New yoga class helps students focus on studies

LYFORD — Like many high school juniors, Destiny Romo was stressed out.

At Lyford High School, she was striving to pull straight A’s.

And after school, she was working at Whataburger.

“I was stressed out and tired,” Romo, 16, said last week.

Then she took a class that’s changing her life.

This year, the school district became the first in Willacy County to offer “Move Mindfully,” a class based on yoga, the ancient discipline that originated in India.

“It’s given me more energy to do more work and get better grades,” Romo said. “It’s helped me focus and concentrate more on my studies.”

And the class has helped her learn to deal with stress.

“It’s helped me a lot with a lot of things,” Romo said. “It’s made me more relaxed. It’s given me more time to think to myself, not think about other things at the moment. Before, I’d get frustrated with low grades and get mad. Now I just do some stretches and just breathe it out — just relax and focus on myself.”

This year, Bibiana Bernal used a $5,000 grant from the Texas Department of Health to launch the class.

“Student stress levels are higher than people realize,” Bernal, the school’s nurse, said. “We thought if we could reduce stress, they’d be more successful.”

Early in the semester, Soledad Garza asked Romo, Haley Rodriguez and six other students if they’d like to take part in the class.

“I teach them how to breathe and relax through the ups and downs of the school day,” said Garza, a school counselor who leads the classes. “Relaxation helps them focus better on academics and be more successful.”

During the daily 25-minute classes, the students perform about 10 yoga stretches while focusing on their breath.

“The breathing and movements help them relax,” Garza said. “Being more focused on breathing helps them bring more oxygen into their bodies to help them think better. As you move, you get more oxygen and that makes you more energized and helps you focus.”

Like Bernal, Garza’s seen the class change her students.

“It helps them manage their stress,” Garza said. “The students seem more energized, more awake — or if they come in more energized and all over the place, it helps them focus.”

Like other students, Haley Rodriguez is becoming more deeply involved in yoga.

“It means a lot now,” said Rodriguez, 14, a freshman. “Every time I’d have a test, I stressed. But when I do yoga, it takes my mind away from it. It kind of calms you down. It’s really healthy.”

Now, after school she’s practicing at home.

“I’m getting more into it, trying more stretches, spreading the word to other students so they can join,” Rodriguez said.

At school, the class is becoming a big hit.

“It’s being well received. We’re excited about that,” Bernal said. “The students are talking about the yoga classes and how it’s so cool.”