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Stretching for credits

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 11, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The rowdy basketball game taking place below the fitness studio at Sir John Franklin High School is seemingly drowned out as about eight students close their eyes, take deep breaths and shift their bodies seamlessly into yoga poses.

NNSL photo/graphic

Billy-Joe Morales concentrates on her poses during a Yoga for Wellness class at Sir John Franklin High School on Wednesday. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

The school is the first in the NWT to offer Yoga for Wellness as an accredited course. It is designed to introduce students to basic postures, breathing techniques and relaxation methods.

Grade 9 student Jessica Phillips said after the 85-minute class, she loves feeling relaxed.

"When you're doing it, you feel like you're a million miles away from everybody. All you hear is breathing," she said.

Billy-Joe Morales is taking two of the three yoga courses offered, the 25 and 35 levels. Each of the three levels become increasingly advanced in terms of expectations. She said when applying to universities, a yoga course gives an application something extra.

"It speaks to your interests more and they can see what you took in your spare time," she said.

"It's really relaxing. It's good for the whole body."

Maureen Tonge, a certified yoga instructor and teacher at the high school, said it was a four-year process getting the course certified. Before this year, yoga was solely offered as a credit toward "special projects."

Just before second semester began, the course was approved as a locally developed program within the NWT by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Tonge said the process of applying for the course to be recognized as a locally developed course took a lot of time and effort.

"You fill out a template identifying what the general outcomes are, the specific outcomes of the course, how you're going to assess it and your purpose of offering the course," she said.

Currently, there are 20 students in yoga classes from Grade 9 to 12.

Participants in the course are evaluated on effort and participation, student journals and presentations. The journals are made up of self-reflection both before and after the yoga session.

"Basically we just do a little self-reflection on 'How am I feeling today, physically, mentally and emotionally?" said Tonge.

"The benefits are innumerable. It allows them to deal with the stress in their lives far more efficiently and effectively. Stress at home or at school or with their part-time jobs or relationships, they're just really able to have a little bit of a different perspective," she said.

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