Striking poses

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Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 12:00 am

Today’s high school experience is a workaday world full of homework and standardized tests and jobs and Facebook and football games.

In short, it’s a perfect preparation for the inaptly termed “real world.”

So at 14, 15, 16, 17 — how do you deal?

At Ralston High School, a group of students and faculty are doing so in a new old way.

Yoga Club at the school meets every Thursday between 4 and 5 p.m., in Dene Oglesby’s classroom. And from there, the tensions of the twittering world fall away to a condition of complete simplicity.

“I love yoga,” said Katie McNerney, a senior at RHS who is in her first year practicing the ancient South Asian discipline. “It’s the only exercise I like. You don’t have to do much movement and the stress just goes away.”

Oglesby, who has been practicing yoga since 2000, said that’s been the overwhelming reaction from those who have stepped through her door.

“We try to keep it pretty casual,” said Oglesby, a first-year French teacher at RHS who is known to students as Madame O. “Most people haven’t tried yoga before and so we keep it mostly for beginners.”

Oglesby is a certified yoga instructor with experience teaching classes in Lincoln, where she managed the Lincoln Yoga Center and also provided instruction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and local YMCAs, teaching a vast spectrum of practitioners from the 90-year-old newbie to the expectant mother to the seasoned veteran and athletes looking for another form of conditioning.

Since discovering their French teacher was also a practiced hand at yoga, students had been pressing Oglesby to start a club dedicated to the art.

Sophomore Shekinah Kiagiri was one of those early advocates.

“I started doing some yoga in sixth grade,” she said. “It’s great to have it now and Madame O is such a great teacher. I think we all have a lot of fun and learn a lot about it. We had a lot of people in those first few classes.”

The RHS Yoga Club started in January with more than two dozen members.

Since then, attendance has fallen off, largely due to the advent of the spring sports season. Still, club meetings have a dedicated following and a core group of four to six people who come on a weekly basis.

Jocie Lustgraaf, a junior, said she largely practices yoga at home, but also appreciates there’s a new opportunity at school to learn new elements of yoga. Oglesby, Lustgraaf said, is the right teacher to raise interest in the practice.

“Madame O is just a great person overall,” she said. “We can learn a lot from her, not just in yoga.”

The club is embarking upon a membership drive in the remaining weeks of the school year and hopes to have a solid footing when school is back in session in the fall. If possible in the future, the club may open its sessions up to the wider Ralston community.

“Just come to Yoga Club and check it out,” Kiagiri said. “You don’t need to bring anything but yourself.”

Even the mats are provided, Oglesby said, thanks to a $150 grant from the Ralston Optimists.

Each club session typically begins with a mini-lesson on yoga’s history and philosophy, the story behind certain poses the club will try in that session.

From there, Oglesby works with general yoga poses and also imparts techniques on mindfulness and meditation.

“Turn off and tune in,” Oglesby said. “I want to help give them the tools to manage their own minds and incorporate those techniques into their daily lives.”

As yoga is meant to be a de-stressing practice, Oglesby said the club is a place of welcoming and acceptance. She said she hopes to soon see a roomful of RHS students and staff joining in the poses together and getting the most out of it.

“It’s another way of thinking about our minds, how we relate to ourselves, spiritually, mentally, physically,” Oglesby said.

“People are coming here to de-stress and I want them to feel exactly that. Teaching and going to any high school is stressful. It’s nice to have something to help with that stress.”

The Yoga Club has a Facebook page, RHS Yoga Club, where more information is available about group activities and yoga in general.

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