One major difference between a teen yoga class and an adult yoga class is that teens deeply yearn to connect with each other through the yoga practice. While most adults prefer to use a yoga class to go inward and connect with themselves, most teens, whether consciously or unconsciously, deeply crave human connection and community. In today’s technologically inundated world, teens often lack opportunities to have meaningful interpersonal connection. The teen yoga class provides an incredible opportunity for teens both to connect with themselves, and to find a sense of belonging in a safe and supportive community. Here are three great ways to foster a sense of community in your teen yoga class:
Create a Safe Space: The first step in building community in a teen yoga class is to establish a space where students feel safe, accepted and supported. You can create this by establishing a class agreement that clearly lays out expectations of all members of the class. This agreement creates a safe and supportive environment and may incorporate things such as practicing silence when others are speaking, establishing a contract of confidentiality, and being respectful of oneself and others. You also create a safe space by modeling authenticity and vulnerability. For example, sharing something you have struggled with personally and that your yoga practice has helped you overcome shows students that you are a real person with struggles and challenges similar to theirs. Allowing ourselves to be truly seen creates a safe space for students to connect with you and show up authentically themselves.
Partner and Group Poses: Teens might initially be hesitant to do partner or group yoga poses, but once you break the ice, most teens LOVE partner and group poses. Many teens who otherwise are not interested or engaged in a yoga practice suddenly become engaged and want to participate in these partner or group activities. Start with safe points of contact, such as standing in a circle, palm to palm, in a relatively easy pose such as tree pose. This can also be done as a partner pose. You can also include group building games and activities in your teen yoga class. At our 3-day Yoga for Teens Teacher Training, we teach lots of great games, group activities, and partner and group poses that teens love.
Group Discussion: When you think of a yoga class, you probably don’t think about sitting in a circle and having a discussion, but teens (especially older teens) generally love to have discussions about relevant topics and issues in their lives. Choose topics that relate to the theme of your class. For example, you can discuss ways teens can practice self-care, reduce stress, build self-esteem, use positive self-talk, and practice non-violence. Teens often feel isolated in their struggles and don’t realize that other teens are struggling with the same challenges. Just recognizing that they are not alone in their struggles creates a sense of connection, empathy, and understanding among teens.