FLINT TWP. — While fellow students were sharpening No.. 2 pencils and reviewing practice exams to prepare for MME/ACT testing this week, one group of Carman-Ainsworth students added an extra tool to their test-taking arsenal.
The Friday after-school Yoga Club have been meeting since the beginning of the year, but instructor, Carrie Mattern, a CAHS English teacher and yoga practitioner, added an extra Monday session this week on the eve of the three-day testing period.
“For some of our kids, it helps prepare them,’’ she said of the detoxing and destressing exercises the group worked on.
Yoga on Fridays already was a change of pace for many students who had ACT prep classes daily after school on Mondays through Thursdays, Mattern said.
At the Friday session, Mattern introduced Hatha Yoga that encourages physical practice incorporating more poses for shorter amounts of time and less flow between each pose. It differed from the flowing routine of Vinyasa yoga that students were accustomed to.
The foundation of Yoga resides in controlled breathing, Mattern said.
Students learned the fundamentals of breathing in the beginning of yoga classes.
“Ridding of tension is what the breathing techniques will help them with most on test day,” Mattern said.
She also teaches stretches the students can do during the 10-15 breaks they got on test days.
Kathleen Lage, another participating teacher added: “Any activity that teaches calming and focus is good for learning. Yoga is a way to channel positive thoughts and energy. It is good for physical conditioning; it is not easy. To do yoga well, one must focus intently.”
The Michigan Merit Examination (MME), given each March, consists of three parts: The ACT Plus Writing college entrance examination which is required by many colleges; a WorkKeys job skills assessments in reading, mathematics, and locating information; and state-developed assessments in mathematics, science, and social studies.
With so much of their future riding on the outcome of the standardized tests, it is no wonder that students’ anxiety and stress levels can be high.
Mattern designed the Friday and Monday yoga practices with the intent of mental, emotional and physical balancing.
“Many of the students were challenged mentally all week, and some even emotionally,’’ she said. “Adding physical challenges are also important to incorporate a confident, capable outlook in our daily lives. I also wanted some of the juniors to be able to work out some of the stress they have been dealing with in preparing for the ACT.” The lessons extend beyond MME/ACT preparation.
The Yoga group will continue to meet though June, with another special emphasis on final exam week when stressors can intensify. Teachers also attend the yoga practices including one who is a certified yoga instructor.
Student feedback has been positive.
One student, who also practices martial arts, said the class helps balance his physical workout with a more mental approach.
Another said the class gives him something to look forward to each week, especially when he starts to stress out in class.
“I always tell my students to just breathe when they get frustrated, and I urge the ones who seem to have the most troubles to come and try yoga just once,” Mattern said. “ If they do come, they are back week after week.”
Mattern said that community yoga centers have been a source of inspiration and help. Ethos Yoga in Holly and the Center for Yoga in West Bloomfield donated yoga mats for the students to use. Students have expressed interest in attending yoga workshops being planned by a yoga studio this spring.
“Our hope is that anxiety reduces in terms of tests/work etc. This should also be a great way to impact and build upon emotional intelligence. I have been told of publications that have suggested yoga increases mind power and clarity of thought in school children,’’ said Bobbi Jo Lowe, a CAHS counselor.