FHC’s yoga class is a place to recollect, reset, and recenter

The class is outside on a nature walk

Stacy Steensma

The class is outside on a nature walk

By third hour, sophomore Katelyn Romijn needs a break. Luckily, within her busy schedule, she finds one: yoga.

Katie was first introduced to yoga through the school’s class, which she started this semester. 

“Usually, we work on a lot of breathing exercises,” Katie said, “so when we focus on that, it actually really helps calm me down and makes me feel more prepared for the rest of my day.”

Katie signed up for the class in order to knock off the gym credit but also “thought it would be a fun and relaxing class to take,” and she wasn’t disappointed. She also likes that it isn’t as intense as the other gym classes.

“I think yoga is really relaxing,” Katie said, “and that’s more my thing rather than [being] super active or running around.”

Yoga is a great alternative to other strenuous activities if in order to get your body its much-needed exercise. Sophomore Mackenzie Roy also feels like the class isn’t very physically demanding. 

“I’m a dancer, so I’m really flexible,” Mackenzie said, “but you really don’t need to be that flexible, honestly.” 

The class—while improving fitness—doesn’t require much of it, but that’s not Mackenzie’s favorite part of the class. Instead, it’s the end when they lie down, with the lights off, for 10 to 15 minutes in meditation.

“Me personally, I just take a nap,” Mackenzie said, “and it’s the best part–just getting to relax, think through your day, just [lying] there.”

For Katie, the end of the class is the stress-relieving remedy that she needs as well.

“Just laying down and being able to relieve my stress [is the best part] because it’s right in the middle of my day,” Katie said. “Sometimes, I can get a little flustered, so it really calms me down.”

In fact, the biggest impact yoga has had on Katie is the relaxation it provides.

“[Yoga has] really helped me,” Katie said, “and honestly, I didn’t think it would, but it’s very beneficial for everything.”

With similar sentiments, Mackenzie also enjoys the class’ instructor, teacher Stacy Steensma. 

“The teacher is so nice; I love her,” Mackenzie said. “She understands that students can be stressed, and her personality is my favorite thing; she’s super sweet, super understanding, very chill and laid-back, and she’s overall one of my favorite teachers.”

Steensma started teaching yoga when she was pregnant as an alternative to running, lifting, or other strenuous activities, but quickly, she found the other perks to it.

I got addicted to yoga because it helps you de-stress, it helps you sleep better, and it improves your flexibility.

— Stacy Steensma

“I got addicted to yoga because it helps you de-stress, it helps you sleep better, and it improves your flexibility,” Steensma said. “After practicing it myself, I thought teenagers would really benefit from this. If I would’ve learned how to do this as a 15, 16, 17 year-old person, then I think I would really benefit a lot from it physically and mentally.”

Steensma also teaches yoga at Cascade Yoga Studio and physical education at Central Woodlands. Not only that, she, herself, is a student and goes to a studio at least five times a week.

With all of her experience, Steensma hopes that her teaching “transitions to off the mat, meaning in your everyday life.” A huge part of yoga is the stress-relieving factor, so during virtual learning, Steensma has been sending her students guided meditations. Though they are only a few minutes long, they have a big impact on students.

“I love it when, for people, it finally clicks,” Steensma said. “When you read that reflection, and you just know that it’s yoga. When you read these reflections after a short meditation practice how somebody, when they woke up, they were really stressed out, but then after sitting still and thinking about their breath for 5 minutes, they felt reset and rebooted for the day. I love those moments, and they happen very often.”

While meditation is repeated in every class, each day is not the same. The week starts off with Massage Monday. Currently, they are using tennis balls wrapped in athletic tape to work up and down their spine for a nice massage. Touch Your Toes Tuesday is all about stretching out the hamstrings and the hips with yoga straps. On Wall Yoga Wednesday, the class uses the wall as a prop, leaning against it to get their stretch in. Throwback Thursday may suggest some snazzy eighties outfits, but this day is full of twisting and concentrating on the back. To top the week off, Feel Good Friday is a day for just feeling good. The class will typically go to the lower bowl or for a nature walk when the weather is nice.

With a packed schedule, the school’s yoga class is appealing on many different levels.

“[Yoga is important for] becoming more flexible and helping back pain,” Steensma said. “So many people have lots of shoulder pain because of holding backpacks or shoulder pain because of stress because that’s just what happens: you draw your shoulders up to your ears, so it teaches you to relax.”

Luckily, this class is offered to all high school students at FHC except freshmen, though this is not without warrant.

“I think it takes a certain amount of maturity to be able to really concentrate,” Steensma said. “There’s a lot of growth that happens emotionally, socially, and even spiritually from being a freshman to a senior.”

Fundamentally, yoga is about de-stressing and relaxing, something Katie and Mackenzie have discovered through this class, but also, it has the power to change anyone for the better.

“You’re able to just show up better,” Steensma said. “[If you] focus in and recenter on your breath, you’re able to be a better student. You’re able to be a whatever-hat-that-you-wear. You’re emotionally more balanced, so you can show up better. I recommend [yoga] to any human being. It makes you a better person. I have no doubt that I have become a better teacher, a better person, a better mom, and a better friend because of yoga.”