Suburban school subs yoga, meditation for traditional PE activities amid pandemic

One suburban school is trying to help students tackle tension amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockport Township High School is helping students find balance.

"I’ve learned I need to breathe and relax. I know my mom has told me that for years, but I guess I finally listened when my teacher told me," said Anise Puckett, who is a senior at Lockport Township.

Mindfulness is now part of the curriculum at this southwest suburban school.

Yoga and meditation take the place of dodgeball and traditional PE activities, which can't happen because of COVID-19.

"Due to not being able to get dressed, you know, kids can’t use equipment…things like that. So in place, we are adding this in at least once a week, sometimes twice or more if it's possible," said Julie Rolston, a PE teacher at Lockport Township.

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Rolston says she and her fellow PE teachers were trained in social and emotional learning.

While some schools have stopped having gym class all together, teachers at Lockport Township now help students pinpoint where they hold their stress and how to let it go.

"They just really like the opportunity to unwind. They don’t get to do that so often throughout the day especially, and they're learning the tools for future use too," said Rolston.


For Puckett and other students, this started with tuning into that tension.

"One of the key things we all saw, we’re all stressed from COVID," said Puckett.

That stress has contributed to alarming levels of anxiety and depression among high school students, even rising suicide rates since the pandemic began.

"I just didn’t really feel like I had support at first, just ‘cause no one really had support at first. No one was ready. Everyone was unprepared," said Puckett.

Now, a round of chair yoga can help mentally prepare her for the day.

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For teens still learning remotely part of the week, these classes give the rare chance to move, connect and maybe even have fun.

The program is designed to stretch beyond PE class and give teens strategies to cope with their next stressful test, or to find a way to breathe even when the world seems a bit suffocating.