teaching yoga to childrenBy Sangeetha Saran

One of the most beneficial aspects of yoga for emotional health is within the 13-18 year old group. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that for a group of teenagers in the 11th and 12th grades who regularly practiced yoga, the discipline was particularly effective in reducing negative emotions. For teens dealing with constantly changing hormone levels and moods, this is a welcome antidote to the emotional upheaval that they feel.

In addition, since most emotional conditions often first develop in preteens and teens, this age group is particularly vulnerable to unsettling moods that yoga can help lessen while increasing self esteem, concentration, self control and discipline.

Tips for Yoga Instructors

To alleviate depression symptoms, incorporate poses like triangle, bridge, and standing forward bend. Many children and adults with depression also suffer from anxiety, so to address the anxiety, root the student in complete awareness of the present. Often depression pulls a person into a mood of blaming one’ self for what happened in the past.  This also causes anxiety and constant worry about potential catastrophic events in the future. In addition to breath awareness, poses like Warrior II can help these students feel strong, capable, and rooted in the present moment.

Whether you are teaching yoga to children or teens about breath awareness or practicing asanas, emphasize the idea of non-judgment. Depressive children and teens spend their days judging themselves and their actions negatively, so it’s important to use the non-judgment philosophy of yoga to help stop the process.

To focus on the emotions, try the bubble technique. Instruct each child to lie in Corpse Pose and to imagine each thought and emotion that comes up as a bubble. Tell them to picture them floating up towards the sky, and to do so without judging any emotion. Ask them to see if they can totally let them go as they watch them.

Use yamas and niyamas as guidelines for emotions during class. Teens and children have much less control over their emotions as they come and go, and will often immediately act upon them. Anger is one emotion that some adults have trouble maintaining control over. If a child is angry or embarrassed with his or her efforts to try a pose or breathing technique, this is a time to make absolute sure that a student’s emotions are level and that he or she doesn’t show any anxiety. If you feel the need to correct a student for fear that a pose will harm her health, be especially careful to do so in a loving, calm and positive manner.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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