The teenage years are tricky for anyone to navigate. As our children transition into adulthood, they go through huge changes, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This is a time when our children begin to assert their independence and develop a stronger sense of their own identity. But it can also be a time of huge stress. Teenagers must navigate academic and social pressures and make big decisions about their futures.
Plus, teenagers are increasingly aware of global issues. As they awaken to the problems in the world, our children can start to feel like they have a huge weight on their shoulders. From climate change to a global pandemic, to continued inequality and racism, there’s plenty to keep our teenagers up at night.
All this pressure on our teens is creating a mental health crisis. Depression in young people is on the rise, with over 15% experiencing a major depressive episode in 2021. Even more worryingly, 60% of young people with severe depression don’t get any mental health treatment.
These are concerning statistics for any parent or caregiver. Providing our teens with the support they need to weather mental health challenges clearly needs to be a priority for us all.
While there’s no substitute for the help of a trained mental health professional, there are things we can do as parents and caregivers to help our teenagers build their resilience and develop their coping toolkit. One of these is encouraging them to engage in activities that encourage mindfulness, including yoga and meditation.
Yoga has other benefits for teenagers too. As well as helping them manage stress and anxiety, yoga encourages body positivity, builds physical strength and flexibility, and helps teens concentrate in class.
Mindful movement and meditation bring body, mind, and spirit together. When our teenagers are navigating challenging times, practicing yoga can give them physical, mental, and emotional benefits.
So, if you are considering signing your teenager up for yoga classes, here are some of the reasons you should take the plunge.
Yoga combines physical poses (asana) with breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana) to form a practice that can help our teenagers find a sense of calm and balance, no matter what stresses and challenges they face.
Studies show that taking part in a regular yoga practice is often effective in reducing anxiety and depression in teenagers, as well as younger children. They can take the mindfulness tools they learn in class out into the wider world, giving them something to draw on when they are worried or stressed.
To support this learning, we provide our teenage students each a copy of the Mission Me journal. This excellent resource helps teens deepen their understanding of anxiety and learn techniques to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Yoga teaches teens to focus their minds and increases their ability to pay attention and concentrate on a task. While this has benefits in all areas of life, it can be especially useful for high school students who want to keep their grades up.
When researchers looked at the effect of yoga on the academic performance of 95 high school students, they found that the group who did yoga saw less of a decline in their GPA across the school year than the group who didn’t.
It seems that the focus learned on the mat translates back into the classroom too. Plus, the physical side of yoga is a great antidote to hours spent studying.
Adolescence comes with many changes, including physical developments and increased social awareness. Coupled with the idealized bodies celebrated by the media and the fierce pressure to conform, this can leave our teens struggling with their self-esteem.
Yoga helps to combat these messages and teaches teenagers to love and appreciate their bodies just as they are. As their skills and knowledge increase, learning yoga builds their confidence and helps them trust in their own abilities.
At Yogamazia, we encourage our teenage students to step into leadership roles, including teaching younger students. This affirmation of trust in them as emerging adults helps to build confidence and self-esteem, as do the poses and mindfulness techniques we use in class.
As our children approach adulthood, their development takes another leap forward. Nurtured correctly, this leap can see our teenagers become passionate, kind, and caring adults. Their ability to build healthy relationships, make thoughtful decisions, and be resilient in the face of challenges all depend on their social and emotional intelligence. Yoga can help them learn these skills.
Since yoga teaches us to turn our attention inwards and connect with our thoughts and emotions, it is an excellent way to help our teenagers develop their emotional awareness. Researchers have found that young teens and pre-teens who take part in mindfulness activities show higher levels of social and emotional competence than their peers.
This is one of the reasons we use the GoZen! program in our Warrior (ages 6 and up) yoga classes. This framework is designed to help students develop their social and emotional awareness and turn anxiety and worry into confidence and courage.
The mental and emotional benefits of yoga are undeniable, but there are physical benefits too. Our teens live increasingly digital lives, so any practice that encourages them to find joy in moving their bodies is to be encouraged.
Yoga is well-known for helping us increase our strength and flexibility. At an age where their muscles are still developing, bodyweight exercises like yoga are often more appropriate for our teens than lifting heavy weights at the gym.
As our children progress through adolescence, our relationship with them changes – often explosively. Where they once looked to us for guidance and advice, they are now more likely to turn to their peers and reject our attempts to help them.
Painful though this process can be, it is a necessary part of becoming an independent adult. However, we still want to make sure that our kids are surrounded by a positive and encouraging support system.
Attending a teens’ yoga class can help our children develop relationships with peers outside of school, broadening their social group and giving them opportunities to connect with other teenagers who have similar interests.
At Yogamazia, we’re an inclusive and welcoming community, with classes dedicated to each stage of your child(ren)’s development.
For preteens, our Warrior II classes are a fun way to learn the fundamentals of yoga, including poses, relaxation techniques, and more. Meanwhile, our Warrior III classes are for teenagers aged 13+. These empowering sessions are aimed at creating the confident, compassionate leaders of the future.
References and Further Reading
Butzer, B., van Over, M., Noggle Taylor, J. J., & Khalsa, S. B. (2015). Yoga May Mitigate Decreases in High School Grades. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 259814. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/259814
Bhardwaj, A. K., Singh, N., Balkrishna, A., & Telles, S. (2017). Sustained improvement in self-esteem in children after 13 months of unsupervised yoga practice. Int J Complement Alt Med, 7(3), 00223.
James-Palmer, A., Anderson, E. Z., Zucker, L., Kofman, Y., & Daneault, J. F. (2020). Yoga as an Intervention for the Reduction of Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in pediatrics, 8, 78. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2020.00078
Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america, consulted April 27, 2022.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151.