We all know the stereotypes… the moody teen, the door-slamming teen, the difficult teen, and the trouble-making juvenile delinquents from 50s films (well hello there James Dean)… All in all, teens have a pretty tough time of it what with the bad press, pressures from school, social and home life and now social media. It’s a time in life that requires adapting to a lot of changes in the physical and emotional body, new situations you may find yourself in- and with this new challenges to navigate. It can be a time when a lot of people feel lost, anxious about their future, and also stressed by entering the work place for the first time. Combined with the modern day pressures of social media, with its implications on body image, the constant comparing yourself to others, and the displaying of your life as a best-bits showreel -teen mental health is really taking a battering.
So what can we do about it? Well yoga isn’t the whole solution, but it certainly can help. As adults we normally start yoga as a way to exercise and to feel a little more relaxed. And just as it benefits adults, this also benefits teens. Along with the emotional impact of social media, the increase in screen time means that young people are less active, creating unhealthy lifestyles and body image. Moving our bodies feels good, not just to ease aches and pains, but also to engender a healthy body image by exploring its boundaries and shapes, and strengthens an internal perspective of the body and how it feels, rather than how it looks in the mirror. Therefore, yoga helps to boost self-esteem by taking the time to explore the body’s capabilities.
Taking some time out to just move and breathe, benefits us all by calming the nervous system (by activating the parasympathetic or rest and digest nervous system)- and for teenagers, no matter what stresses they are facing, helps to bring the body back to a calm and composed state. And with this, it helps to teach young people how to manage their anxiety or stress in a healthy way, learning to work through it with the mind and body, rather than relying on masking it with unhealthy habits. It’s also a great way to tune out without screen time.
Feeling distracted? Well, yoga can also help boost teen’s (or anyone’s) concentration through honing in focus on your practice and just being on the mat without multitasking. This singlemindedness can then be applied in the wider world to things like homework (or any sort of work for that matter…) And while yoga’s aim shouldn’t be to increase productivity, it does help when you really need to get something done!
Spacially, by taking up space on your dedicated mat, and really owning that space, and by not travelling into anyone else’s, yoga helps to teach respect for your own boundaries, and other people’s which is really important to cultivate in young people.
Crucially, one of the biggest gifts yoga can give us is that of perspective. For anyone feeling like it’s all getting too much, time on the mat just to be, can really help put everything in it’s place. Mindfulness can help you slow down, appreciate small joyful moments in life, and help you to see the bigger picture. So no matter if grades are causing you anxiety, or if you’re affected by problems at home or with social media, you can always come back to yourself and find this place of inner calm.
Yoga is definitely not the full solution to the multifaceted problems faced by teens, but it certainly can help. So if you’d like to know more, the Teen Yoga Foundation has lots of great resources!