5 Reasons Why Yoga is Great for Teens
Plenty of adults know the benefits of yoga. From helping relieve stress to providing a space to be mindful and reflect. Yoga can help provide some calm in our busy lives. But, what about yoga for teens? In the midst of exams, studying and homework, teens need yoga just as much as adults. It’s not just relaxation and de-stressing that yoga can help with though. Yoga for teens can also help to improve body image, self-discipline, and even help students study harder.
Jackie’s Experience with Yoga for Teens
Last week, Orange Grove, ZenMuma, and ZenYoga founder Jackie Heffer-Cooke took her yoga teaching to a local high school to teach year 11’s. Here’s why she thinks it’s so important to encourage young people to take up yoga.
“My daughter is 13 – a teen. When I told her Yoga is fast becoming one of the most popular complementary health practices, with over 1.7 million children and teens practising yoga – a number that has grown by 400,000 in the last decade, she was keen to try it. We practice yoga as a family, and I actively encourage her to undertake her own personal yoga practice too. She’s coming into a time of her life that is filled with hormones, new experiences and potentially new stresses and challenges. By practising yoga, she can understand and appreciate moments of calm in her life, and use the tools of mindfulness, positive thinking and breath to help her navigate the confusing period that is adolescence.”
Owing to the growth in popularity, and the proven health and even mental-health benefits, many schools are now offering movement and mindfulness programmes. These are offered to students to help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote physical fitness. Yoga during this formative period is useful for developing healthy exercise habits in general as well as strength, flexibility, and balance.
Why Does Yoga Help?
The timing of yoga for teens is also particularly important for the mind because the brain continues to develop throughout early to late teenage years. The prefrontal cortex is the area behind the forehead and is known as the “CEO of the brain”. This is because of its ability to plan, organize, and regulate mood. The development of the prefrontal cortex gives you the ability to concentrate and think, rather than act on impulse, and is critical to being successful throughout life stages—whether in academics, career, or relationships.
Yoga not only teaches teens to plan, rationalise and helps to regulate mood but can also help introduce students to mindfulness. The tools of mindfulness can be used both inside and outside of the classroom. They’re also extremely helpful for those students struggling with anxiety or stress as a result of studying. Teaching children how to manage and stay on top of their stress is a skill they can use throughout their entire life. Giving them a tool they can specifically use at times of stress or tension means they can go to the calm place in their mind and take time to think, and process before acting, especially when under pressure.
While young girls are often drawn to yoga as a form of exercise, teenage boys can experience some peer pressure against practising yoga, but this trend is changing. Yoga is gaining wide recognition and respect through sports celebrities like Harry Kane, Robert Downey Jr, and the entire England squad under Gareth Southgate’s supervision. Pictures of the squad doing yoga during the World Cup emerged and as a result are starting to break down the stigmatism surrounding teenage boys doing yoga.
Here’s How Yoga Can Help Teens:
1. Improves fitness and physical health.
Yoga can help students develop a connection to their body with awareness and movement. For teens that play lots of sport, the poses can even help improve balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. Even if they don’t play sport, these physical benefits are undeniable.
2. Reduces stress and anxiety.
High school can be a stressful period with both academic and personal challenges. Yoga, through breath and awareness, provides space to step back and regulate your response to stress in a calm and thoughtful manner.
3. Improves optimism.
Studies have shown that yoga can help build a sense of optimism. During a time when children and teens are looking toward their future, yoga can build a sense of hopefulness for the future.
4. Improves focus and school performance.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common developmental disorders in children and adolescents and affects 1 in 10 children. Studies have found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who practised yoga once or twice weekly can improve their behaviour as well as school performance.
5. Improves self-esteem and body image.
High school can be a formative time in which teens often struggle with body image issues, peer pressure, and bullying. Yoga creates an accepting and safe environment, rooted in the principle of non-judgment. The practice helps you feel more connected to and accepting of your body.
6. Encourages creativity.
Yoga encourages creativity and playfulness, developing not just physical flexibility but flexibility of the mind as well.
7. Develops discipline and self-regulation.
Yoga that is taught with mindfulness has significant advantages over traditional physical activity. It has been found to reduce impulsivity, increase patience, and improve the ability to regulate attention. Both yoga and mindfulness provide teens with skills to navigate challenges. It also helps them build a core foundation that benefits both the mind and body well beyond teenage years.