by Karen Martin, Certified YogaKids Teacher
With ten minutes to go, I take a final glance at the soft blanket and pillow lying on the yoga mat in the uncluttered, “walkable” part of the room. This peaceful preparation is in each of my kids’ bedrooms, ready for their arrival off the school bus. Once home, my teens will get “down time” in this space, listening via ear buds to either their own music or silence (what I would call “blissful quiet”). This creative solution to after school stress? The result of my becoming a YogaKids instructor and my realization that teens (especially my teens) really, really need this yoga break!
Since becoming a CYKT, I have shared yoga with a variety of age groups. My teen teaching experiences always linger on my mind long after the class is over. They have a profound effect on me. I think it is because I identify with many of these kids who stumble through this awkward stage just as I did. And my own teens? Outwardly, they appear confident and controlled. Inside? Not so much. They can be just the opposite: conflicted, unsure, moody, and impulsive.
I felt gawky and out of place many times during my teen years. Figuring out who I was and what I wanted to be was tough. I wanted to fit in, yet didn’t wish to compromise my gradually emerging inner voice. I wanted to “feel comfortable in my own skin” but not at the expense of appearing too “different”. Oftentimes I wish I had been introduced to yoga back then, knowing now how grounding and self-affirming this practice can be.
There is a strong component of self-discovery and self-care with yoga. Teens can begin to recognize and listen to their inner voice and learn how it can steady them on rocky paths. Poses truly are pathways where each step in learning a posture can build confidence. Teens learn to modify asanas in regards to their own body’s response. They feel capable and self-assured.
Noticing the breath’s change in intensity and rhythm can provide more feedback to teens as to how they are feeling. Awareness of the breath can also open up possibilities allowing regulation in a positive way. Taking the time to notice the breath; to stop, pause, and think can help bring a moment of clarity to any situation, slowing impulsive responses.
With better understanding of themselves, teens can interact with greater empathy towards others. The realization that we all have different abilities, yet can partner pose successfully with others opens up more opportunities for cooperation and communication.
This post-school “Mini-Savasana” for my own teens is an important and highly anticipated part of our day. Relaxation offers a safe place for stillness, reflection and rest. Upon arising, they feel refreshed and better able to concentrate on homework and other activities. I hope they always continue to see yoga as a sweet and sustaining part of life — it will be the best gift I’ve ever given them.