‘Ready for life’ | TheUnion.com

‘Ready for life’

"I feel peaceful and ready to sleep."

"I feel relaxed and not worried about anything."

"I feel warm, relaxed and ready for life."

Those were a sampling of the answers Wendy Beesley got when she asked her yoga students — girls ages 8 to 12 — how they felt after "Shine," their weekly class at the Full Life Yoga Studio in Nevada City.

A credentialed, 16-year school teacher who has been practicing yoga for the past 13 years, Beesley was asked by studio owner and instructor Elke Brown if she was interested in teaching a yoga class for girls. Beesley said she jumped at the chance, as it was the perfect integration of her two passions — yoga and working with children.

"Yoga transformed my life — over the years it's helped me to feel calmer, more grounded, and I've become much more available to help others," she said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to share what I've learned with younger students. Through yoga, it's my hope to provide children with skills that transfer directly into their lives such as their experiences at school or their relationships with friends and family members."

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Over the past several decades, countless studies have emerged in support of the benefits of yoga when it comes to stress reduction, anger management, self-esteem and increased focus, strength and agility. Research gathered from prisons, veterans, those struggling with mental illness and others all back up the claim that yoga can benefit an individual's general well-being.

Yet more recent research is confirming what Beesley already knew — that the benefits of yoga can be far-reaching for young people.

A 2003 study at California State University, Los Angeles found that yoga helped urban students in grades K-8 to "improve their attitudes toward themselves." At the end of the year, overall the 405 students in the study had fewer discipline referrals, were rated more physically fit and performed better academically when they diligently practiced yoga.

Yoga classes are also a safe, non-competitive physical outlet for girls coming into their teen years, said Beesley, as their bodies undergo dramatic changes, as do their peer relationships.

At a time when teens and pre-teens have a tendency to "disconnect," the practice of yoga allows for much-needed introspection, she said.

"Yoga allows these girls to take time to honor themselves and gain insight to the strengths and limitations of their being," said Beesley. "Gaining concentration and control over their emotions permeates beyond the mat to the family, friendships, doing well in school and beyond."

Brown, Beesley's longtime yoga instructor, agrees.

"When my daughter was 11, I searched unsuccessfully for a yoga and movement class that would introduce her to the field of yoga in a manner that integrated its principles with fun and lightheartedness," Brown said. "I watched Wendy weave her way through my classes while continuously deepening her yoga practice over the past five years and completing an in-depth yoga teacher training. I had finally found a teacher who would craft a positive environment and imbue the fundamentals of yoga in a youth class for girls. In a world that is obsessed with body image — which most of us don't live up to — it takes a very special person with just the right blend of work, life, and yoga experience to teach a playful, exploratory, and focused class that allows girls to embrace their ever changing bodies and make them feel at home in the body. Wendy brings all those qualities and passion to her teaching, making her a fantastic role model for her students."

 Beesley stresses that her classes have a generous dose of fun and playfulness thrown in — an ingredient she considers essential after many years of teaching.

"The class is named 'Shine' because it reflects the inner light in all of us that is brought to the surface when we practice yoga," she said. "Yoga is like having a problem-solving tool box that you carry and call upon for support. This allows these kids to control and navigate their busy lives with grace and ease. While I may guide them to discover their inner truths, they're really guiding me on how to best instruct them. It's very rewarding to be the recipient of their love and be a part of their self-growth and development."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cfisher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.