Relaxed, calm, and focused: for a group of Upper School Ashley Hall students, yoga class helps them to begin their day in balance and stress-free. “This class is a perfect way to shape up physically and mentally, and it also complements any fitness regime,” noted instructor Sherry Donoho. “The goal of Ashley Hall yoga is to make students strong, centered, and self-aware. This energizing yoga practice helps students feel invigorated and sets them up for a productive day.”

Offered as a semester-long physical education/wellness elective, yoga class meets first thing in the morning either in Burgess Auditorium or outside around campus. For many students, the chance to exercise while gaining added mental benefits is a definite draw. “I wanted to feel more calm and relaxed for the new year,” said Rylan Kane ’24, who shared that she enjoys pushing herself and learning new yoga poses. “It definitely makes me feel more balanced when managing schoolwork and keeps me calm and ready.”

After a warmup and step-by-step checkup to ensure everyone is performing their moves correctly, Donoho begins the class. “I show them how to move skillfully into downward facing dog, simple crossed leg positions, plank, warrior positions, and many more poses,” she said. “I give options to follow modified moves depending on the student’s ability. We finish class with mindfulness techniques.” 

Her students particularly appreciate gaining the ability to minimize stress. “Yoga has helped me learn how to control what goes on inside my head and how to focus on things like breathing,” said Riley Street ’24. “I am able to focus a lot better during the school day when I have had yoga that morning. When we are in yoga, we learn to breathe and take time to focus on ourselves. It has made it easier to learn when I am not stressing about what I have in the next class.”

Donoho also ensures the class is physically challenging. “Physically, it takes a lot of effort to be balanced and do positions,” Mary Ella Prendergast ’23 pointed out. “I think my favorite thing about yoga is learning new positions every day and working toward harder positions.” For Street, yoga has helped her discover a new athleticism. “I went into yoga thinking that it wouldn’t be as hard as running around in P.E., but I was very wrong,” she noted. “I started out not being able to balance hardly at all, but as the class went on, I have made my muscles both stronger and flexible, so now I am able to do a ton of new poses. Yoga will push you so hard and make you so much stronger.”

Combined, the mental and physical benefits of yoga help Ashley Hall students strike the perfect balance.