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Guide to Teaching Teen Yoga

January 19, 2021

Teachers of Kids Yoga and Teen Yoga play a vital role in creating a more dynamic learning experience for young minds. If teaching yoga to kids and teenagers interests you, a good way to begin is to first know how yoga impacts them. 

Teaching Kids Yoga and Teen Yoga becomes a rewarding experience as it can make a great impact in a young person’s life. Yoga can be an immensely powerful educational tool to help young people develop into healthy, confident, and conscious adults.  

Yoga for kids and teens is an ideal way to develop a better awareness of their own body, as well as their overall coordination and cognitive abilities. Practicing yoga boosts the development of their attention span and emotional intelligence. Just like in adults, yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety in children and young adults too. It helps them experience greater well-being, peace, harmony, and joy. 

Yoga and mindfulness for kids 

Children, especially in the 6-12 age group, learn through interactive experiences. Giving youngsters a more motivating experience than a routine education can go a long way in shaping their future. Yoga enables a child’s body and mind to grow in a wholesome and balanced way from an early age. Teaching them simple breathing and meditation exercises can promote their emotional well-being. It also instils kindness, patience, gratitude, and other valuable qualities in them. Further, it enables them to value hard work, team effort, and acceptance. Yoga helps a growing child become better acquainted with his or her own emotions, and learn to accept it.  

We are all aware of how yoga benefits our bodies and minds. If adults can feel so much difference after a yoga practice, imagine how much a child will gain if they are taught yoga from an early age.  

Benefits of teaching yoga to kids  

Working with kids can be a fun experience despite the challenges. Living in a tech-savvy world has become a necessity, but for young minds, it can be a little stressful and unhealthy if there is too much screen time. Not only are young children exposed to health risks like obesity, sleep deprivation, emotional problems, and loss of cognitive abilities, but their social development gets impaired too. 

The main benefit of teaching Kids Yoga is the wonderful chance to support a child’s growth in a meaningful way. Bringing yoga’s goodness to young children can be a great support for their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. By learning postures, breathing exercises, and meditation, children learn to re-align their energy. They become more focused, calm, and responsive. Their bodies become healthy, and their minds become clear.  

Why is teaching yoga to teenagers important?

Don’t let your schooling interfere with your education. - Mark Twain

Our conventional educational system relies upon competitiveness between pupils for assimilating a standard curriculum and for improving their performance. Generally, conventional schooling does not teach emotional stability or how to discover your own talents and other important social skills like empathy. 

The adolescent years are delicate and very important. It is in this period that teenagers develop behavioral patterns that will influence their future life. Yoga can play a vital role in developing healthy patterns in young people, both in posture and attitude. 

Teenagers and their relationship with their physical body

For adolescents, yoga is an effective tool for developing self-knowledge through awareness of the deep connection between the body and mind. Yoga opens pathways for: 

  • Discovering the potential of their body
  • Recognizing their personal power
  • Having tools available for balancing the mind and that support healthy growth

Teenagers are understandably often worried about their body’s function and outlook; their body changes and hormonal changes make them feel overwhelmed. Practicing yoga helps them to bring attention to their body in a conscious and non-judgmental way. It helps them know and appreciate their body for what it can do, and at the same time to accept its limits. 

Listening and becoming aware of one’s limits in an asana, the ability to stop when necessary, teaches teenagers to say no. This will support them both in situations concerning their own body and in relationships with the outside world. 

Yoga provides teens with the tools to learn how to stay focused and calm even in the midst of external disturbances. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques promote concentration during the preparation for an exam and help manage states of anxiety and tension. 

Adolescents look for their place in society and try to understand how to express themselves. They experiment with ways of acting and behaving while building their individualism and their ability to decide independently about their own life. 

Practicing yoga helps teenagers achieve all these goals while respecting themselves and others. Yoga becomes a precious help even at school as it encourages students to look internally to make decisions based on self-respect and consideration for others. 

Teen Yoga encourages teenagers to make decisions in a variety of situations. During a yoga class, the teen decides whether to proceed to a more advanced pose or how to support their body in the best way. 

For example, a teenager with tighter hamstrings is encouraged to use a block instead of trying to reach the floor in Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). The decision to use support in an asana stimulates the adolescent to seek solutions and answers. It encourages them to observe themselves without comparing to those around them or to what others do. This attitude becomes fundamental when the adolescent copes with issues such as drugs, sex, and alcohol. 

The overcharged teenagers of modern times

A Teen Yoga class is a place where they can learn to put worries aside and experience relief from stress. This relief, even when temporary, can give them a refreshed perspective and train the mind to focus on one challenge at a time. A very important topic when we talk about teenagers is stress management. If you work with teens as a teacher, or as a therapist, you can observe how overloaded their life is, and how overcharged their emotions are. Yoga can be very helpful in giving teens the right tools to manage their inner responses to what’s going on in their life.   

Read more: 3 Breathing Exercises to Calm Down

Kids + Teen Yoga as a complementary educational system

The word education derives from the Latin word ‘educere,’ which means ‘bring out.’ Thus, education is not only the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction. It is also the system of laying a solid foundation for the individual’s character and personality. 

Educating someone means helping them to develop the ability to understand what is true, pure, valid, and lasting. Hence, education is the tool through which a young person can develop spirituality and morality. True education prepares us to face life with courage and firmness. 

Yoga - A new definition of education? 

