Pine-Richland offers Mind Body Balance group

April 5, 2018

Pine-Richland High School students and staff members have a new set of options for improving both mental and physical health thanks to the recently created Mind Body Balance group.

The after-school program, which was awarded a grant from the Pine-Richland Opportunities Fund (PROF), offers yoga, kickboxing and meditation to help both students and faculty unwind at the end of the day. It is the brainchild of AP psychology teacher Matt Roberts.

“We have various measures in place as far as identifying students who are at risk (for issues with stress and anxiety) but what we didn’t have were any specific programs in place that were preventative measures, protective measures,” he said. “It occurred to me that we need something to help students learn how to manage their stress and alleviate anxiety. I approached the guidance counselors with the idea for a club that would focus on health and mental health through physical activity, and that’s how it got started.”

Roberts was already familiar with the mental and physical benefits of activities such as yoga, meditation and martial arts not only through his own studies but also through his own practice. Along with a group of three student leaders, they came up with a plan to teach yoga on Mondays, fitness kickboxing on Tuesdays, mindfulness, stress reduction and meditation on Wednesdays and open gym on Thursdays, where students can participate in any of the practices. It’s a come-as-you-will, drop-in program and both students and staff members are welcome to attend.

Roberts said the group started off small but is growing, and the kids who come seem to enjoy coming back.

“They seem to find it beneficial, and there’s been a pretty good response so far,” he said. “We’re still trying to get the word out. We’ve also had some teachers come. One goal is to be just a bunch of humans in a room together. Leave your cellphones at the door and just come in and be present in the moment. This is a chance at the end of the day to get yourself back to center and leave everything behind for 45 minutes or so.”

PROF, which provides financial assistance to district administration and staff members for projects that enhance the student experience, awarded Roberts and the club a grant of about $1,200 to buy yoga mats, boxing gloves, punching bags and other equipment.

Executive Director Deborah Lund said awarding the grant was a no-brainer because of how well the program ties in to the efforts of the school district to promote overall wellness.

“One of the goals they have for this is to encourage all staff and students to participate in beneficial physical and mental activities and help students, especially those who are at risk for anxiety, to help build some protective factors and develop resiliency,” Lund said. “That directly aligns with the grant committee’s desire to assist in innovative instruction that enhances student development and staff engagement.”

Roberts said that through mindfulness and other similar activities students can learn where their anxiety is coming from and how to let it go.

“A lot of times we rush through life feeling stress and anxiety and don’t know exactly why or what to do about it,” he said. “This gives students an opportunity to identify stress and have an outlet for it.”

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.