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Odds & Ends Around the Valley

March 26, 1992|SUE REILLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Learning Stretch

Sometimes they may look like little contortionists and, other times, like fish out of water.

The students in Maggie Foldes' fifth-grade class and those in Pat Brown's sixth grade at Dixie Canyon School in Sherman Oaks are definitely into something different.

Hatha, or physical, yoga.

It all came about when Ulla Anneli, a yoga instructor with one daughter in each class, started talking to Foldes about Hatha's benefits.

"Mrs. Anneli was at school working in one of our volunteer programs when we had the first discussion," Foldes recalls, "and what she said made a lot of sense."

Anneli talked about how tense youngsters are today and how counterproductive that is to the learning process. So she offered to come to school occasionally to instruct Foldes' fifth-graders and Brown's sixth-graders in relaxation and breathing techniques. She now spends about an hour a month in each class.

The kids seem to love it and if it helps them to be happier, better students, Foldes is all for it.

According to Anneli, "Children today are under so much pressure that they tend to breathe shallowly or to even hold their breath periodically, which limits the flow of oxygen to the brain and in other ways impairs normal, healthy bodily functioning."

Anneli, a registered nurse, said studies conducted at UCLA and elsewhere show that students are more alert, perform better and learn more easily when they are relaxed and breathing deeply.

"What I do with them is help them relearn how to breathe properly, as well as give them some simple stretching exercises they can do at their desks, to help them feel better," she says.

Anneli, who has written a book on getting and staying healthy and who co-produced a video on the subject with Dr. William Eidelman, says most of us could benefit from relearning to breathe and stretch, something we knew how to do perfectly when we were babies.

Youngsters catch on quickly, but Foldes says her students learn faster than she does.

"The breathing exercises I can do, but some of the stretching just is beyond me," she says.

Exchanging Lifestyles

In two days, two students of Oakwood School will leave for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Lakota country of South Dakota.

Alexis Manheim and Tia Morita, both 16, are part of Fred Mednick's grand plan. He's the principal at Oakwood, a private school in Studio City.

The 11th-graders will spend two weeks living with a reservation family, participating in Indian ceremonies, and attending classes at Little Wound High School and Oglala Lakota College.

Afterward, they will return home with two Indian students--Faylin Cottier and Kathryn Jealous--who will live at the Morita home with Tia and her mother, Yuki, and attend Oakwood School for two weeks.

Mednick says he hopes that the program will blossom into a regular exchange that would allow his students to spend part of their junior year on the Pine Ridge reservation and students at Little Wound to attend Oakwood for a semester.

Mednick wants his students to be culturally enriched and, for him, a couple of books and a trip to the Inner City just don't make it. "Our country has such cultural and ethnic richness, but few of us are familiar with how people of other perspectives think and feel. This program will eventually help our students be in touch with another point of view."

Mednick, who spent a week in February on the Pine Ridge reservation, says that visit not only kindled the exchange idea but caused him to take a new kind of reality check.

On the reservation, Mednick says, he saw not only poverty, unemployment and problems with alcohol, but also a heightened sensitivity to the concepts of family, courage, generosity, wisdom and respect.

And, he says, poverty is relative. "These people did not feel poor until a white person told them they were."

Understanding another person's perception is what Mednick says his budding exchange program is all about.

"For us," Mednick says, " 'Dances With Wolves' was a beautiful treatment of Native American pride. To the Indians, it was a movie about two white people falling in love."

Bucks and Wing

When the United States Information Agency invited the Verdugo Swing Society to Seville, Spain, this spring, there was general whooping and shouting.

Then the light bulb went on.

"The USIA wanted our swing band to play at the United States pavilion at the World Fair in Spain for two weeks in June, and we were delighted, until we realized we were going to have to come up with our own travel money for air fare and hotel accommodations," says Jim Colegrove, band trombonist.

Members of the band, including a doctor, lawyer and lots of engineers, took a poll, but found no one with an extra $30,000 handy.

"So we went hat in hand to a number of organizations that give away money," Colegrove says, "and tried to get some."

He says the city of Glendale gave them $2,000, and other organizations were generous, such as a group he insists is called the Grandsons of the Sons of Italy.

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