Senior Capstone teaches Winters residents to find balance through yoga

A high school student helped guide Winters community members through a yoga learning experience in part of her Senior Capstone project.
Yoga student Lola Hernandez holding a pose at a children’s yoga class as part of a Senior Capstone project. Courtesy photo

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Winters High School senior Nataly Hernandez had never taken a yoga class in her life. But last summer, when her mom asked her if she’d like to attend one with her, she decided to try something new and said yes. It was an opportunity that would change everything. Her first yoga session was with Christina Rairdan, who has been teaching yoga in the Vacaville community for over 18 years and also runs a class for employees at Mariani Nut Company. Hernandez said she was so inspired by the experience that she decided she wanted to pursue it herself and bring the yoga experience to Winters as her Senior Capstone Project. Hernandez went to work to obtain her Yoga Teaching Certificate through Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and attended more of Rairdan’s yoga sessions on the weekends to continue to learn and grow both as a yoga student and as an instructor. With Rairdan as her mentor, Hernandez was ready to start leading classes of her own by October 2018. The first class she offered was Youngin’ Yoga for children in first through sixth grade at the Winters Village apartment complex in their community room. She ended up teacher about 12 students in her children’s class after school on Wednesdays. Hernandez based her Youngin’ Yoga classes on imagination and breathing, which is a style she found online. “I found a lady on YouTube who does yoga for kids and they’re all based on stories and fairy tales,” Hernandez said. Each week Hernandez took the kids on a different adventure themed toward learning to relax and focus through story based yoga. One week they were mermaids pretending to swim and float in the ocean. Another week they learned breathing exercises while sailing in a hot air balloon. Hernandez would also allow the children to choose other themes for upcoming classes, which included suggestions like Star Wars. “I helped them to find balance between mind and body while showing them forms and methods of relaxation,” said Hernandez. Hernandez’s sister-in-law Marissa Hernandez said she did not hesitate to sign her children up up for the Youngin’s Yoga classes because her daughter Lola had a positive experience through an introduction to yoga at Waggoner Elementary. “Nataly was able to walk them through flows by telling children’s stories and having them act them out as they went along,” said Marissa. “She patiently worked on their form and taught them different breathing techniques. My children were constantly entertained and came out feeling more relaxed – a mom win.” From working with children Hernandez started hosting a class for adults in the community on Saturday mornings. Hernandez led about 16 students through Vinyasa style classes, where they focused on holding different poses to work their core and lower body. She also held a class for a few high school staff members during lunch, where she combined Vinyasa style and chair-based yoga movements. Altogether Hernandez held about 20 classes for the Winters community. She said doing the children’s yoga classes was one of the highlights from her Capstone Project experience because she got to use her imagination and run the class in the form of a story, and she enjoyed working with children. This aligns with her plans in the fall to attend Sonoma State University to study Early Childhood Education to become a teacher. She has already had success on a local level as a teacher. Marissa said her children really benefited from Hernandez’s yoga teachings and came back with skills to help them. “Yoga not only taught my children to exercise in a new way, but also how to listen to their bodies and tips to breathe, relax and calm down. When my daughter is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, she will go to her room to relax and practice her yoga breaths,” Marissa told the Express. Hernandez said the biggest challenge she faced during her Capstone Project was finding a place to hold her classes and learning about administering waivers and liability forms. She said she was thankful that the Winters Village apartment complex allowed her to hold her classes at their facility. Hernandez said she found value in working with a variety of people and learning to adapt and work with the different abilities and physical limitations. With a long-term goal of becoming a teacher, she learned about being mindful when working with different groups of children, as well as the difference of having to teach the same yoga concepts to adults versus the way she would teach them to younger students. Trying new things has continued to be a theme for Hernandez throughout her Capstone Project. Not only did she learn a wide variety of things about yoga, but she helped guide many community members through a yoga learning experience for their first time. She said she also found herself stretching to learn and grow as an individual. “I’ve grown learning more new things,” said Hernandez. “Trying something new has definitely helped me to not be afraid and to step out of my shell in trying other new things.” Her advice to this year’s junior class for their own Capstone Project is to start early, don’t wait for the last minute and to definitely try new things.]]>

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