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Capital Region educators learn yoga to help students

Capital Region educators learn yoga to help students

The Baptiste Foundation teaches yoga, breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques to those who work with young people
Capital Region educators learn yoga to help students
Allie Nunzio teaches an all day yoga class at the Niskayuna Recreation Center on Aqueduct Road.

NISKAYUNA — Nearly 40 people gathered on yoga mats Saturday morning at the Niskayuna Community Center on Aqueduct Road. 

They were participating in the #Unstoppable program by the Baptiste Foundation, a nationwide training for those who work with youth. 

Participants are taught basic yoga poses, breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques to pass along to young people. 

Ann Marie McManus, assistant principal at Guilderland High School, was told about Saturday's training by her colleague, business teacher Sarah Hubbard.

"The message of the training is about building inner strength in youth as well as the practice of reflection and empowerment," she said. "With all the pressures that today's youth face, this is a tool they can use."

McManus, a former social studies teacher, said as a school administrator she's counseling students more than she was in the classroom. 

"Kids are dealing with self harm and struggles at home," she said. "The practice of yoga helps us look within ourselves and find our own strength to get through obstacles, and I'm hoping to pass this tool along to them."
Saturday's training, McManus said, wasn't only for herself.

"I'm going to bring back the resources, tools and conversations I learned here to the staff," she said. 
Hubbard, who has practiced yoga for nearly five years, said the Baptiste Foundation is special because of the tools they give those working with youth. 

"Yoga is a huge part of mental health," she said. "You can have a safe school, but a child's mental health is also important."

Hubbard said she's noticed more youth taking yoga classes including several sports teams at Guilderland High School. 

"I often have conversations with kids about what they do to relieve stress and a lot of them say yoga," she said. "I want everyone to get into it."

The training was hosted by Power Yoga New York on Consaul Road in Schenectady. 

Owner Rocky Parisi said with kids battling things like bullying and stress, empowering educators and those who work with youth is vital. 

"Kids today are constantly being bombarded with different stressors," she said. "We want to give those who work with youth the tools and strategies to extend something to the kids in order to regain control and stability.

"This is something so simple and it doesn't take a ton of money to make it happen."

Parisi said she hopes yoga seeps into schools across the country. 

"Let's integrate it into curriculum in schools, so we all can benefit from it," she said. "I hope it'll plant seeds in districts and that it blossoms into another program to keep this momentum going."

Kathy Fuller, a career and technical education teacher in the Troy City School District, said she decided to attend the training in order to try something new. 

"Being open is what drew me here," she said. "Students come from all walks of life and must be willing to try new things too."

Fuller said she recently returned to the classroom after 14 years as a result of taking care of her father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. 

"I want to be a better teacher by teaching my students to be open and mindful," Fuller said. "It's all about being present in the moment, calming yourself and putting stuff aside, and yoga helps with that."

Jen Cohen, an English as a new language teacher at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School, said she hopes to use yoga to help her students. 

"With the language barrier, yoga could help them physically learn to communicate," she said. "My students can use this as a helpful practice during a stressful time.

"I want to help them embrace self-care and know that they can overcome any challenge they face."

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