“Remember to inhale hard and deep.”

“This exercise gets your body moving and excretes toxins while keeping you all calm inside.”

Nhanh gave clear, detailed instructions during one of her complimentary yoga classes, which have greatly benefited more than 100 students at Mac Dinh Chi Elementary School, located in Ninh Kieu District.

The activity-packed classes aim to help minors avoid the risks of obesity, curvature of the spine as well as other school-related illnesses and have fun at the same time.

The sessions are also designed to keep the children fit, improve their stature and posture, boost their eagerness to take academic subjects at school, and even enhance their school performance.

Dedicated instructor

Around 4:00 pm on the day a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper correspondent visited one of the classes, nearly 60 third and fourth graders turned out in the school hall, ready to sweat and master some technically challenging postures before leaving class feeling taller and healthier.

The children began their warm-up routines including stretching arms, closing eyes, relaxing, and focusing on their breathing while keeping their mind clear.

Though most of the children were attentive, some restless kids kept disrupting their classmates’ practice efforts.

In such cases, Nhanh, 41, gently explained to them the importance of practice and cheered them on.

Despite the big size of the class, she still managed to give individual attention to her students and meticulously fixed and aligned their practice of technically demanding poses including Triangle Pose and Warrior Pose.

“By correctly practicing this pose [Triangle Pose], you’ll get better blood circulation and no headache,” she told the kids while adjusting each of their maneuvers.

“The Warrior Pose, if practiced properly, not only helps you build up strength in the legs and thighs but also tests your patience to the limit and teaches you to never give up.

“These qualities are much needed in your schoolwork now and in your adulthood performance later.”

Thanks to Nhanh’s encouragement and constant watch, most of the minors have successfully performed the maneuvers.

They leave the sessions healthier and merrier with a renewed sense of well-being after practicing six to seven new maneuvers each session.

Wiping sweat off her face, Nhanh welcomed the next group of young students. The last session of the day does not end until 4:35 pm.

Healing power of yoga

Tran Thanh Nhanh instructs a young student at Mac Dinh Chi Elementary School, located in Can Tho City, southern Vietnam, how to perform the Camel Pose. Photo: Minh Tam/ Tuoi Tre

Tran Thanh Nhanh instructs a young student at Mac Dinh Chi Elementary School, located in Can Tho City, southern Vietnam, how to perform the Camel Pose. Photo: Minh Tam / Tuoi Tre

Nhanh is highly appreciative of what yoga has made of her.

During some of her lowest moments, she took up yoga by chance.

The sheer joys and physical, mental, and spiritual benefits the discipline has brought improved her physique and stamina as well as kept her afloat and calm in the face of adversity.

Set on making the most of the practice, designed to bring unity to the mind, body and spirit, she went on to take a specialized course in yoga before becoming a qualified coach and opening a yoga class at home. 

Her idea of opening free yoga classes for young students came when her elementary-age daughter complained of neck pain and eye strain.

She decided to have her girl practice yoga. Her daughter’s conditions have improved remarkably and the little girl even knows how to keep negative emotions under control.

Some of her adult students also asked her to teach yoga to their teenage children so they would stop slouching or hunching over computers and stand up straight.

She also came up with short practice sessions meant for preschoolers whose necks become bent from constant use of smartphones for games.

“I thought a lot about how to develop the habit of practicing yoga among minors for the long-term benefits including good physique and stamina, which will help beef up their performance in academic subjects at school,” Nhanh shared.

That was how her free yoga classes started at Mac Dinh Chi Elementary School.

“The best age groups to practice yoga are preschoolers and elementary-age students, whose skeletons remain supple and adjustable,” Nhanh noted.

“It’s much harder to improve middle-schoolers’ slouching gait as their bones have grown stiff.

“Besides, yoga also trains kids in how to keep a rein on their tantrums, words, and actions.”

Appreciation of Nhanh’s good deed comes from both the school management and the students’ parents.

“Though Nhanh has a full plate running her own tuition classes, she still manages to teach yoga for free to the kids here out of her love for them and fascination with the discipline,” said Nguyen Thy Xuan Thao, principal of Mac Dinh Chi Elementary School.

According to Thao, Nhanh has offered the gratis classes to four groups of students at the school, with nearly 60 students in each group.      

Each group practices two 20-minute sessions each week.

Nhanh also gives free yoga coaching to the school teachers in the afternoon.

With her classes being quite a hit among the minors, more have made it to her training sessions.

“I really love yoga. My body gets stronger and I no longer have stomachache. Yoga has also improved my concentration power,” commented Pham Nguyen Phuong Anh, a fourth grader.

“I sweat a lot during the sessions, so I feel much better. I try my best to perform the challenging maneuvers,” Bien Tony, a third grader, said excitedly.

“It helps me learn my lessons better and retain the knowledge longer.”

The kids’ parents are highly supportive of Nhanh’s initiative.

According to Huynh Duy, a resident in Ninh Kieu District, joining yoga classes right at their day school saves time and energy for both the students and parents.

Today’s kids are typically weighed down with overloaded academic schedules, so yoga classes help them wind down and rebounce with energy after a hard day’s work, he added.

Le Kim Tuoi, also residing in the district, said her child habitually spends 20 minutes in the evening to drill what she has learned from Nhanh with a ton of excitement.

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