Yoga for Teens Gives Physical and Mental Flexibility
Few would argue that Oklahoma loves competitive sports. From the start of summer football camps through basketball and on into baseball, fields, courts and diamonds are full of student athletes. Drive down any highway on a Saturday morning to see soccer fields teeming with young athletes. We love sports.
Sarah Hancock Thomas, however, wondered about those kids who may not be athletically inclined, so she started Attic Conversations. She was working as a mentor at Street School and decided to invite a group of female students to her attic for some yoga and meditation. Two school counselors attended these attic conversations as well. From there, Thomas has taken her yoga program into Phoenix Rising and the Detention Center as well. Her work, until now, has been with “at-hope” kids, but Thomas hopes to take her work to middle schools and high schools across Green Country.
“The idea started with conversations in my attic. It was all about empowerment,” Thomas said. “We chose a theme centered around that and created a space for each other. It sounds cheesy, but it’s beautiful.”
The students in her program talk about nutrition, forgiveness, community, relationships and healthy choices.
At one session, a group of 10 girls and the counselors were sharing their ideas on forgiveness. A girl who had never participated in the discussion spoke up at the end of the session to share a powerful story about loss in her life.
“We just let her talk,” Thomas said. “She felt safe enough, and we didn’t have to give advice.”
The next component to the program, Thomas explained, is guiding participants to take an active role in their lives and in their decisions.
“We’re not about taking a victim’s path,” she said.
Her program isn’t just for sitting around and sharing the deepest, darkest feelings, though. Thomas has worked with the East Central football team and the Cascia Hall soccer team.
“It’s hard to be in high school and not be an athlete,” she said, “but students still need a physical component.”
According to Thomas, yoga helps with “meditation, flexibility, concentration and can help with the anxiety of test-taking.” So athletes who practice yoga are able to relax before games and with increased flexibility are less likely to sustain injuries.
Yoga is different from other athletic practices in that it is not competitive. There is no winning or losing. Students set goals and work to achieve them, but for many students, this lack of competition is attractive because there is no attendant pressure to perform.
Thomas is now part-owner of 306 Phoenix House, a community center in downtown Tulsa. She uses the space for her sessions with Street School, but also offers low-cost yoga classes.
Thomas is certified in teen yoga. She offers private, individual lessons as well as group classes. Donations of yoga clothes have filled her car and studio with enough lycra to suit up the girls who may not have the funds for something comfortable to wear while practicing, and she brings her own mats and props when she visits schools. Homeschoolers may have an option soon to work with her as well.
She can be found at atticconversations.org* .
*2020 Update: https://humblewarriorcollective.org/