SCHS social studies teacher Pilar Svendsen teaches yoga to SCUSD employees and students


Courtesy of Pilar Svendsen

Svendsen said she honors teaching both social studies and yoga separately.

On Oct. 14, 2020, SCHS social studies teacher Pilar Svendsen began teaching yoga classes to SCUSD employees and students. Svendsen finds herself constantly moving and working, discovering yoga made her focus on her own well-being, and she wanted to help her coworkers and students discover the same peace and balance she did.

“I’m the type of person who constantly tries to do things, grow, push myself and pursue things. I don’t know how to relax,” Svendsen said. “I found yoga is the only way to pause.”

Svendsen said taking a break from constantly working is extremely beneficial, and yoga helped her refrain from overworking herself both physically and mentally. Svendsen realized yoga can help her find balance and relaxation. She wanted to share her experience in yoga with others at SCHS in order for them to learn how to take a step back and manage stress within the classroom.

“(Yoga) really spoke to me, and I found good within myself. I wanted a change and targeted teachers and educators to help put yoga into school because it has benefits of its own,” Svendsen said. “Within my own practices, I always intended to bring it back to Santa Clara for educators.”

Like Svendsen, SCHS ASL teacher Talia Orsetti-Ng shares a fondness for yoga. Orsetti-Ng has attended Svendsen’s class since the first one on Oct. 14.

“I think it’s great. I love the way she differentiates for all different levels, introducing a pose, and if it’s too hard, you can try this (a different pose). If it’s too easy you can try this (a different pose).” Orsetti-Ng said. “The mindfulness aspect really helps me focus after a crazy day, going to her class and experiencing with other staff members.”

Orsetti-Ng plans on earning her yoga certificatification and teaching yoga classes as well.

“Yoga is such an inspirational piece in my life,” Orsetti-Ng said. “It gives me a lot of comfort. I wanted to share it with others. So helpful for students. All equal benefits for all of the SCHS community at large.”

Svendsen earned her certification in yoga by taking classes in San Francisco earlier this year. After receiving her official certificate in July, Svendsen expressed her idea of hosting yoga classes to her coworkers.

“I contacted Adult Ed and the district, and they suggested how I can offer it by talking about my vision and offering it for the employees,” Svensden said. “I practice yoga on Zoom by doing it in my living room. Yoga practice is on Wednesdays for an hour and on Thursdays for 45 minutes.”

When Svendsen practices yoga with her students, she enjoys being able to help them breathe and relax, and she said each class is exciting and enjoyable.

“I started to emphasize things like breathing practices, so before tests we would do breathing exercises. I would try to emphasize gratitude or different methods of promoting social and emotional well being,” Svendsen said. “I love being a history teacher. I think history is so awesome, but while also learning, I think promoting well-being and mindfulness is a must. I love yoga as well, but I’m not blending them (teaching history and yoga). I’m honoring them both separately and intentionally.”

Svendsen expressed her respect for the history behind yoga because of where it comes from and how it started.

“The thing about yoga is that it’s very interesting because it comes from its traditional place of India. It has a lot of historical roots and just years of rich history,” Svendsen said. “Although yoga has become more westernized, I think it’s important we honor the ancestry of it and that we respect yoga. Some find it for spiritual practice, but whatever gets them to the mat is their own personal journey.”

Svendsen hopes her yoga practices bring peace to her audience and that it will help them learn how to find balance and stress relief, especially inside the classroom.

“We live in such a busy world with technology and being filled so much in our lives, and what yoga does is force you to slow down and connect through your body and soul,” she said. “My hope is to bring it (yoga) to Santa Clara and for our students as well. Namaste.”