The word yoga in Sanskrit means “to yoke,” or bring union within the body, mind and spirit. Teens often face social pressures from peers and society, along with academic requirements and expectations. Teens who feel overwhelmed by such pressures may suffer from self-esteem issues and stress. Yoga can provide teens with a sense of inner calm and connection.
Valuing Oneself and Others
Teens commonly struggle with self-esteem issues, which is normal for that stage of development. Since they’re still discovering who they are, peer pressure may lead them to compare themselves to others. Yoga fosters a sense of unconditional love for oneself and all living beings. The Sanskrit term “namaste,” which is commonly said at the end of a yoga class, means “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you.” Teens may feel more love for themselves, as well as a respect and connection to their family members, classmates and teachers.
During puberty and the later teen years, immense changes are taking place in the body’s chemistry and physiology. The chakras are also developing and becoming more active at this time. Imbalances of the chakras, body chemistry, and physiology often show up in rebellion and mood swings. The regular practice of yoga can help you maintain balance in the different chakras and keep the spirit and soul strong and healthy, thereby benefiting both the body and mind.
Teens need a physical outlet to stay fit and energized. Yoga can improve a teen’s flexibility, stamina and concentration. It also builds endurance. Yoga offers a variety of yoga styles; teens can try different classes to find the style that best suits their needs. For instance, Ashtanga yoga offers a quick-paced and vigorous workout in which the body is in constant motion. The Ashtanga sequence uses and tones all the muscles in your body. Iyengar yoga focuses on proper alignment within your body, such as how to hold your spine during poses.
YOGA AND SPORTS
Throughout adolescence, when the body is still growing, and bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are changing, stress injuries are common. A quick or energetic body movement can sometimes cause a stress injury to any of these areas. Athletes who do not stretch enough in warming up experience injuries that often could be avoided-such as pulled hamstrings, knee injuries from tight tendons and ligaments, and shoulder, wrist, and ankle injuries from weakness in these areas. By offering a complete body workout, yoga balances out the stresses of any sport and helps correct tightness or weakness.
Stretching before and after a rigorous workout from any sport is recommended.
According to yoga philosophy, a healthy spine creates balance and is a conduit to a sound mind.
Yoga is designed to stimulate the nerves running along the spine. Poses involving twists and upside-down positions are especially effective for this purpose. When you practice all categories of yoga poses-seated, standing, lying down on your stomach or back, and upside down-you cause each vertebra (bony segment of the spine) to be slightly separated from the ones above and below it. Creating space between the vertebrae serves to ‘plump’ the disks between them, allowing energy to flow freely to the brain and giving the blood a clear passageway to circulate in a healthy manner.Boys and young men in their teens usually develop their legs and arms through sports or weight training. However, they often overlook flexibility of the spine, back, arms, and legs.
Yoga stretching poses are highly beneficial in correcting this imbalance and in strengthening muscles that are not used in strength training. The stretching may be difficult at first, but with practice, you will become more flexible and the poses will become easier.When a girl begins developing breasts, the muscles that hold the spine in place are often weakened or strained, because the front of the torso is carrying more weight. Doing chest opening, backward bending, forward bending, and upside-down yoga poses will strengthen arms, shoulders, and back, as well as teach these parts of your body to balance out the weight in front.Internal organs are growing and changing during this period and can become upset with diet changes or over stimulation of nerves. Yoga helps to keep organs healthy despite everyday stresses. It also assists in balancing out the mood swings and eliminating the body aches resulting from the hormonal imbalances experienced during sexual maturing. During this growth period, yoga is useful in easing the tension of tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it can also help to strengthen bones. Certain poses alleviate menstrual cramps, and others work internally on clearing energy blocks that may cause headaches, sinus problems, irritability or digestive problems.Yoga promotes unification of body and mind, and as you practice, it will increase your awareness and your ability to look within, think for yourself, and trust yourself. The result is that you will feel more peaceful and self-confident during a period of rapid change and be able to engage the world with a morepositive outlook.
