Yoga For Good Health
The teen years can be physically stressful on young people. They're dealing with a high influx of hormones and growing like weeds. Much of the emotional havoc this age is known for can be blamed on these physical changes.
Fortunately, there are ways to cope. One way young people can deal with the physical stress is through physical activity. When you're dead tired after a hard game of soccer or a challenging dance class, it's more difficult to get overly emotional about things. But what about the kids who aren't overly coordinated? How can they reap the emotional benefits of physical exercise if they're not the athletic type?
Debbie Crane, mother of three from Vancouver, Canada, wondered the same thing. While two of her children loved fencing and Tae Kwon Do, her 17-year-old son enjoyed quieter activities, but when he discovered yoga, something just clicked.
"I think the whole yoga/meditation thing has been great for Andrew," says Crane. "He is an introvert in a family of extroverts, and I think yoga has given him the tools to center himself, release stress and develop focus."
Balance and Focus
Many parents are finding that yoga is giving their stressed-out, hormonal teens and preteens a sense of relaxation and focus. Yoga instructors who have taught young people agree. Nancy Wile, Ed.D., is a registered yoga teacher and founder of Yoga to Go, a one-stop, personal yoga shop. In her experience, preteens and teens can gain valuable physical and mental skills through learning and practicing yoga.
"Yoga can help teens, especially girls, appreciate the new changes in their bodies and learn self-acceptance," says Wile. "Yoga can also balance hormonal mood swings, since regular exercise increases endorphins – the body's natural anti-depressant. Rapidly changing bodies can create muscular imbalances in boys and girls. Yoga helps create a balance of strength and flexibility in all the major muscle groups."
Wile also believes that yoga can help kids develop more focus. In yoga, teens learn how to focus on what they are doing in the moment and let go of worries about the future. Because children of this age tend to worry, yoga can be a way of coping with the new and complex challenges of growing up.
"Yoga can help kids deal with new and difficult emotions," says Wile. "In yoga, teens learn breathing techniques to relax their minds and bodies. They can use these breathing techniques in their daily lives to calm down and feel more at peace before reacting to anything."
Preteens to Teens
Sarah Schain, founder and creative director of Yoga Tales Inc., a youth-centered yoga studio in Bethesda, Md., believes that yoga is the perfect physical activity for all ages, but especially tweens and teens. "The preteen and teen years are some of the most challenging years," she says. "They are growing out of childhood but not grown up enough to be considered an adult. Their bodies are changing and so are attitudes and energies."
According to Schain, there are many reasons that yoga benefits your growing child beyond just balancing hormones:
- Hormone balance: What better way to quiet the mind than using a simple action like breathing to gain control of one's emotions. Breathing exercises practiced in yoga class (there are many different types) directly affect the nervous system. They can calm or create energy for the body. It is important for a preteen to develop relaxation skills in order to regroup or relax. Some preteens are tired all the time, so like the breath calms the mind, it can also wake you up and leave you feeling rejuvenated and alert!
- Meditation: Relaxation techniques teach us about withdrawing the senses to be in the moment. Is anyone more distracted than a teenager?
- Boost self-esteem: Yoga is a noncompetitive, independent exercise. Each yoga pose can be modified so everyone can do it!
- Balance: Yoga teachers say, "The way you live your life is how you practice yoga on the mat."
- Body Awareness: The body is changing and some kids might feel uncomfortable, even awkward, with these changes. Yoga can help establish a connection between the mind and body so one can embrace the changes and appreciate his or her new body.
- Concentration: Balance poses practiced in yoga have proven to boost concentration and focus.
With so many classes available, finding a good yoga class for your teen may seem daunting. Schain says there are several things parents should keep in mind when looking for the perfect fit. "First, parents should find a yoga studio that offers yoga for the right age group," she says. "Ask if you can have your child drop in. It's important to find the right yoga class. If your teen has a bad experience in an adult yoga class, they might never go back."
Schain believes that children and teens should go to a class geared for their age group because they are not adults. Adult yoga classes typically have a pre-planned lesson and tend to be fixed. "Tweens and teens need a nurturing atmosphere where they feel free to express themselves, ask questions and try new things," she says.
You can find a qualified instructor through the Yoga Alliance, or check your local yellow pages. Just make sure the teachers are registered yoga instructors.
The emotional and physical changes teens go through can be very challenging for young people. Yoga just might be an invaluable tool in helping them cope with this very trying time.