Well, it’s back to school, a mix of excitement and apprehension for our youngsters, new teachers, new friends, new challenges, new subjects. One thing that really impresses me is that quite a few schools and academies are adopting wellness and holistic activities, in particular yoga. I wish this was around when I was younger.
Children, pre-teen and teen, can benefit considerably from yoga. The teenage brain is both complex and developing quickly. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the changes to the brain and reproductive system between the ages of 12 and 19 are enormous, and the shifts in reproductive and stress hormones during that time can affect thinking and behaviour. Many of us remember our teen years as a time of high anxiety and depression when we could well have used yoga’s benefits. Learning yoga practices at this stage in development can be a game-changer in dealing with hormonal fluctuations, and yoga will provide teens with lifetime tools and techniques for stress management.
Teens are dealing with body changes, peer pressure, social media, exam stress, possibly parental conflict etc, whilst the brain’s prefrontal cortex is still maturing, (where we make executive decisions).
No wonder they are grumpy sometimes, there is lots going on!
A yoga practice is the first step towards re patterning our stress response, it shows us how to respond intelligently and effectively to stressful situations, by using the breath and conscious management of the stress response. Practice, effectively and regularly, and these learned techniques become instinctive, we are able navigate stormy waters much more effectively.
The physical “feel good” element is also important for teenagers. Rather than ploughing through fast fitness focused sequences, most teens respond well to taking time to feel the effects of a yoga posture—whether it’s a challenging arm balance or a calming twist. Explanations of the movement and why a particular movement may cause us to feel a certain way, is of great interest to young connective minds.
Girls usually enjoy the flowing movement and boys will throw themselves into arm balances and more strenuous postures, it’s just how they are. I really enjoy teaching teens yoga as they are risk takers, and they still have a reasonable range of movement. I say ‘still’ as I have noticed, over the last few years, just how tight youngsters are generally -it is a concern and something that shows up in a yoga class. The default posture these days is influenced by our addiction to our phones, it’s hardly surprising that youngsters are so tight in their posterior muscles.
Yoga might not be what our youngsters think it is, there’s plenty of mis-information out there.
I would say if you have difficulty in switching off, or are not comfortable with how you are developing, are carrying some anxiety or even frustration and anger, perhaps lack of confidence or low self-worth, then yoga can help.
Yoga is a set of tools that you can use to improve your life, on your own, in your own space – why not call it ‘technical wellbeing’ instead of yoga.
If I’d had the opportunity and access to yoga in my school years, with a teacher that could show me the benefits of practice, I really feel it would have helped me to navigate my teens a whole lot better.
I commend those schools and academies for providing some technical wellbeing to the next generation and for the youngsters that invest in themselves. Make your health, your wealth.