The first stage of massive hormonal changes takes place during the turbulent years of adolescence, when the brain’s neurochemical circuitry is getting established and both brain and body go through the undulating levels of estrogen and progesterone that make adolescent girls fertile. The fluctuating hormones of puberty can result in impulsive behavior, as the amygdala, a part of the limbic system involved with emotions, is infused with hormonal fuel. And the general hormonal flux can bring on buzzing energy, mood swings, and troubled skin as well as a new focus on communication, social connections, and sexuality. Girls are increasingly sensitive during this time and often unsure of how to deal with sexual attention from others. Yoga can help teens be more at peace with their bodies, according to Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “The practice of postures, breathing, and meditation helps achieve emotional equilibrium,” she says, “allowing teens to truly hear the messages of their own heart and make choices that resonate with their personal values.”
Starting a Practice as a Teenager
Christiane Northrup, a physician and the author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, thinks adolescence “lends itself to a strenuous yoga practice”—a vigorous sequence of Sun Salutations and vinyasa flow to allow teens to channel their intense energy. But yoga for teens shouldn’t be all jumping around, cautions Krucoff, who has seen firsthand how difficult it is for teens to be still in Savasana (Corpse Pose). “They’ve grown up texting while watching TV, IM’ing while listening to CDs,” Krucoff says. “They are so wound up and stressed out, they don’t know how to just be.” Start off with a dynamic sequence to release energy, then quiet the body and mind with seated poses and forward bends.
As Lindsey Jean Smith, who was 19 when she modeled the poses on these pages, can attest, learning to watch the breath and stay in the moment can improve concentration, help teen girls interact with others more mindfully, and empower them with the tools to ride the emotional wave of their monthly cycle more smoothly. Difficult poses can build self-esteem, and restorative poses can help with PMS. Smith says yoga saved her during the “traumatic, emotional roller coaster” of her senior year of high school. The stress of applying to college was isolating. “I felt so alone. I was a mess,” she recalls. Then she signed up for yoga classes offered through the PE program. “With the first pose, my body thanked me. I built strength. My body and mind became more flexible, and stress melted off,” says Smith, who was then a freshman at Stanford University.
3 Yoga Poses Will Help You Get Through Your Teenage Years
About the Author
Nora Isaacs, a former editor at Yoga Journal, is the author of Women in Overdrive: Find Balance and Overcome Burnout at Any Age. Learn more about her writing and editing work at noraisaacs.com.