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Teen Yoga

Three Great Restorative Poses for Teens

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Three Great Restorative Poses for Teens

Take a spring break! Teens benefit tremendously from the opportunity to slow down, rest, and rejuvenate.  In today’s hectic world, though, most teens (and adults for that matter!) are doing anything but resting and relaxing during spring break--or any time of year.  Integrating restorative poses into a teen yoga class can be a great way to help teens unwind, release stress, and connect to a sense of peace within themselves.

Here are three great restorative poses you can include in a spring break-themed teen yoga class:

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1. Restorative Bridge

Props Needed: One or two textbooks, or a yoga block

Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, parallel about hip width apart.  Your feet should be close to your hips.  Pressing into your feet, lift your hips and slide the books or block under your sacrum, the bony part of the lower back.*  Let your sacrum rest on the prop, so you are not exerting any effort to stay on the prop.  Your arms can rest by your sides.  Stay for 5-10 minutes. To come out, press into your feet again and slowly lift your hips.  Remove the prop and gently lower your back to the floor.  As a counter pose for the low back, you can hug your knees into your chest and rock side to side.

*If you notice any discomfort in your lower back during the pose, remove one book to lower the height, or remove the prop altogether and rest with your back on the floor.

2. Chair Leg Rest

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Props Needed: A chair

To begin, sit in front of a chair and gently lay down on your side and swing your legs up onto a chair, continuing to roll onto your back.  Make sure your calves are supported by the chair.  The legs and hips can relax outward.  Make any adjustments so that your body is completely comfortable and relaxed.  Your arms can be stretched out to the sides or you can rest them on your belly.  Take long, deep breaths, releasing any tension in the body as you exhale.  Stay for several minutes.  When you are ready to come out, you can gently hug your knees into your chest and roll onto your side for a few breaths before coming up to sit.

3. Restorative Twist

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Props Needed: Pillow, backpack, or bolster

One thing we don’t want to slow down is our digestion.  This pose gently compresses the abdominal organs, giving a gentle massage and boost to aid digestion.  To come into the pose, begin by sitting with your right hip against the pillow, backpack, or bolster. Inhaling, grow taller as you lengthen your spine.  As you exhale, slowly lower your chest down onto the prop and turn your head to the side.  Let your arms relax on either side of the bolster or pillow.  Take deep, slow breaths, allowing your body to relax completely on each exhalation.  After 5-7 minutes, you can slowly come back up to sit and repeat on the left side.

Enjoy these restful poses!

Erin Lila Singh

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Helping Teens Build Self-Esteem in Yoga Class

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Helping Teens Build Self-Esteem in Yoga Class

Many teens struggle with self-esteem, but yoga can be a great way to support teens in learning to love and accept themselves, and in developing a positive mental attitude towards themselves and others. Here are three ways you can help your students build their self-esteem and encourage healthy self-talk:

 1. Challenge Students to Replace Negative Thoughts and Beliefs with Positive Ones

Our thoughts create our reality, so if we want a better reality, we must choose to focus on better thoughts. Ask students to notice when negative thoughts enter their minds, such as “I’ll never be able to do this,” or “I suck at this.”  When they notice a negative thought, they can replace the negative thought with a positive thought, such as “I can do this!” and “I am getting better and better every day!”  Ask students to write their favorite affirmations on a piece of paper and post it where they will see it every day.

 In yoga class, when students become discouraged and say they cannot do a difficult pose, respond with something like “There is a saying, ‘if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’  Your attitude will create your reality.  So if you believe in yourself and persist, you will be able to do anything you put your mind to!”

Remind students that what holds them back most in their yoga practice (and in life!) is not their physical limitations, but the mental limitations they set for themselves and an attitude that they will not succeed.  Challenge students to change their beliefs about what they are capable of—remind them that they have infinite potential—all they need is to believe in themselves as much as you do as their teacher. 

 2. Encourage Students to Focus on Their Strengths

Most teens (and adults!) spend more time focusing on what they don’t like about themselves than what they do like about themselves.  Teens spend a lot of time wishing they could be different—taller, shorter, or skinnier, better at math or soccer, more popular, etc.—rather than thinking about what they like and appreciate about themselves.

Remind students that they each have gifts, talents and internal qualities that make them unique and beautiful.  As an exercise, you can have students write down a list of things they appreciate about themselves.  Encourage them to look at this list every day to remember their strengths and positive qualities.  If students have a hard time thinking of what to write that they appreciate about themselves, you can get them started by sharing a few of their internal qualities that you appreciate as their teacher. 

Also as a closing ritual at the end of class, you can have students sit in a circle, and individually share with the class one quality each student appreciates about the student they are sitting next to.  This creates a class culture of support and appreciation that also helps to build community and trust in the group.

 3. Praise and Acknowledge Students for What They are Doing Right

Many teens, especially those who have a history of trauma or who have behavioral issues, are always told what they are not doing right.  As their yoga teacher, you may be one of the only affirmative voices in their lives—and it is a voice they desperately need to hear.

Praise students for what they are doing right, even if it is something that is expected of them, such as being on time, being prepared for class, or doing a good job participating fully in class.  Acknowledge students for even the slightest improvement in their poses or in their behavior.  Recognize students for personal skills such as focusing, listening, working well with others, or practicing empathy.  Verbal praise is one of the most powerful ways you can build students’ self-confidence and self-esteem.

When we teach yoga to teens, we have an opportunity to not only give them access to a transformative life practice, but to also help them build a healthier relationship with themselves and their communities.

Best of luck in your journey teaching yoga to teens!

Blessings,

Erin Lila Singh

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