As a children’s yoga teacher trainer, the most frequently asked question that I receive is, “How do you make yoga cool for teens?”
While teenagers can be moody, awkward and intimidating, they can also be fun, focused and co-operative with the right guidance and teaching techniques.I started my yoga journey as a teenager; my first class was an uncomfortable, daunting and quite frankly, embarrassing experience. These were the days before children’s yoga was established and teens who were interested in trying yoga were thrown into a yoga class with both expert yogis, uncoordinated adults and in my case, the elderly.
Needless to say, it was many years before I entered a yoga studio again and even longer before I really fell in love with yoga.I often wonder if that first experience had been different, if it had been more creative, interactive and most importantly, with people of my own age, would I have instantly fallen in love with yoga? Would it have changed my teenage years? Would it have transformed me into a well-rounded, emotionally balanced teenage yogi?
There is a lesson to be learned in all experiences, even the uncomfortable and embarrassing ones (more so, in some cases). What did I learn from this experience? Yoga for teens needs to be tailored to teens! How can we expect teenagers to find enthusiasm and cultivate passion for the yogi lifestyle if we present it in a methodical and dull manner? We should be empowering young people through interactive and engaging yoga classes.
Yoga for teens should be colourful, bright and vibrant; it should be light-hearted and full of laughter. It should also be educational, philosophical and practical. As yoga practitioners, we should be creating a safe, non-judgmental space in which teens can freely explore their ideas and emotions; learn about and discuss the basic principles of yoga philosophy; be part of an open-minded, free-thinking community and feel confident, empowered and inspired (as well as bending, stretching, strengthening and calming).
It can take a lot of time, effort, trial and error to develop teen yoga programmes that are fun, creative and holistic. By combining music, dance, art, writing, group discussion, story-telling and play, you can create interactive and appealing yoga sessions that cater specifically to each type of learner: visual, verbal, logical, kinesthetic, musical, and intra and interpersonal. Listening to teens and asking them about their interests, insecurities, strengths and weaknesses can enable you to address these areas throughout your yoga sessions.