community of friends,” senior Ellie Morris said.
As they continue with the exercises, they focus on breathing, synchronizing their inhaling and exhaling. Another center of attention is based on fluidity between poses. Slowly, students transition into more difficult positions, pushing themselves beyond the limit to improve. The effort they put into their concentration shows that despite its reputation of being easy, yoga is taken seriously by Cavaliers looking to look inside themselves to enhance different aspects of their mind and body.
At the end of the sessions, the lights are turned off, and students lie down with their backs on the mats. They close their eyes and practice slowing down their thoughts while reflecting on their busy days at school. Mental exercises such as these are part of the reason these activities are crucial to a school like Gables. By focusing on mindfulness and clarity, mental health among the student body can be vastly bettered. Research has even shown that it calms the nervous system, which relieves stress, betters socialization, can prevent depression, and so much more.
“I like yoga because it is good for stress, it is good to move your body, it helps if you are in sports, and it is like a great community,” senior Marina Tischenkel said.
Another upside of these practices is how they promote physical health. Yoga has been scientifically proven to increase flexibility, muscle strength and muscle tone. It also improves respiration, energy, cardiovascular health, athletic performance, protection from injury, metabolism and reduces weight. Additional effects are reduced tension, muscle strain, inflammation and increased attention. The lessons are also a danger-free way to get exercise, which appeals to students that may be intimidated by sports that lead to injuries.
Availability and Openness
Another advantage of having this service provided is how having it available to the entire school can change the lives of students that would not normally have this opportunity. Gables yoga welcomes everyone that is interested, no matter who they are or what they do. Making the lessons free allows low-income students to participate, and having it on campus right after school equals easy access for those who do not have transportation. The fact that kids do it together and are supervised by professional adults makes it a safe and inviting spot for all, which has led to this amazing group of people coming together.
All of these positive outcomes of yoga have caused a significant increase in its number of supporters. Often, the classroom gets crowded by those who are eager to take part in this popular program. Even on slow days, which are not at all a frequent occurrence, there are easily fifteen or more students showing up to be a part of the program. Since the birth of this group last year, it is clear that yoga has succeeded in its mission and gained a large following.
“The yoga program started last year at Gables. I have for sure seen it grow a lot. There are new people every single week. It is a very cool thing to be able to see and meet new people every single time you come here,” senior Ellie Morris said.
These after-school meetings have brought together all kinds of different students looking for a spot to relax. Through the bonds that have been formed, Cavaliers have created a community through this shared passion for physical and mental discipline. While students touch their toes, they are also reaching for the sky with their yoga self-care.