More than exercise, yoga provides calming relief to Palo Alto teens


Mindful of the high-pressure nature of area high schools, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation has been providing free drop-in yoga for local teens with hopes of reducing stress and promoting wellness.

Led by instructor Clia Tierney, the weekly Tuesday sessions teach introductory yoga to students. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation is hoping the breathing techniques, flexibility and mindfulness that students take away will be useful in building resilience skills to deal with stress in a healthy way.

“Our pediatricians have seen a lot of things — children who don’t want to go to school or have a lot of anxiety around school,” said Palo Alto Medical Foundation health educator Becky Beacom. “They recognize the pressure not just in Palo Alto but really the whole region, and have been looking for ways to help young people develop coping and resilience skills above and beyond the clinical ways of approaching it. They really believe it’s a lifestyle effort to really pull that all together and be resilient.”

Palo Alto High School senior Alys Olmstead is one of the regular attendees. She pointed to yoga’s ability to reduce stress as being helpful in her day-to-day life as a high school student.

“I think yoga is really important because it’s just a good way to escape for a hour, once a week,” Olmstead said. “I use some of the breathing I’ve learned before taking a test or something, and it’s a good way to de-stress.”

In addition to high attendance for the drop-in yoga sessions, Beacom said the Palo Alto Medical Foundation has seen an overall desire from the community for more teen mindfulness resources.

“It’s important for people to know that it’s not just a yoga class that is marketed to teens,” Beacom said. “The class is actually different than what most people think of as adult yoga. It is developmental in its approach, it looks at what teens like — they like to be with their peers, so there’s partnering. There’s also reflection. It’s above and beyond an exercise class.”