No items found.
Three Yoga Tools: Helping Teens Find BalanceBy Abby Wills
Posted on 15-Feb-2011
For over a decade, Abby Wills has joyfully guided youth and teachers in movement arts, mindfulness and yoga. She is the founder of Shanti Generation: Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers, has guided youth in movement arts, mindfulness and yoga in schools and communities. Visit www.shantigeneration.com
Navigating the journey between childhood and teenager status can be both a fantastic and treacherous adventure. At the onset of puberty, everything seems to change. Youth experience dramatic, often sudden, transformations of physical systems, cognitive capacities and social relationships. It is natural for youth to experience some degree of confusion or disequilibrium about these major life alterations. The fluctuations in mood and opinion can be just as confusing for the people who live and work with youth. Fortunately, ancient health systems like yoga can contribute to finding balance and ease. Here are three yoga tools that I’ve found helpful to the teens I’ve worked with over the past 10 years. They address three distinct needs that many early adolescents share: self- awareness, emotional regulation and energy rejuvenation.
1. Breath Moves Energy
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged pose on the floor. With a deep inhale, extend both arms out to the side and up, joining the palms overhead. Exhaling, draw the joined hands down the midline of the body, past the face, heart and center. Inhale, arms reach out and up overhead. Exhale, center the mind and body as the hands pull down the midline. Repeat 10 to 20 times being mindful of movements and breath the entire time.
Benefits: Increases self awareness, builds lung capacity and develops core strength.
Why it works: When the body, mind and breath move together in concert, the whole system reaches a higher level of harmony. Explain to youth that yoga is about linking all of the different parts of ourselves together: physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social. All of these parts can be compared to a band. When one part is out of tune, the whole song can sound unpleasant. Yoga is a practice of tuning our various parts to the same note.
2. Balance through Challenges
Stand tall with feet hips width apart. Spread the toes and press evenly through all four corners of the feet. Extend both arms out to the side to help maintain balance. Press deliberately into the right foot, slowly lifting the left foot from the floor. Place the sole of the left foot onto the inner calf muscle or inner thigh of the right leg (avoid placing the left foot on the right knee as the pressure on the joint can be unsafe). The left knee points outward and the toes of the left foot face the floor. As balance is established, reach arms overhead into Tree Pose. Practice paying attention to the breath and keeping the eyes focused. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Cultivates core strength and balance, develops emotional regulation, and increases muscular strength and tone in legs, trunk and arms.
Why it works: Learning to stay focused and calm during the challenge of balancing on one foot is a skill that transfers to many activities. In this exercise, the body, mind and breath work together to achieve balance for the whole system.
3. Let Go and Trust the Flow
Lie down face up on the floor. With legs straight, place feet wider than hips width. Extend arms out beside the body with hands below heart level and palms open to the sky. Close the eyes and find the breath. Starting from the toes and feet, relax each part of the body all the way up to the crown of the head. Let the bones and muscles release into the floor. Allow the organs to soften. Find the heartbeat. Stay in this position for five to 10 minutes rejuvenating the body’s energy and allowing the mind to be spacious.
Benefits: Strengthens body/mind connection, relieves mental stress and rejuvenates physical energy.
Why it works: Adolescents need to rest. They often stay up late and need to wake up early for school. Lack of rest creates moodiness and lethargy. Five to 10 minutes of focused resting can save hours of wasted time.
These simple, practical practices can be offered to teens at home or in a classroom environment. You don’t need to be a certified yoga teacher to help guide youth toward the practice. Remember: Youth do not typically enjoy being pushed in any direction, so a subtle approach may be most successful. Letting teens know that they have power in shaping their life can inspire them to give the yoga tools a try.
Go Back To Articles
Latest Blog Posts
Mesothelioma patients may feel wary of taking their first yoga class, worrying that they will be asked to put their feet behind their head or support their bodyweight on their arms. Read On....
Teaching my weekly Tuesday class, I was reminded of the sweetness of yoga at any age. Barbara, 82, who never misses a class, was next to my new student Hallie, 22—learning, exploring, enjoying the benefits of practice. Age in many ways is truly just a number for yogis – how fortunate we are to have an embodied practice that helps us remain healthy and agile as we are Read On....