Yoga Breathes New Life Into P.E. Classes at HMS

Having wrapped up a trial period at Huntington Middle School, the nonprofit organization Two Trees Wellness hopes to continue introducing San Marino’s schoolchildren to the benefits of yoga.
For three weeks, yoga instructors Miranda Bear and Harry Bui taught HMS students — one week for each grade — yoga for their physical education class.
“We’re hoping to do the high school next, and then the elementary schools,” Bear, who lives in San Marino and has children in the schools, explained. “The broader goal [of Two Trees] is to take it to the elderly and to the hospitals.”
With the help of a slideshow to demonstrate the different poses, Bear and Bui helped students through the basics of the exercise, showing them both a way to achieve easy physical exercise and also declutter their minds during their busy school schedules.
“When they walk in, they don’t know they’re not relaxed,” Bear observed. “It’s really inspiring to see when they put their mind to it, they improve so much. They pick it up so quickly.”
True Farquhar, a 7th-grader, said he already takes yoga classes weekly and was pleased to see it introduced at his school.
“Yoga makes me able to be more agile,” he said. “It helps me breathe more and it helps me be calmer when I’m doing something stressful. If you were to take an hour out of your day to do yoga, not only would you do better on your homework and tests, you would just feel better.”
Bear, who normally teaches at a hot yoga studio in Pasadena, said the ease of access to do yoga — which can be done at home with a mat and access to a trove of YouTube videos — lends itself well to students who don’t otherwise participate in athletics to expend energy. Even professional athletes typically laud yoga as part of their training regimen between games or in the offseason.
“It builds a lot of confidence, even with something as simple as your posture,” she said. “It’s challenging. When you actually do it, you can see that some of the big, strong athletes are not as good as, say, the little girl over there who doesn’t do sports.”
Jordane Oghigian, a 7th-grader, said ultimately, yoga brings relaxation and calm to her day. She said she likes to do it before her soccer matches.
“It’s better than doing regular P.E. because you feel more serene and calm after a long day of school,” she said. “I feel clear and I don’t have a million other things going on. It’s just kind of an escape from the world.”
Both Bear and Bui said teaching younger students has been beneficial for them as instructors and fulfills the organization’s goal of connecting with the local community.
“What better way than with yoga?” Bui said. “It’s been a great journey. I myself as a student teacher have learned a lot. It’s really cool seeing the first class on Monday to now, just to see their interest and focus.”
Bear lauded HMS and the San Marino Unified School District for their support in bringing them in to introduce yoga to students. She said she hopes to establish the classes on a more permanent basis and specifically mentioned working it into the student wellness center being established at San Marino High School.
“We know this community,” she said. “It’s a little bit easier to make these connections, and it’s not like we had to convince them.”
HMS Principal Jason Kurtenbach said he was happy to entertain Two Trees Wellness’ proposal for this trial class.
“I was excited to take advantage of another opportunity for our students to learn additional stress reduction skills from our very own parents,” he wrote in an email. “We’re fortunate to have had this opportunity this year and hope to have more opportunities in the future. There is nothing we should not consider for the health and wellness of our students.”

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