Academic accomplishment is vital, but it should not become a child’s only purpose. When working with children and teenagers, our job is to help them express their talents and the innate values that they carry within. It also means to help them improve their abilities to overcome frustrations and difficulties, develop resilience, and stronger self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Traditional schooling becomes a back-breaking experience for the young ones since it mostly focuses on intellectual development. Yoga for kids and teenagers can become a complementary educational program so as to help young children and teens cope with the pressures of school life. When we give our children the right teaching, it enables them to live better and perform better in their tasks and roles. 

Yoga as a supplement to the traditional education system 

Yoga is a path, a way to self-realization, a journey to self- harmony and balance with others and with the planet. Yoga helps young people become aware of their abilities. It helps to develop their sociality and their sense of belonging to a group. They learn self-respect, respect for others, for the whole of humanity, and for every other form of life. 

Knowledge and skills alone are not enough to make a happy adult and a healthy society. Before we aim to transmit knowledge and skills to the youth, in my opinion, we must first teach them values such as cooperation, compassion, respect, positive thinking for themselves and others. 

The purpose of teaching yoga to adolescents is to encourage the development of their whole personality through the balance between asana (pose), pranayama (control of breath), relaxation, and dharana (concentration). Understanding the needs of kids and teenagers and what you have to offer them begins with self-reflection. 

Tips for becoming an effective Kids Yoga and Teen Yoga teacher

From a young age, children and teenagers constantly look for an authority figure whom they can trust. They respect and believe someone who is able to create a connection with them, who respects them and guides them from an equal standpoint.  

As a yoga teacher training a younger crowd, you will be exposed to a completely new environment. As such, the methods and approaches you adopt in your class will bear a strong influence on how your students learn and perform. Teaching yoga to kids and teenagers isn’t the same as teaching adults. Having an open mind and a flexible attitude is a must. Likewise, you will need a lot of patience, and more importantly, you need to be kind to yourself too! 

In training the younger lot, you will get the unique scope to use your own learning in a very different context. To encourage you in this journey and to make things a little easier, here are some tips on becoming a Kids and Teen Yoga teacher: 

  • Identify with your students. Try to create a bridge between you and them and remember you were a teenager once too. Take time to identify and remember your concerns and feelings at the time. 
  • Gain information about teens today by asking questions, reading books about the teen experience, and watching some of the TV shows or movies your students talk about. 
  • Be authentic. Children and teens have an incredible authenticity sensor, and you can’t really pretend to be someone you’re not. 
  • Develop the skill of being an active, involved listener. Make a constant effort to understand what your adolescent students may need, and open yourself for honest and frank dialogue whenever necessary. 

And… 

  • Love teens! 
  • Believe in the power of  yoga! 

Three practical tips on how to teach yoga to teenagers

1. Create and adhere to a comprehensive structure:

A structured approach is important while teaching children and teenagers. They may seem resistant to the idea, but secretly they need it as much as a loving relationship. When young people resist structure, it's because it is either forced on them without their consent or without their understanding of the benefits of it. 

Structuring your class in a comprehensive way and sticking to that pattern helps the students know what to expect. This understanding helps them to relax in the present moment. Often teachers feel the need to constantly generate new and different classes, but students often don’t actually like that. With structured consistency, students can measure their own successes (however they define that for themselves) and feel proud of their practice. 

Want to learn more about sequencing comprehensively? Check out our book Hatha Yoga for Teachers & Practitioners - A Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Sequencing

2. Be encouraging:

Your job as a Kids and Teens Yoga teacher is to help them reach their goals and guide them on their path to self-acceptance. Young folks can be a handful, especially if you are trying to confine and control them within a framework of restrictions, orders, and authoritative expression. In a frank dialogue with your students, first find out what their struggles, and needs may be. And then encourage them to see how yoga can help. 

When you instruct them in class, try to use a language that tells them what to do in a simple and easy way. Avoid refusals, and be sure to appreciate their good effort. 

Read more: 8 Tips to Make Your Students Feel Safe in Your Yoga Class

3. Adapt to your students' energy level:

Once you enter your Kids and Teens Yoga class, tune into their level of energy. If they are excited, begin the class with a higher level of intensity and gradually let the class become slower and more relaxed.  If your students seem exhausted, make sure to start the class gently and see if you can add a little more energy in the middle of the class. Always end the class with an extensive final relaxation in Shavasana (at least 10 minutes, preferably 15 minutes). 

In the beginning, the kids or adolescent students in your class might struggle with the final relaxation. The idea that rest is something they can create on their own is a new concept for most of them. Most teenagers are exhausted, and with the right conditions, they’ll come back to yoga wanting more and more time for Shavasana. You can offer some different resting poses at the end of class for those students who don’t feel comfortable in Shavasana. 

About the author

Marzia Bendotti

Marzia Bendotti is an experienced yoga teacher, specialized in yoga therapy and Postural Yoga. She’s the founder of the method Care Yoga and with her medical-scientific background, she’s the Director of a Yoga Therapy Program dedicated to lowering stress levels and strengthening the immune system in women with cervical cancer.

Her project YO! Yoga for children and teens is dedicated to spreading the yoga practice in schools. Yo! Includes a specific program dedicated to teaching staff, to help them create a healthy environment, and a harmonious relationship between students and teachers. She regularly teaches yoga in primary and secondary schools. For the Arhanta Online Academy, she has created a 50-hour YACEP accredited program, Teen Yoga Teacher Training

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