WATSONVILLE — Every day at New School Community Day School, students can leave behind their worries and stress, if only for an hour.
That happens during yoga, a class that includes a meditation component.
For the class, intervention teacher Emily Halbig pushes the furniture aside in the school’s multi-purpose room, plays soft music and turns out the lights.
Students then spread out yoga mats and go through a series of poses.
The class started as an alternative to higher-impact PE offerings such as basketball, but it has since evolved, Halbig said.
“It gives them something even more important,” she said. “It helps them lose stress, and that’s a skill they can use throughout their lives.”
Halbig’s students join a growing number of schools nationwide that are adopting yoga and meditation into their daily routines, which experts say has multiple benefits.
A 2016 study by the National Institutes of Health showed that 1.7 million students did some form of yoga in 2012, an increase of 429,000 from a half-decade before.
According to a 2016 study by Bethany Butzer of Harvard Medical School, adding yoga to the school curriculum can help students develop self-regulation, mind-body awareness and improve health.
According to Marilyn Wei of Harvard Medical School, yoga can also improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and can reduce anxiety and stress in children.
Experts say this can lead to better behavior and reduce the need for punitive measures such as detention, suspension and expulsion.
Halbig said she models the class after yoga classes she takes at her gym.
Esmeralda Garcia, 18, described the class as “calming.”
“It helps me forget stuff,” she said. “If you have problems, for like a moment you can forget them.”
Diana Tellez, 15, said the class is her first experience with yoga.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “We get to put all the classes aside and just focus.”
New School principal Artemisa Cortez said the relaxation offered by the class can benefit students with anger management issues. It also offers physical conditioning for athletes, she said.
“It’s a good way to slow down the students and let them reflect,” she said. “We’re grateful that Ms. Halbig is doing it.”