Teaching Yoga to Teenagers
When 13-year-old Tyler Chryssicas takes an important test, she doesn't panic. If she doesn't know an answer, she simply takes a few seconds to breathe deeply and focus—a technique she learned from practicing yoga.
Tyler is a perfect example of why teenagers need yoga. On top of the already competitive atmosphere of school, she's an athlete who figure skates and plays lacrosse and tennis.
"I'm going everywhere and so busy, so I have to have some downtime and relax," she says.
Aside from the physical benefits, yoga teaches teens techniques for coping with the unique issues they're faced with everyday—insecurity about their changing bodies, the enormous pressure to fit in, stressful schedules, and uncertainty about their beliefs and their futures.
Although teens have much to gain from yoga, their particular circumstances may present many challenges for yoga teachers, and approaches that work in adult or children's yoga classes may not be applicable.
A Fresh Approach
Laguna Beach-based yoga teacher Christy Brock has been teaching teenagers for almost a decade and now leads teacher trainings designed for those with an interest in sharing yoga with teens.
"Teens are just learning to think for themselves and figure out their stand on things," says Brock, who recently cowrote Yoga 4 Teens (Yogaminded 2005). "They come from a totally fresh perspective, which makes them really inspiring to teach."
That fresh perspective also means that a teenager's relationship with his or her yoga teacher has the potential to grow. The teacher is a role model who could have a huge impact on a teen's development from adolescent into young adult.
"Teens are very soulful and starting to get the big picture," says Leah Kalish, the program director for Yoga Ed, an organization that prepares teachers to lead yoga within a school setting. Yoga Ed is in the process of developing a curriculum designed especially for teachers who want to work with high school students. "They care about causes and self-expression and freedom. As a teacher, you help connect them to their own inner questioner."
Teens' natural tendency toward curiosity and expression forces teachers to hone and perfect their teaching skills. The language has to make sense to these students, and be concise enough to fit their shorter attention spans.
If something isn't clear, teens tend to point it out in a way that makes everyone take note. As Brock puts it, "They don't let you get away with anything."
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