By ASHLEY RANAN – Original Source
Inside a converted storage room at Western High School is a freshly painted mural that reads, “It matters little what lies in the past or even what lies ahead. What matters most is what lies within.”
Created by Las Vegas artist D2, the mural was the finishing touch to the new yoga room at the school, 4601 W. Bonanza Road, and speaks to the use of the space: It is dedicated to at-risk students as well as those who have experienced a crisis in their lives.
“Unfortunately, if you look within a 2- or 3-mile radius of Western, of how many athletic gyms there are — how many fitness centers, yoga, CrossFit? — there’s very few,” said Dana Crowley, the school’s dean of students-athletics. “So why not bring these opportunities here on campus for our kids to do for free? If we know a kid has experienced trauma or a crisis in their lives, we’re just gonna put it out there that here’s another option for you, instead of these kids going towards violence or drugs or any other outlet like that.”
The transformed space at Western was initially converted into a CrossFit room. Now, thanks to a partnership with the Las Vegas-based nonprofit Create a Change Now and athletic apparal retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., the space holds even more purpose.
Create a Change Now works with at-risk students in Clark County to introduce them to a positive and healthy relationship with food. Last spring, Crowley met with the nonprofit’s executive director, Melissa Blynn, who is also a Western High alumna, which led to the school’s connection with Lululemon.
“They (Lululemon) wanted to do something in the community, and we had been talking about our old storage room, which we’ve turned into a CrossFit room,” Crowley said.
After months of preparation between the three groups, the outcome couldn’t have been more of a success, Crowley said. A kick-off event brought nearly 75 teachers and students to the school’s gymnasium Sept. 2 to participate in a promotional yoga session.
The first official yoga class was held Sept. 6 and will continue every Tuesday and Thursday as an after-school activity.
Yoga instructor Joyce Sportsman, founder of Trauma Recovery Yoga (TRY), has already noticed the impact that yoga is having on the participating Western students.
“They’re loving it, and they’re actually pushing me,” she said. “They’re, like, ‘Everybody should do this.’ It’s great; it’s the same reaction I had when I first tried yoga.”
Sportsman’s instruction during an hourlong Sept. 8 yoga class echoed words of encouragement that sounded more like a motivational speech for the students: “Shine your heart up,” she proclaimed during one exercise. “Fear is the only thing that stops you from doing anything,” she added during another.
“I love it,” said junior Anastasia Mignogna, 16. “I look forward to the stretching, when we do the mediation and when we lay down. It relaxes my body. I’m hoping that it continues.”
Mignogna has attended every class so far and has volunteered to become the official announcer for the class.
“The intention of yoga was always to quiet the mind by moving the body and getting rid of extra energy,” Sportsman explained. “Then breathing, so that we can calm the mind.
“It’s tough enough to be a teenager. The meditation in yoga — the calming, centering and finding of peace — is a tool that is invaluable to everyone, but if you can give it to a teenager, it’s a game-changer. It’s a world-changer.”
The free classes are open to all Western students to attend at their leisure. Eventually, the goal is to have at least 12 students attend each class. But for Crowley, an initial celebration is already in order.
“All of our kids don’t play sports. They’re not in a club or activity, and this could be something for them to do,” she said. “Even if it’s just two days a week, maybe they’ll take something out of it. I don’t care if we reach only one kid on Tuesday and Thursday. If this hour of time gives them some joy, and they start to build that confidence, then we’ve made a difference.”