In my last fifteen years of teaching yoga in schools, community centers and studios, one of the most effective methods I have found for engaging adolescents is partnership. ! Developmentally, teens have a strong need for interaction. Unfulfilled, the need for positive social experience can drive young people to lives of loneliness, depression and long-lived anxiety. Adolescence is the perfect time and yoga is a perfect method for guiding teens to learn the components of healthy relationships.
We created the “Partner Yoga for Teens” DVD and teacher guide to help educators introduce mindfulness education to their middle and high school students. The resource includes 10 five- minute guided sequences for middle and high school students to practice mindfulness skills with a friend, sibling, classmate or parent. Until November 15, educators can register on our website to receive one of 500 free DVDs we’re giving away.!
Here are five great reasons why your teens will love to try partner yoga:!
1. Talk to Me!
It’s no secret that teens are typically highly social beings. In fact, the most popular complaint I hear from aspiring teen yoga teachers is that teens talk so much. Rather than fighting against this developmental need, we can utilize it to meet our learning objectives. In partner yoga, teens are encouraged to communicate. Over time, I like to guide students to use non-verbal cues in their partner practices, but in the beginning, I do ask them to talk to one another and express their experience. For example, I advise students to let their partners know when they have reached a threshold of strength or flexibility. Ironically, when we allow teens the freedom to talk within the boundaries of the practice, they feel safe enough to actually be quiet!
2. Listen to Me!
We all want to be heard. For teens, the need to be heard is a driving force. Many teens utilize their outward image to communicate what they do not otherwise know how to say. In yoga practice, we set a tone for “easy listening.” As teachers and parents, we can normalize a whole spectrum of experiences by naming the possibilities teens might share with each other. For instance, I ask my students to let their partners know if they feel afraid, uncertain, ready, inspired or confused. This opens the gate for teens to share their authentic experience with p!eers.
3. Support Me!
For some teenagers, leaning on a friend requires a depth of vulnerability they would rather not reach, especially teens living with anxiety disorders. In yoga practice, we go through the physical motions of learning to be supported in poses. Within that process, students also uncover the steps to being supported emotionally. Teens experience embodied support when practicing yoga together.
4. Let Me Support You!
Even teenagers with little to no athletic ability can learn to use their core to support a peer. How empowering it is for a meek young teen girl to discover she can support a peer nearly twice her weight! Teens who have a hard time allowing others to support them can find the strength to do so by first being a support themselves.
5. Let’s Take this Off the Mat!
Time and again, teens tell me how meaningful partner yoga practice is outside of the actual yoga class session. The relationships built in the yoga process extend well beyond the mat into the social and emotional lives of teens. Teens say they are more willing to stand up for a peer being bullied once they have had the experience of practicing yoga with that person. The connections made in yoga practice empower teens to richer community and more meaningful r!elationships.
Abby Wills, MA, E-RYT, began Shanti Generation in 2009 in response to a need for youth-centric yoga and mindfulness resources. She brings her passion for developmental education and deep respect for the tradition of yoga to her work guiding youth and teachers in contemplative arts. Her approach is informed by studies in social justice and democratic education at Pacific Oaks College, as well as two decades of training in yoga. She is the mother of two lively boys and lives in Southern California. Learn more at http://www.shantigeneration.com.
This mindful listening practice asks your children and students to explore what they can hear around them in an intentional way. Our hearing is so sensitive. All of the sounds around us are competing for our attention all of the time. Learning to attune our hearing to the sounds that are most important at the moment is a life skill that children are called upon to exercise from the moment they are asked to pay attention. (in the world, at home, and when they enter school).
1. First find a still and comfortable position with your body. It's fine to sit in a chair, or lean against the wall. The most important thing is that you are comfortable enough to be still just for a few minutes. It may be helpful to close your eyes for this activity. If it doesn't feel comfortable to close your eyes, let them rest on the ground right in front of you.
2. Now that you are still and comfortable, take a deep breath or two to help you get ready for what is going to come next.
3. The first thing that we are going to listen for are the sounds that are far away from us. Open your ears as wide as you can make them, and imagine stretching your hearing way out beyond the room you are sitting in, and maybe even the house or classroom that room is in, all the way to the outdoors. Listen carefully and find the furthest away sounds that you can hear.
4. When you start hearing sounds, don't worry about identifying the sound, or figuring out what it making the sound. Just notice it exactly as it is. (Give your kids and/or students a few moments to minutes of silence here depending on age).
5. Now that you have heard the farthest away sounds you can find, bring your hearing in a little bit closer, and find the sounds that are in the classroom, building or house. Again, don't worry about figuring out what is making the sounds, just listen for them.
6. Next we are going to bring our hearing even closer, to find the sounds that are in this room. Reach your hearing into each corner of the room and see what sounds you can find.
7. After you have found all of the sounds in the room, we are going to bring our hearing to the closest place of all - our own bodies.
8. Pull your hearing all the way to your body. Pull it out of the room and turn it to the sounds that you can find your own body making. Listen carefully. Your body might have a lot to say.
9. After a few moments of listening to your own body, gently open your eyes.
1. Talk with your kids.
2. Give them time to process the activity and give them the space to experience how they felt during the activity. Perhaps offer a journal activity or a craft afterwards.
3. Ask them some questions and allow them time to answer and share.
4. Remember and discuss that this is a practice. It may not be easy to do so it's nice to mention that exercises like this sometimes take practice just like any activity or sport. Our listening and the mind and brain are all like muscles and we are exercising them just like any other muscles in our bodies!
5. Share the benefits! Learning to listen is such an important part of life and discuss why.
Teaching our minds and ears to become quiet and to focus is an amazing gift to provide kids. They are constantly being asked to pay attention and to listen. These are the foundation of skills that are crucial in helping our kids thrive in life.
As always we would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to comment and share your stories!
Layers of Sound and many other fun and effective practices can be found in Jennifer Cohen Harper's book, Little Flower Yoga for Kids.