web analytics

Why do Teens do Yoga

By Veronica Greene (printed in Om magazine May 2018)

Nearly everyone can list the benefits of yoga…………increased fitness; better body awareness; better posture; balanced hormones; increased immunity; lower stress and all round better health and wellbeing.
These factors attract many pupils to yoga classes of varied disciplines but often are not enough to keep them attending on a continued basis.
Kids can also achieve the same benefits from yoga and can be enticed by making the yoga class great fun with games or stories or roll play.

What about teenagers?

Teens are at that awkward stage. Questions are never answered by a simple yes or no when one has shoulders that can be shrugged; eye contact is often reserved for very good friends or the family pet; hoods are clearly meant to be up indoors and suddenly the ability to speak without mumbling has been lost.

Nobody understands them and “what’s the point”, so why would they attend a yoga class?

Clearly there is a demand given the number of Teen Yoga Teacher Training courses on the market but do they attend of their own accord or do their mother’s make them?
I’ve been teaching teenagers yoga for about 12 years. I run classes in schools and tailor the class for my audience.
If I’m working with students around exam time then I’ll work on balancing postures for concentration and relaxing postures to help them achieve a good night’s sleep.
If I’m working with a sports team I’ll introduce postures which will help improve a particular sport and if I’m working with the football team I will ‘man up’ my yoga teaching style……………..sorry but it’s true!

So classes are tailored to my audience.

But what about my main stream, public, teen classes? They don’t play for the same team, study the same subjects or have the same personality type. The only thing they share is an abundance of hormones and a love for hoodies!
I decided to sit my girls’ teen class down and ask a few questions about what brings them to yoga and what keeps them coming back. The class is made up of 15 girls. 6 of the girls have been doing yoga with me for more than 6 years and have graduated into the teen class, from my kid’s classes. 4 of the girls are quite shy. 5 are sporty ‘jock’ types and 2 do no other form of exercise! 5 are ‘A’ students while 3 of the girls are not keen on school.

Why do you come to yoga?

“It’s helps me relax and I feel less anxious.”
I have asthma and my attacks are less if I keep coming to yoga. It also gets rid of the tension in my shoulders”
“I like the people here.”
“Helps me stretch my muscles out after a weekend of playing hockey.”

What parts of the yoga class do you like?

“Relaxation at the end!”
“Shoulderstands with a chair”
“Sunsalutaions”

What parts of the yoga class to you dislike?

“Head down dog!”
“Sunsalutations.”
“Balancing postures”

Do you practice at home?

“Sometimes when I’m stressed”
“When I can’t sleep I’ll do some of the breathing exercises.”
“When my muscles are really tight, I’ll stretch them out.”

How would you feel about a mixed class?

“I don’t mind if the boys are good looking?”
“I wouldn’t want that as then we couldn’t ask questions.”
“I’d feel weird doing head down dog.”

The more we chatted the more they opened up about their yoga class and what it meant to them. It became clear that although the girls were all very different they felt they shared this common bond of yoga. They encouraged each other in some of the trickier postures. They felt comfortable enough to discuss hormones, skin breakouts and issues with friends or teachers. The ‘jocks’ were kind to the shy girls. The 12 year olds looked up to the 18 year olds and the 18 year olds in return would give them the time of day.

I sat back and watched this group of teens interact. A group who were very different as individuals and who would probably never be friends outside the yoga studio. A group of teens that only ever came together to share this bond for 1 hour a week. It then struck me that the yoga studio was just like the detention room in the 1985 film the ‘Breakfast Club’, where total strangers, with nothing in common meet, share a moment and accept each other for what and who they are.

A cult movie, even in modern times – let’s hope my yoga class is the same!

Veronica Greene founded Little Greene Yoga® and offers a Certified Children’s Teacher Training package (3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs, Teen – Mind & Body & Postnatal Yoga)

Printed in Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine (June 2017)

by Veronica Greene, founder of Little Greene Yoga

Little Greene Yoga a certified children’s teacher training package (3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs & Teens)

 

Congratulations! You’ve passed and are now a fully qualified Yoga Instructor!

What now?

