Our parenting styles are as diverse as our families. Yet, we all share a common wish: to provide our young people with the tools they need to thrive for a lifetime of resilience.
Adolescence presents a host of biological, social and emotional changes that can be confusing for both youth and the adults that live with them. A commonly held belief about adolescents places youth at the center of a tumultuous rampage of raging hormones. Studies actually do not conclude such beliefs to be true for a majority of teenagers. With education and resources, adolescence can also be a time of empowerment for teens and a positive renewal for adults who live and work with them.
“Many of the anxieties, beliefs, and hopes about adolescence are based on behaviors that are representative of only a minority of adolescents, and may, in turn, have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies, to create exactly the adolescent behavior we expect.” (From Understanding Adolescence.)
Yoga and mindfulness help to bring teens strengths to the surface. Through the practices, youth develop critical skills for resilience and overall well being, including:
For parents privileged to live in a community where youth yoga classes are offered in studios, schools or centers, finding an effective teacher is key.
1. Experience: A good teacher will have both yoga and child/teen education experience. Education experience can range from the classroom to the summer camp. Look for someone who has worked with youth your child’s age in some capacity. Possibilities include social worker, teacher, camp counselor, youth group facilitator, instructor from another field (dance, music, etc), sports coach, theatre director or parent. Many talented teachers enter the field with no prior experience teaching youth, but devote themselves to mentoring and assisting masterful youth yoga teachers. This is a good sign you’ve found someone dedicated to developing their skills.
2. Training: Seek out a teacher who has both adult yoga teacher training and specialized training in teaching youth. Adult yoga trainings focus on the nuances and complexities of teaching yoga safely. Most youth yoga trainings only cover the basics and are designed to help qualified adult yoga teachers modify the practices. Focus on length and quality of training over certification. It is not uncommon for teachers to label themselves “certified” after attending as little as 10 hours of training! A comprehensive youth yoga training will provide a minimum of 40 hours. Don’t be shy about asking teachers to share their training experience! If they are qualified, they will have no problem letting you know.
3. Rapport: No amount of experience or training can replace the efficacy of a teacher who knows how to relate with youth. Look for a teacher who truly sees and hears her students, both figuratively and literally. You will see an effective teacher communicating with your child at eye level, spending time listening to your teen and making an effort to communicate the benefits of yoga beyond the mat.
As parents and child advocates, most of us would be thrilled to see our children fully engaged in a yoga program that provides life long skills for healthy living. We can heighten this possibility by doing a little homework when seeking out a yoga teacher for our children. The only guaranteed way of ensuring a teacher is effective is to actually observe them in action. Great teachers will welcome you with confidence, although they may have firm rules about how many parents are allowed per session.
An ineffective teacher can do harm. Yoga practice presents many potential benefits, but there are risks, as well. These risks are greatly minimized with an experienced, effective teacher.
For parents who already know the vast benefits of yoga for young people, helping to bring yoga into your local school is a powerful way to integrate the practice into your child’s life. Here are a few tips to make it happen.
1. Identify a Qualified Youth Yoga Teacher or Team of Teachers
First and foremost, find at least one local teacher who is qualified to teach in schools. Connect with them and work together to develop a plan of action. Search online for local youth yoga teacher trainers.
2. Collaborate with Other Parents
Whether it’s an action of your PTA or simply a movement of a small group of parents, school administration will be more likely to consider the possibility of yoga if they are aware of parent support. Collect statistics and benefits of yoga in schools to help educate other parents.
3. Seek Teacher Allies
Are there teachers at your school that practice yoga? Speak with them about your desire to bring yoga to students. Ask them if they are open to a trial class in their classroom.
4. Raise Funds
Budget is an obstacle to yoga programming for many schools in the beginning. Work with other parents and local yoga studios to raise funding to hire yoga teachers for a semester. Once the school faculty and administration witness to powerful benefits, they are more likely to find room in their budgets for ongoing programming.
Since we know that many communities do not have access to yoga studios and youth yoga teachers, Shanti Generation creates DVD programs to make it easy for you to bring youth appropriate yoga directly into your home. Check out our Programs page to discover all of the reasons why our DVD programs are effective and safe for kids and teens. Consider these possibilities for introducing your children and teens to yoga at home.
1. Family Practice
Many parents have told us how much they love practicing our DVD programs alongside their children. Create a special family time yoga practice and invite everyone to join in on a healthy activity.
2. A Special Gift of Peace
Offer a DVD program to your child or teen as a way of acknowledging a particularly challenging time; during or after a divorce, loss of family member or even a stressful time at school. Let your child know you understand they are having a tough time by offering a resource for stress-relief.
3. Yoga Play Date or Hangout
Ask your child or teen to invite a few friends over to try yoga together. Especially for teens, having peers on board makes a big difference in sticking with the practice.
4. Simply Remind Your Kids and Teens to Breath
Check out this article and clip on the power of breathing awareness.
*Receive more strategies for introducing your child or teen to yoga in our Mindful Parents Toolkit.
Note to Parents from Our Founder, Abby Wills:
If you have a child or teen on the Autism Spectrum, I cannot encourage you enough to give yoga and mindfulness a try. Over my 15+ years teaching yoga in schools and studios, I have witnessed countless youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders develop critical life-enhancing skills through yoga practice.
Students have shared with me time and time again how yoga practice helps them make friends, cope with stress and learn to concentrate.
If you are dealing with a child who has heightened anxiety, poor motor coordination or lack of self-regulation, yoga practice may be able to help in some key ways.
• Yoga is proven as a stress reducer.
• Yoga postures, practiced in tandem with the breath, help to develop motor coordination.
• Self awareness developed through yoga practice leads to a greater ability to self regulate.
Yoga gives kids with autism tangible skills for:
• Self esteem
Don’t take my word for it. Hear directly from teens and parents living well with autism below.
With All My Heart,
“Jonathan (16) has epilepsy and is autistic. He was kind of a loner, keeping to himself and extremely reluctant to be around peers he didn’t know to avoid feeling ashamed should he have a seizure.
Before he found Shanti Generation he was sadly slipping into a place where he was old enough and aware enough to begin to comprehend some of his limitations compared to other kids and beginning to withdraw more into himself. He began refusing to participate in team sports, and social groups.
Shanti Generation for Jonathan was like finding a new family. The other teens there made him feel so excepted and truly a part of the group that it provided a transformative experience for him in his relationship both to himself and with new peers. In addition to the fantastic life long valuable training he received in yoga and relaxation, which by the way he uses ON HIS OWN, he was exposed to incredible people, home town heroes, inspiring a whole new thought process about what it means to be a HERO! Since Shanti, Jon has gone on to run for student government, try out for basketball, begin volunteering at the local animal shelter, and for the first time since he started scouts 9 years ago stepped up to be an assistant patrol leader. I absolutely know and thank Shanti for initiating this leadership personification in my son.
I could go on forever about how extraordinary I found the Shanti program to be, but I will close with this:
As a mom of a special needs son I have hunted out more programs than most. The genuine care that develops in the long term relationship, meaningful guidance, and nurturing of individualism and growth, provide an atmosphere unparalleled. The participants are infused with knowing in this environment they cannot fail, and hence I observed them to stretch beyond their self-imposed limits and truly soar.
What a gift my son, and family received form the Shanti Generation training. I hope many other teens have the good fortune to be exposed to their gifts. They are truly building a more harmonious future.”