New elective finishing up its first term at Notre Dame Prep also designed to allow the God-given "light and talents" of students to shine brightly.
Mind and Body Wellness, which is a new elective class first offered during this current term, is wrapping up a successful debut at Notre Dame Prep. According to Bobbie Hall, co-chair of Notre Dame's health and physical education department, the class is a physical activity-based class designed to help students improve not only their physical health, but to also give them an opportunity to learn and practice to improve their mental and spiritual health.
"Yoga is our main source of physical activity in the class," Hall said. "I also bring in quotes and themes for students to think about as they learn to breath and let go of anything that is a distraction to their practice in the moment. I really try to help the students learn to let go of their insecurities and expectations and to just be present on their mat. I tell them that they are a creation of God and He has given them so many talents. Their purpose in life is to use those talents to the best of their abilities each day to better themselves with the purpose of serving others."
The class came about a year and a half ago when Notre Dame Prep Principal Fr. Joe Hindelang, s.m., asked the school's various academic department chairs to come up with a list of elective classes they might like to offer within their departments. At the time, Notre Dame athletic director and health and physical education department co-chair Betty Wroubel and Hall both felt very strongly about offering a team sports class and yoga.
The yoga class also fits perfectly with one of Head of School Andy Guest's three main priorities for Notre Dame that he shared with parents and students at the beginning of the school year: the health and wellness of the student body.
"The intention behind yoga was that it is yet another way for students who don't generally gravitate towards sports to continue taking PE classes throughout their high school career," Hall said. "Much to our pleasant surprise, Fr. Joe also had yoga on his list of classes he thought our students would like to take."
Hindelang sent out a survey with the compiled list of proposed elective classes to the student body and there was an overwhelming amount of support for both yoga and team sports to become classes. Hall said the survey definitely confirmed that Notre Dame students needed another physical outlet during the day.
"Christian yoga" is the main form of practice during the yoga class, according to Hall. She says the goal during yoga is to challenge oneself physically, but not to feel overwhelmed. At this "edge," she said, the focus is on breath while the mind is accepting and calm.
"The time the kids get in our yoga class is time for them to turn inward with the intention of allowing the light and talents God gave them to shine brightly, judgement-free," Hall said. "It's about learning to be accepting of the beautiful self that God created us to be. When we learn to block out distractions and insecurities, we allow room for acceptance and to acknowledge God's love for us. This skill can translate into other areas of their lives in dealing with adversity or other challenges. As I went through my yoga teacher training, I realized how much more yoga is than just physical. It's about breathing: the breath leads the movement and the breath quiets and controls the mind."
Many of the students taking the class find it to be the most peaceful and relaxing part of their day. Two seniors who were in the class, Brooke Kelly and Erin Patterson, said that doing yoga at the beginning of the school day allowed them to reflect and clear their heads and it improved their overall mood for the day. The focus of the class is on stretching, breathing and mindfulness that gives students a break from their usual pace, social media and screen time.
Another senior, Sarah Avery, said the class taught her that the skills and practices from the class are meant to be carried over into other parts of life and to be developed into lifelong habits. Classmate Natalie Uhazie said that yoga has taught her to see the positive side of things. "I cannot always control what happens, but I can control how I react to it," she said.
Hall adds that Notre Dame is including a yoga elective for seventh- and eighth-grade students beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
"Jessica Yauch [middle school counselor] and I went through yoga teacher training together this past fall and will be the teachers for the middle-school students next year," Hall said. She also said that as the yoga class expands they will be looking to hold it in a larger room than where they currently hold it.
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About Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's lower and middle schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. Notre Dame is an International Baccalaureate "World School" and is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers. It is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org