In high school, there can be many stressful situations, such as students being overwhelmed with test scores, homework and social circles. This stress can often negatively impact a student’s mental and physical state.

The pressure can build up, and it can result in physical, emotional or mental stress, unless the students are able to maintain a calm and balanced lifestyle. Finding ways to balance their stress is crucial in maintaining their focus and energy for the tasks ahead.

Milena Kolesnikova, a 14-year-old high school student, is well aware of how to handle pressure. Since age five, she has been a gymnast and has performed professionally and competed across the country for the past seven years. There were medals along the way, but the journey as a whole has been her true reward.

Excited to pursue new educational opportunities, Kolesnikovaand her family agreed to let go of the world of competition. With a bittersweet feeling, she took everything she had learned over the years, from pressure to patience, to pursue her new interests.

But high school, just like any new step in life, can add a little extra anxiety. So she found a way to deal with it.

Two years ago, Kolesnikova started practicing yoga. She was first introduced to the practice through her mom, who decided to try it and she “tagged along for moral support.” They first tried Bikram and then Vinyasa yoga.

She didn’t realize, until getting to high school, how much the yoga practice would positively benefit her outlook and experiences.

As a gymnast, some of the postures she used reinforced back flexibility, so her years of gymnastics definitely helped Kolesnikova in the yoga room. With some postures, like lotus pose, she can do the full expressions.

The difference that Kolesnikova first noticed between her gym and the yoga studio was that the temperature of the room allowed her to easily move into the postures and relax her muscles. As a gymnast, she was often focused on the physical aspect of the performance, rather than the spiritual or mental part. But yoga taught her how the body and mind can work in complete unison.

“I learned how to balance better,” she said. Not only her inversions, but also with the normal teenage emotions.


Kolesnikova thinks other gymnasts should try yoga, if they can find the time.

“Gymnastics takes up a lot of your life,” she said. This is especially true for professionals, who train five to eight hours per day, six days per week. “But if you can, I would encourage it.”

Currently, she is practicing yoga three to four times per week.

One of the biggest internal changes that Kolesnikova has experienced throughout her yoga practice is a sense of calmness.

Before I go to class, “life can throw its craziness at me, and I can make up stories in my head that [I] can lose control of, but then, when I step on the mat, it’s like, I lose myself in the moment and the sweat, and the breath, and I find myself.”

Kolesnikova doesn’t see her peers practicing yoga, but she thinks that they should.

“It doesn’t have to be hot yoga, just yoga,” she said. In high school, or in whatever school you go to, you can get really stressed out by homework, or the social life you have, the “drama.” In the yoga room ”you really forget about it.”

When Kolesnikova leaves her practice, she just doesn’t care about all of the things that worried her before and she refocuses and uses her new energy to handle the tasks at hand. “Yoga should be encouraged for young people,” she thinks. One of her friends is a soccer player and she does yoga too. She really likes it as it helps her with her flexibility; stretching her hamstrings benefits her on the field.


Yoga helps Kolesnikova separate herself from the emotional drama that comes with being a teenager. It helps her to be more mature about things, she admits. For example, she can step back and look at things and realize “this doesn’t really matter,” she said. “High school drama doesn’t really matter, because we are all going to go our separate ways … life continues.”

Kolesnikova believes the world would be a better place if everyone “says Namaste everyday.”

Being a young, conscious individual, Kolesnikova understands that not everyone can afford yoga classes, but she advises young people to stay active, to avoid laziness and to maintain a healthy balance between fun and responsibilities. She believes that high school has many opportunities for her individual and professional growth and she is looking forward to using her gymnastics experience and the benefits of her yoga practice to maintain a stress free lifestyle while focusing on her education.

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