Harker Aquila

Yoga and capoeira activities offer an alternative to P.E. or team sports

Students+practice+a+pose+during+a+yoga+session.+The+athletic+department+offers+yoga%2C+along+with+capoeira%2C+as+an+alternative+for+earning+P.E.+credits.
Students practice a pose during a yoga session. The athletic department offers yoga, along with capoeira, as an alternative for earning P.E. credits.

Students practice a pose during a yoga session. The athletic department offers yoga, along with capoeira, as an alternative for earning P.E. credits.

Helen Yang

Helen Yang

Students practice a pose during a yoga session. The athletic department offers yoga, along with capoeira, as an alternative for earning P.E. credits.

by Maya Valluru and Alex Wang

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Yoga

Students can obtain athletic credits by partaking in yoga sessions, which are held after school every day Monday through Friday.

Yoga is a variety of spiritual, mental, and physical exercises that originated in India. Ancient artifacts confirm that the practice of yoga dates back to almost 3000 B.C. While yoga has always been practiced as an essential form of meditation in Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist tradition, this form of exercise has become a popular recreational activity in Western culture during the past few decades. The results of meditation and mindfulness, themes central to yoga, have been especially admired by people of the fast-paced entrepreneurial center of the Silicon Valley. There are over 25 official yoga centers in the Bay Area alone.

English teacher Nicholas Manjoine is one of the yoga instructors at the Upper School. He has been holding yoga classes for students since 2006.

I wanted to bring yoga to the school community because I saw that there were lots of youngsters that were stressed out and didn’t know how to be more present in their moment, so I thought yoga does a great job of that. I thought it would also have a positive benefit in terms of the PE requirement for people.”

— English teacher and yoga instructor Nicholas Manjoine

After the program grew in popularity within the student body, a greater number of sections led by became available after school. Manjoine recruited more instructors to run these sections, including Denise Wendler, who has been teaching yoga at the Upper School for the past 12 years.

“I had gone through teacher training in 2005 and then, the first yoga class on the Upper School campus was during the 2006-2007 school year,” Manjoine said. “I couldn’t do it and we wanted to add another section, and I thought ‘Denise is the best yoga teacher ever.’”

Senior Angela Kim has been participating in the yoga program since her freshman year.

I started it in ninth grade, only just because of the PE requirement, but I actually really liked it. Even after I finished my PE requirement, I continued it and am still taking it now.”

She continued to discuss why she enjoys the on-campus extracurricular activity.

“I guess just because it is really relaxing and it is kind of a moment, an hour, of peace and order in the hectic day, so that’s why I have continued it till now.”

Capoeira

The athletics department also offers classes in Capoeira, an artform that combines elements of dance, martial arts, and rhythm.

Capoeira originated in Brazil among African slaves from the Congo and Angola who practiced the artform as a means to stay fit. The aspects of the art involving fighting were masked by the components of dance, therefore allowing the people living in captivity to exercise. Some historians also believe that fugitive slaves would practice Capoeira as a means of survival in the wilderness. The artform eventually developed into a component in warfare, as the communities of fugitive slaves fought against Portuguese powers that threatened their existence.

Today, Capoeira has become a popular in the realm of entertainment as well as in athletic pursuits. There are numerous Capoeira studios across the Bay Area, multiple gyms that offer lessons in the artform, and classes held twice a week for students at the Upper School.

Loren Due, known to his students as Mestre Poeta, teaches Capoeira at the Upper School. He graduated from Harker in 1985 and decided to return to teach.

“I wanted to give back to the school that I went to,” he said. “I was looking to start teaching and I thought it would be a good opportunity to come to the high school and start teaching here.”

Due discussed the reasons he has been drawn to the martial art for over twenty years.

“What I like about it is that it’s a complete art. Music is involved, you learn a foreign language, which is Portuguese, and I was able travel and learn about another culture,” he said. “Those are the things that really drew me to the art. It wasn’t just about self-defense, it is a holistic art. You learn how to play instruments and sing, and those are aspects to capoeira that a lot of people are not aware of.”

What I like about it is that it’s a complete art. Music is involved, you learn a foreign language, which is Portuguese, and I was able travel and learn about another culture. Those are the things that really drew me to the art. It wasn’t just about self-defense, it is a holistic art. You learn how to play instruments and sing, and those are aspects to capoeira that a lot of people are not aware of.”

— Loren Due/Mestre Poeta

Freshman Jessica Chang describes her experience as a first-year Capoeira student, from joining the after school activity to finding great enjoyment in the activity.

“I joined capoeira last fall because it sounded interesting, and I just really didn’t want to join a sport,” she said. “I think it’s not really something I’ve done before because my brother does kung fu. I think it’s pretty cool to learn how to defend yourself and it’s also kind of like dancing. I did dance in fourth in fifth grade.”

Senior Antony Sagayaraj has participated in Capoeira every year in the Upper School. He describes his experience with an artform that pushed him to limits he otherwise have not explored.

“I joined in my freshman year to fill my P.E. requirement originally, but I have since stuck around because it’s great. I like it because I’m not the most athletic person and I was able to do things like cartwheels, acrobatics, and movements that I would not have thought I’d be able to do ever.”

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on January 24, 2017.

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Yoga and capoeira activities offer an alternative to P.E. or team sports