In Lacey, Aspire students de-stress with yoga, dance

Staff writerOctober 13, 2013 

Middle schools by nature are noisy, hectic and stressful places.

But students at Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts in Lacey can spend a portion of their day wiping all of that away in yoga class.

“PE has either been dance or yoga since we started,” said principal Monica Sweet. “They’re both incredibly popular classes.”

Teacher Anne Kohlbry developed the yoga program and began teaching it when the school opened in 2009. Each class lasts about 50 minutes, and includes some type of warm-up activity such as walking laps around the school, controlled breathing, stretches, poses and a few minutes of relaxation.

“Focus is a big thing — middle school kids are so distracted,” said Kohlbry, who also teaches sixth-grade English and social studies for the Challenge Academy gifted program at Aspire.

During the semester, students are asked to work on the class’ key principles, which include strength, flexibility, fluency and balance. Their grade is based on participation and level of engagement, Kohlbry said.

“I’ve had a lot of kids saying, ‘Man, I’ve developed a six-pack’ because we do a lot of strength training,” Kohlbry said.

At the end of the semester, students are asked to teach a class that includes warm-ups and poses, she said. “They’ll create their own pose, and teach it to the class,” Kohlbry added.

During a class last week, classical music played over the stereo as students stretched on yoga mats. They practiced several classic poses, including locust, cobra, downward dog and exalted warrior.

“In the two years that I’ve been here, there are a lot of things I’ve improved on in this class,” said eighth-grader Jessica Wallingford, 14. “It’s pretty cool. It’s better than running laps.”

“It feels like exercise,” said sixth-grader Thomas Shiveley, 11. “It’s not strenuous, but it’s good exercise.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433; lpemberton@theolympian.com; @Lisa_Pemberton

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