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Yoga Relaxes Me
Niya Wilson

For a while, I was bummed out and I couldn’t find a solution to my problems. My grades were slipping and my friends were truly being annoying.

I tried facing my problems head on by actually going to class and telling my friends to shut up. I also tried putting my problems behind me by leaving my friends alone and avoiding them. None of that worked. Actually, it stressed me out even more.

Then my know-it-all friend told me about yoga. She said, “Yoga is the greatest way to relieve stress.” Of course, being the Doubting Thomas that I am, I thought she was totally out of her mind.

She does her yoga exercises all the time, and she always does this chanting thing and massages her face in circular motions. I said to myself, “I couldn’t be seen doing something like that.”

To try to get me involved in yoga, she said, “See how happy I am doing yoga? I’m more relaxed and stress free. You could be, too!” She said it with every inch of her pride.

“Yeah, right,” I said. How could being “one with myself” be healthy? It sounded crazy to me.

Her nagging and her pleading made me even more stressed. As you can see, I get stressed a lot! I’m such a baby when I don’t get my way. But I finally gave in and did some yoga exercises with her and, truthfully, I liked it a lot.

This is what we did. First, my friend lit scented candles to give the room a peaceful atmosphere. Second, I sat Indian-style on the floor and took deep breaths to clear my mind of all thoughts. Clearing my head was kind of hard, since everything my life depended on was on my mind. But I sat in silence and relaxed, and that made it all clear.

While sitting in silence, I stretched a little to make my body as relaxed as my mind. Eventually, I couldn’t think of anything.

Then, before I left this new relaxed world, I prayed—not only for myself, but for my family and friends (and even a few enemies).

image by Amaury Almonte

After I opened my eyes I felt much calmer and I thought through my problems again. I realized that I was making my problems bigger than they were. I also knew my attitude had to change and that I had to start to get to know who I was and keep myself from doing things that I knew were not me.

I really liked the calm feeling of doing yoga with my friend and I got more curious about it. So when my teacher gave me a flyer for a local yoga center, I decided that I wanted to take a professional yoga class.

The night before the big class I was excited and a little nervous. I had butterflies in my stomach. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It took me a while to figure out exactly where the place was, but I left home so early that I got there when it was still closed. Class started at 9:45 a.m. and I was there at 8:21. While waiting for the doors to open, I tried to imagine what was inside.

I visualized a big room with candles and encouraging posters and pictures on the walls, saying things like, “Reach for the love within, it’s the only way to peace and serenity.”

I imagined massage tables and a teacher with a very soft voice. She would walk very gracefully, like she could just glide through the world.

I woke up to reality when the doors opened. The place wasn’t what I expected. It was small and very plain, with a black sheet covering the front entrance to block out any “peeping Toms” who wanted to be nosy. There weren’t any massage tables or posters and pictures around. I laughed at my imagination.

The teacher wasn’t what I imagined her to be, either. She was loud and stomped when she walked. When I introduced myself to her, she was cheerful, bubbly, and very nice. Because I couldn’t do any exercises in my street clothes, I went to the bathroom to change into sweats.

When I walked out of the bathroom, the door to the main room was locked. I began to bang on it. Not one soul heard me, and I was getting mad until the teacher said, “Where’s Niya? Oh, my, the door must have locked on her.”

When she opened the door, my embarrassment grew as I stepped into the room and the other yoga students, all adults, were staring at me.

image by Amaury Almonte

The class began. I had no idea what I was doing, so I copied what I saw. I went and picked up a mat to place it on the floor. I sat on the mat and the teacher started speaking in a totally different language. Then she told us to cross our legs Indian-style, close our eyes, and repeat after her. She continued in a chant.

To me, it seemed really weird to be chanting. I felt like I was in a cult where everyone did the same thing, the same way. After the chant, there was complete silence for maybe one minute. I couldn’t help but open my eyes and glance at the other students. They were all perfectly still. They looked as though they already had taken this beginners’ course. The teacher spoke, so I quickly closed my eyes.

She instructed us to go get a belt (really, a long piece of thick fabric) and said, “Put the belt over your shoulder.” I totally thought this was weird. I had to put my right arm over my right shoulder, and my left arm under my left shoulder, holding the belt behind my back.

Holding this position, I had to push my chest up, stretching my front and back muscles. After standing in position for a moment (it was hard!), the teacher told us to exhale out of the stretch.

During this exercise, the teacher said a lot of strange phrases, like “Let your face feel like butter” and “Stretch your body like a playful cat who has just woken up to a warm glass of milk.” To me her phrases were weird but humorous. They helped me to relax.

The rest of the exercises were pretty much the same: stretching and breathing. It sounds simple, but the way we had to hold the positions was really hard and, by the end, my muscles hurt.

My favorite exercise was the very last one. We each lay on top of a blanket, which had two blankets on top supporting our heads. I also had a round pillow for my back. I lay completely still with my chest sticking out. The teacher told us to close our eyes and “be one with ourselves.”

While laying there the teacher put a blanket over me (well, not just me, but the entire class). Her next instructions were to “relax and take everything off your mind. Concentrate on yourself, nothing else.”

She continued to say this until I drifted off. I didn’t think I was asleep because I still heard her talking, but I felt like I was in my own world.

When the class was over, I felt kind of tired and calm. It was a little strange, but I liked it.

In the beginning, I was definitely skeptical. Giving yoga a chance made me see how taking time to stretch and relax could give me a new way to handle stress. It gave me quiet time to be with myself and God.

Like me, most teens are faced with many stressful situations, and we don’t know how to go about dealing with stress. So we settle for not handling the situation or for handling it without thinking of the consequences. Yoga is something to try—it can calm you down and clear your head.

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