Say “Omm” – Or Perhaps “Yumm”?
Arena Alternative High School Students Enjoy Yoga and Healthy Eating
El Segundo, CA – May 17, 2012 – Anyone familiar with Arena Alternative High School, located adjacent to the baseball field and smack up against the ESUSD Board Room, would undoubtedly notice a distinct change morphing over the landscape in the past 12 months. Shadows cast by towering sunflowers twisting brown faces toward the sun jag across the lawn, while fist-sized artichokes spike through thick foliage in the Arena garden, as a bevy of busy students tend their patch of fertile soil spawning carrots, bok-choy, lettuce, chili peppers, sweet peas, shallots, kale and other exotic vegetables thriving from tender loving care.
While this luxurious edible garden accentuates the curriculum, not to mention the aesthetics of Arena, the sound of “omm” drifting from inside the Board room on Mondays lends a certain air of pensive contemplation. This is thanks to “artist in residence” Shelley Williams as she puts students through the paces of a yoga class, teaching students how to breathe, relax, and meditate, while challenging them to push beyond not just their physical limits but to also explore what’s going on within themselves that could be stopping them from reaching their full potential.
“I am so proud of these students,” Williams comments, as she moves purposefully around the room, straightening a leg, pushing down on a small of a back, aligning a shoulder as she encourages the budding yogis to grow their practice.
Ron Roebuck, one of the two instructors at Arena with fellow teacher Gene Williams (who happens to be married to Shelley) thinks yoga brings a lot to their students. “What’s amazing to me is the synergy between kids growing food in their own garden while learning about nutrition – and patience,” he adds with a laugh, “and also slowing down enough in their lives to practice yoga and do the reflection required to get good at it.”
Gene Williams obviously concurs with his teaching partner, and was instrumental in supporting Shelley’s idea to design a field trip around these two electives. “Shelley came to me and said, as a yoga instructor at YogaWorks, she would like to explore getting the kids a pass to come to one of the classes she teaches at YogaWorks so they could practice yoga in a professional setting. Once we started talking about how great that would be, she said wouldn’t it be fun if after yoga they could also enjoy a healthy lunch at Veggie Grill.”
So thanks to the generosity of Manager Kevin Elliott at the YogaWorks El Segundo Plaza, along with the meals provided gratis by Manager Alex Gama at the Veggie Grill in the Plaza, seven intrepid students, along with Gene and Shelley Williams, and Arena Principal Janice Hickey, threw down yoga mats for a grueling 90 minute session of innumerable “down dogs” spurred on by the carrot of a delicious lunch at neighboring Veggie Grill after all the sweat and hard work.
As to whether the field trip and the gardening and yoga classes themselves are positive additions to the curriculum, Sophomore Carlina Rebeiro commented, “They’re keeping me toned and stretched out for soccer, as well as giving me much more patience than I ever had before.” Fellow Sophomore Christopher Gomez also voiced a great appreciation for making the excursion to YogaWorks to practice alongside fellow South Bay yogis but for a slightly different reason. “I liked being in a class with a lot of girls. It was pretty awesome.”
Who can argue with that?