In yoga philosophy, the body is considered a temple to be treated with respect, understanding, and acceptance; but dealing with the rapid physical changes of adolescence can be difficult at times. For instance, as girls undergo hormonal changes and begin to experience the internal cleansing process of the menstrual cycle, keeping the body clean and free of odor is very important. As boys undergo the hormonal changes leading to manhood, they often experience glandular secretions resulting in sweaty feet and underarms, which also require regular cleansing.Frequent cleansing is necessary to keep the pores open so that the skin is able to release toxins freely. Bathing before practicing yoga enhances the capacity of the pores to open and expel toxins and excess oil through sweat glands. Yoga deep breathing exercises promote the process of internal cleansing by improving circulation. An added benefit of yoga practice is the release of negative energy, which can block nadis (energy channels), glands, and pores.
Yoga poses tone and balance the sex glands, while improving energy. During the teen years, most boys and girls become self-conscious about the changes in their bodies that go with sexual maturing. Boys may suddenly become concerned about whether hair is beginning to grow in the right places, such as on their faces or in the pubic area. They may also be concerned with muscle tone. Boys who mature more slowly or are not as physically strong as their peers often feel less manly, when they compare themselves with others. With regular practice, yoga will build muscle tone and strength and will improve energy and balance to enhance your physical performance and make your body the best it can be.Girls also typically compare their physical changes, judging whose breasts are more developed, and worry about various other aspects of their developing bodies. Yoga practice improves fitness and health. It allows you to develop greater poise, grace, and confidence, as well as a more accepting relationship to your body and a positive image of who you are in the world.
Practicing yoga regularly can help relieve anxiety, according to “Yoga Journal.” When teens go through puberty, hormonal shifts can result in more volatile emotions. Yoga may help teens feel centered and grounded within them. The practice of meditation at the end of a yoga class can help teens find a stillness and sense of inner calm. Physical postures themselves, such as Corpse Pose and Child’s Pose, are naturally restorative and grounding postures. For teens that’re always on the go, yoga can provide a counter balance to all that outward movement.Yoga is helpful for many different ailments, disorders and conditions. A new study even suggests that yoga is beneficial for teenagers who are experiencing anxiety. This is promising news for parents who have anxious teens. I will highlight information on anxiety in teens and how yoga can help.
Teenage anxiety has the same symptoms as adult anxiety. Anxiety is a normal response to stress in one’s life. Teenagers may be anxious about school work and socialization, but for some teens this goes well beyond normal. Everyone reacts different to stress and some are more prone to becoming more distressed than others. Symptoms of anxiety include the following:Feeling fearfulPortraying oneself as powerlessHaving a fearful or doomful outlookAccelerated heart rate Hyperventilating Perspiring Experiencing trembling or shakiness Weakness and fatigue.
How can yoga help anxious teenagers? High school students participated in a study that involved them performing Kripalu-based yoga, a type of yoga that centers on the body, mind and energy example, taking it to a higher level than other forms of yoga. The asanas or yoga poses are practiced in this form of yoga just as it is in others, and it is designed to aid in relaxation, meditation, flexibility and strength.After the study researches determined that when controlled to those that participated in normal PE activities, such as volleyball and other sports, the group that performed yoga had greatly improved total mood disturbance scores and tension-anxiety subscale scores. Furthermore, the researchers wrote, “Increasing evidence supports the view that yoga is a practice which addresses multiple mental, emotional, and physical facets of the individual.
“Getting involved in yoga”
For those wanting to get their teens involved in yoga, they can find classes at local gyms or YMCAs. Numerous workout DVDs are also available to choose from. Some of the basic asanas include the following:
Downward-Facing Dog, a pose that helps alleviates stress and depression.
Upward-Facing Dog, which is great for depression and tiredness, as well as beneficial to those with asthma.
Dolphin Pose also helps with stress and depression as it quiets the mind.
Camel Pose, one of the backbend poses.If your teen is experiencing anxiety, help them by getting them involved in asanas. Yoga is great way to ease the mind and get a workout at the same time. As a parent, you may even try participating with your teen and find that you love the practice as well.
