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Teenagers generally experience insecurities. They have fear of not fitting in or not being good enough. Yoga offers a chance for teens to prove to themselves that they can in fact achieve things that once seemed impossible. In some cases, a teen will be weary that they aren’t flexible enough to find certain poses, or worry that they will look strange or silly trying. However, when they realize that they can lift themselves up, or achieve balance, they become liberated of that fear. As a result, they can carry that new found confidence into other aspects of life.
Those who practice yoga will commonly tout the health benefits and ability for a yoga practice to ease pain and aid ailments. For teens, this benefit is even more noteworthy, in that they are in the midst of crucial development and body changes. Many of the yoga poses have been proven to have positive effects on the body’s organs and systems. For example, Child’s pose calms the nervous and lymphatic system, Tadasana (mountain pose) can improve digestion and circulation, and Sirasana (headstand) revitalises the hormonal system. Whilst the poses provide physical benefit, they can also have effects on emotions, helping to deal with stress and anxiety. Exposing teens to a yoga practice provides them with the opportunity to support their ever changing body and promote physical health.
Coming in tune with the needs of the body lets you nourish it in ways that you may ignore under the stress of daily life. Deep breathing is a common stress-relieving technique, useful for quieting the mind, promoting good sleep and calming the nerves. Yoga just takes this concept several steps further. The breathing involved in yoga helps with the general overall feeling of well-being.
Just as important as physical health is emotional health. Teens are under constant stress from their school work, to friends and family, and pursuing their hobbies. Not only do the yoga poses offer stress relief in the way they manipulate the body, but it is also in the mindfulness element of the practice that teens will find relief and learn to balance their life.
Deep breathing is a common stress-relieving technique, useful for quieting the mind, promoting good sleep and calming the nerves. Yoga just takes this concept several steps further. The breathing involved in yoga helps with the general overall feeling of well-being.
We all know how much time teens spend interacting with technology every day. When teens work with an inspiring teacher who embodies and shares with them the values and wisdom of a yoga practice, chances are that they will want to bring more kindness, presence and attention to their own lives. There’s no guarantee that they’ll spend less time texting, but they may begin to think about how much is passing them by while they stare at a computer screen.
While yoga is appear to be a solitary practice, there is also a strong sense of community among those who adopt the yogic lifestyle. Incorporating the ideas and principles of yoga into one’s life makes it easy to connect with others who do the same. When a group of teens practice yoga together, they may form a bond a supportive community that they wouldn’t otherwise.
Practicing yoga helps teens develop the body-mind connection. This connection not only improves body image but also promotes better posture and even alleviates stress.
“During adolescence, there are growth spurts. The bones tend to grow fast, and the muscles stay a little tighter. This makes it difficult to maintain flexibility in adolescence. The emphasis that yoga puts on flexibility can really help with that problem,” says Kevin Walter, MD, pediatric sports medicine specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
We don’t usually think of teens having muscle tightness, but it’s a real issue for adolescents. Tight muscles can lead to tension headaches and various body aches and pains, says Walter. Increasing flexibility alleviates some of these health issues. As an added bonus, greater flexibility helps prevent sports-related injuries.
Promotes Better Posture
“A lot of the alignment principles of yoga, like drawing your navel to your spine and lifting from the crown of your head, make you engage in proper posture,” says Chryssicas. She points out that many teens become “hunched over” from carrying heavy backpacks and spending massive amounts of time on computers (not just for social networking, but also for homework). Slumped shoulders and poor posture project a poor body image.
Is practicing yoga any different from, say, playing on the lacrosse team? Experts say many sports do not foster body-mind awareness in the way that yoga does. “With sports like lacrosse, teens get that adrenaline rush from the cheering crowds. But with yoga, it’s not the crowd cheering that makes you feel good about yourself. You, alone, are responsible for feeling good about yourself,” says Mary Kaye Chryssicas, RYT, and author of Breathe: Yoga for Teens (DK Children 2007). “And sometimes competing and always wanting to be the best is draining and anxiety-producing; so yoga just brings relief.”