You have your 200 hours yoga qualification under your belt. You’re ready to take on the whole world and can’t wait to share your knowledge with everyone and I mean everyone – the benefits of yoga should be shared no matter age, sex, health, disability or life stage.

 

So does your yoga qualification really cover you to teach ‘everyone’?

You did attend a talk on children’s yoga as part of your course. You were also instructed to treat pregnant woman as individuals! So surely that means you are able to teach the whole world?

Absolutely – you can teach whomever you want. In fact given that there are no national standards you could’ve taught without actually having done you’re a yoga qualification, in the first place, and many people do!

But not you – you decided to arm yourself with knowledge and completed a ‘certified’ teacher training course!

So do you think that lecture on children’s yoga has equipped you to teach children; the pregnancy notes given are enough to see a student through the nine months of pregnancy and then the postnatal phase?

One could argue that a body is just a body no matter what age or what life stage; one could also argue that yoga is the same no matter who you’re teaching it to!

In part you are right ………………………let’s start from the beginning.

 

Conception!

As soon as a woman conceives and the fertilized egg becomes an embryo major, internal changes start to take place in her body. Hormone levels rise causing a range of symptoms from nausea to loosening joints. Cardiac output increases and blood pressure drops. All changes which are perfectly normal but will affect her balance, mood and body awareness. As the pregnancy progresses the weight of the baby will affect digestion, circulation, breathing not to mention the pressure on her pelvic floor.

Pregnancy Yoga

At this time many woman decide to take up yoga for the first time! Many health practitioners recommend it as they deem yoga a gentle form of exercise. This, of course, will depend on the class and the style that is being taught.

 

As 10 – 20% of spontaneous miscarriages happen in the first trimester taking up any new activity, at this stage is not recommended.

Even after the 1st trimester many instructors do not feel comfortable having a pregnant woman in their class as they have a duty of care for not only the mother but also the unborn child. This is unfortunate as yoga is wonderful physically and mentally for a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Many yoga postures are deemed unsuitable for pregnant woman as they may put too much pressure on the abdomen or pelvic floor – mostly closed twists, abdominal work and strong backbends. That’s the general guidelines for a ‘normal pregnancy’ but what about the common problems that can and do occur in pregnancy – high blood pressure; gestational diabetes, prematurely dilated cervix, Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction? In some yoga traditions even standing postures would be avoided especially if there is a history of miscarriage and these are the mainstay of many a yoga class!

 

After the birth yoga is fantastic to rebuild the body without any risk to the now, born child.

Again many changes have to be made:- prone positions where the mother is lying fully on her abdomen and chest could be uncomfortable and lead to mastitis; unsupported backbends can be too energizing and dry up the mum’s milk supply.

What about pelvic floor issues, painful 3rd degree tears; cesarean scar tissue, carpal tunnel, separated tummy muscles (diastasis recti). In fact the popularised photo of the mum, in a variation of Boat Pose, with her baby balanced on her shins, is an absolute no-no for a mother with separated tummy muscles – who knew!

The child grows and the parents, knowing how great yoga is, send them to a yoga class. These children are just mini people so surely the same yoga can be taught in just a more child friendly way.

No! This small person has a developing body i.e. the arches of the feet are developing; bones are still fusing, hormone surges take place especially in boys aged 4-6yrs; the lumbar curve of the spine does not fully assume it’s adult shape until the age of 10 etc. etc.

 

Many yoga teachers will teach children and teens the same postures as they would an adult and in the same way.

Although inversions are beneficial for their developing endocrine system one really does need to tread carefully.

Children do not have enough body awareness or upper body strength to perform headstands (Sirasasana 1) safely without injury to their cervical spine! Shoulderstands held, as one would in adult class, can be overstimulating to an underdeveloped thyroid gland.

‘True’ Pranayama, as taught on many training courses, should not be practiced with children or indeed teens for a variety of reasons – the most important being that their lungs are still growing until late teens for girls and early 20s for boys. Bhastrika and Kumbhaka pranayama are actually considered dangerous for this age group.

That’s quite a lot of information and responsibility!

 

In the words of Aristotle – “The more you know the more you know you don’t know”.

Legally there’s no requirement for supplemental training but to best prepare for the myriad of life stages and challenges each presents, do consider embarking on some of the specialist training courses that are now available.