MAKE THEM PRACTICE These suggestions come from my experience teaching yoga to teens in schools. The ideas can also be applied to yoga studio or community centre settings, as well as other subjects. A funny thing about many teenagers is that they yearn so deeply to be in charge, yet they often rebel against the responsibilities they do have. At the end of the day, teens really want to feel the security of being well cared for.
1. Know When to Treat Teens like Adults At the beginning of a school semester in yoga class, I like to give my teen students lots of important responsibilities; including taking roll call, setting up the room for yoga and holding each other accountable for appropriate behaviour. I’ve learned the hard way that if I start a new class session “managing” every little thing, I will likely have to continue throughout the school year. If I hand over tasks, like opening windows for fresh air and stacking yoga mats neatly, I not only have more time to interact one on one with students, my students feel a sense of empowerment. When a teen student comes to me with problem, I usually respond, “What do you think we should do about that?” Giving responsibility early on is key because teens usually bring their most helpful behaviour to class in the beginning. The first few days of school are generally the quietest, and then…..
2. Know When to Treat Teens like Pre-schoolers A few weeks into a semester, things change. Teens are more comfortable in the environment. They know what to expect. They start pushing boundaries to see how far they can go. Yes, if we let them, they will sit and talk to each other for the entire class period! One day in class many years ago, I felt as though my wonderfully responsible, mature teen class had been replaced by a bunch of pre-schoolers in giant bodies. Mind you, I LOVE pre-schoolers. They are some of my favourite beings on the planet. So, I decided to try something way out of the box. I started class with the teen yogi’s the exact same way I would with my pre-school yoga students. “Please say your name and share your favourite colour today.” The teens loved this. They were intrigued and the activity stopped their minds for a moment. Feeling successful, I continued. We played the exact same yoga games I play with young children, sang songs, and made tunnels with our downward facing dogs. They loved every minute of it. The trick is to know when to apply such a technique. You have to feel for it. Are your teens bouncing off the walls? Maybe try a little ring around the Rosie. I’m serious! They all fall down, crack up laughing, blow off steam, and then they can focus on something a little more serious. Remember, lots of new responsibilities are being placed in their hands. Teens are easily nostalgic for the good old days of carefree play.
3. Reveal Your Agenda “What are we doing today?” After hearing this question a hundred times asked by teen students entering the classroom, I finally got the hint and started posting the days agenda on a white board. Teens love knowing what is coming next. This gives them a feeling of security seeks in so many ways. Of course, posting the agenda is not a contract to stick to it like glue. I let students know ahead of time that this is what I have in mind, and I am open to changes when needed. Giving students a syllabus at the beginning of a new session does wonders for relieving anxiety about what is to come. This also gives you an opportunity to potentially share with their parents about what yoga class is covering.
4. Let them Make the Agenda Once teens have a basic understanding of yoga foundations, let them decide what the practice will be for that day. Take suggestions; write them on index cards and then sequence the class together. Teen students will take pride in their creation and participate in a more authentic way knowing they set the plan. Grounded Kids has created a set of nifty stickers to bring sequencing alive in a whole new way.
5. Give Them a Primer A couple of weeks before teaching a new practice allude to it. For example, if you are planning to teach Bakasana, Crow Pose, in the third week on the month, start the month by showing students an engaging visual of the posture. You might display a poster with several variations of the pose and an empowering quote. I can almost promise some of the teens will want to learn the pose right away and others will just go ahead and try it. You can build intrigue by letting them know they will have the opportunity to learn the practice soon, once they have learned other critical skills. This will inspire them to work at mastering whatever you are teaching in the meantime.
Another way to prime teens for upcoming knowledge is to express how excited you are about sharing something new and giving it an interesting name. One year when I was deep into studying cognition and brain development, I piqued my teen students interest for a couple of weeks saying, “I can’t wait for next month when we get to Yoga Brains!” When we finally got to the lesson, they were so ready that even my limited knowledge of the topic provided a launch pad for a rich exploration.
sources Alena Bowers, Rebecca Bardelli, Erica Rodefer and Abby Wills