Today, being a teenager is harder than ever. Teens are overstimulated, overscheduled, and constantly bombarded with negative messages from the media, peers, and adults. Stress levels, anxiety, and depression among teens are at an all-time high. Gun violence in schools has become epidemic. These facts are both sobering and frightening, especially considering that our youth are our future.
Fortunately, teens are incredibly open and impressionable once you establish a genuine connection with them. They are seeking new ideas and experiences as they explore who they are and their place in the world. Yoga is an incredible gift we can share with young people, empowering them to connect with their inherent peace, navigate the myriad challenges they face, and become agents of positive change.
Three Ways Teaching Yoga to Teens Changes the World:
1) Catalyzing Inner Peace and Transformation: If we want to experience outer peace in our world, it must begin with cultivating inner peace within the hearts and minds of individuals, especially our youth. Yoga gives teens a quiet space to calm their minds, open their hearts, and connect to their authentic selves. Sharing the practice of yoga with teens catalyzes their inner transformation and sows seeds for a more conscious and peaceful planet.
2) Fostering Compassion and Community: Despite living in a culture of great technological connectivity, many teens suffer from loneliness and crave true connection. We can address this in a teen yoga class through group building activities, partner and group yoga poses, and group discussions. By modeling authenticity and vulnerability, we as teachers can create a safe space for our students. Together, we can have authentic dialogue about how to integrate yogic principles such as inner peace, non-violence and compassion in the context of our lives, our struggles and our desire to make a difference. Through these activities and conversations, teens who otherwise might not ever speak with one another cultivate empathy and a shared understanding.
3) Empowering Teens to be Agents of Positive Change in the World: When we give young people the opportunity to connect to their deepest, most authentic selves, they naturally also connect to the part of themselves that wants to serve and make a difference in the lives of others. Teaching the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) gives teens the opportunity to connect to the joy of giving, without expectation of return. A teen yoga program can include a selfless service project, in which students learn to give back to others and to the community. Combining karma yoga with other aspects of yoga catalyzes self-inquiry and provides a channel for teens to grow into conscious citizens who lead lives of service.
Imagine a world filled with a generation of young people who are deeply connected to their sense of inner peace and compassion, and who are empowered to be of service and bring more joy and love to their communities. This vision is entirely possible—all that is needed are adults who can hold space for teens and give them access to the tools of yoga that unlock these gifts. If this work at all speaks to you, I invite you to join me in this mission to empower young people for a better future.
In the words of one of my teen students, “Everyone does yoga? That’s world peace right there.”