The Benefits of Yoga for Teens
Yoga practice in the teenage years is so much more than an exercise program. Yes, it provides an energy outlet and a way to build muscle and flexibility — both important in their own right. But Yoga practice also provides an entry point for a healthful and balanced perspective on life and self that can remain for a lifetime.
Calling all teens: The antidote to stress in an overscheduled life
Maybe you’re vying for a place on the team or a high class ranking, juggling a part-time job, or caring for younger siblings while being a full-time student. More likely than not, your time and energy are stretched to the max.
And your shifting hormonal levels may leave you feeling like a different person from day to day, hour to hour, and even minute to minute.
Yoga, a union of mind and body, can make weathering the demands of daily life easier. With regular practice, you may find that you have a greater ability to think for yourself and trust yourself — important at a time of life when peer pressure can feel overwhelming and poor judgment and bad decisions can impact your health, your well-being, and your future.
Headstands, shoulder stands, and the lotus position may look like the popular idea of Yoga, but in fact, they can be dangerous. Young people are still growing and generally don’t yet have the necessary musculature and stability to tackle these postures safely, so stay away from them for now.
Fit for life, and so much more
Perhaps the most important benefit Yoga can offer you during your teen years is the opportunity to develop a lifelong friendship with your body. When you develop a Yoga practice, first under the guidance of a skilled and nurturing teacher and then later on your own, you tune in to your body, pay attention to what’s happening, and respond appropriately — not unlike the good energy you put into your friendships.
A regular Yoga practice can help you develop the focus, concentration, and discipline you need to study well and pursue your dreams. And when you’re barefoot on your mat in the practice studio, you’re free from the pecking order of your school campus. Yoga helps you become self-confident and courageous, without competing. How good is that?
Of course, Yoga is also a great way to become and stay fit. Both the USDA and Health Canada rank having an adequate level of physical activity as a high health priority. At ChooseMyPlate.gov, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) puts physical activity on par with eating a balanced diet, for a healthful life. As a form of physical fitness, Yoga is an attractive package:
It’s economical. You can begin practicing right away, without a teacher. There are lots of free resources available.
You just need enough floor space to practice safely. If you practice at home, try to find a private space. If your space is at a premium, consider following the lead of a highly respected Yoga teacher who’s been known to practice “bathroom Yoga” when no other private space was available. Building codes require even the smallest bathrooms to have a certain amount of floor space.
Can Yoga help you maintain a healthy weight?
According to Robert M. Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (Henry Holt and Company), modern garden-variety stressors can lead to overeating — in particular, choosing the wrong kinds of food to overeat. Stress floods your body with hormones that affect your appetite. If the stress is intense but short-lived, most people usually experience a loss of appetite — the way you feel when you’re too nervous to eat.
But when you experience frequent on-and-off stress throughout the course of the day, day in and day out, the hormonal levels in the body increase appetite. What helps? Engaging in regular exercise that you look forward to doing, meditating, and cultivating a self-accepting, nonperfectionist approach to life are a few practices that have been shown to help. How handy to be able to find all that in Yoga!