Imagine if you had access to yoga as a teen—how would it have impacted your life? There is a good chance that if you are reading this article, yoga has influenced your life in a profound way. Teens are at a ripe age, impressionable to new ideas and experiences as they are searching for their identity. What better time to introduce a healthy practice that they can take with them for the rest of their lives? Yoga is an incredible gift we can share with young people and can have a profound impact on the future of our world.
When I first started teaching yoga in 2005, I worked with a LOT of different populations—adults, seniors, cancer patients, kids and even toddlers. But I very consciously avoided one group… teens. I didn’t want to deal with their attitudes and hormones, and I was intimidated by the idea of teaching teenagers. But, one day about 8 years ago, an opportunity arose to teach yoga to underserved teens at a public high school, and I reluctantly gave it a try. Since then, I’ve never looked back. Teaching yoga to teens became the most meaningful and rewarding work I have done in my whole life. And now, training adults how to teach yoga to teens and bringing yoga into public schools has become my greatest passion.
Think you might also be interested in offering this practice to adolescents? Here are 5 rewards you reap from teaching yoga to teens:
1) You Transform Lives. Today, being a teenager is harder than ever. Teens are stressed, anxious, depressed and unsure of their place in an uncertain and scary world. Yoga empowers teens to find all the things they are searching for—peace, happiness, purpose, and love—within themselves. I’ve seen teens with low self-esteem gain confidence and learn to hold themselves with dignity as a result of practicing yoga. I’ve seen teens who are failing high school improve their grades and go on to college, because yoga taught them how to focus and believe in themselves. I’ve seen depressed and isolated teens find community and a sense of belonging through yoga. As a yoga teacher for teens, we become a catalyst for transformation in their lives. It is incredibly rewarding to witness the profound growth that takes place in the hearts and minds of our students.
2) You Get to Have Fun and Be Creative. There is never a dull day in a teen yoga class. Beneath their skeptical attitudes, teens still have a lot of playful, childlike energy, and really just want permission to have fun again. Teens benefit greatly from a creative class structure that looks very different than an adult class. It is great to include partner poses, group poses, games, activities, discussion and journaling in a teen class. Teaching teens is an amazing opportunity to try new things and get creative!
3) You Create a Unique Niche. Teaching yoga has become very popular, and it can be competitive and difficult to distinguish yourself from other yoga teachers. Yoga for teens is a new and rapidly growing niche, and there are many opportunities to teach teens at yoga studios, schools, community centers, sports practices, their homes and even incarceration facilities. Teaching teens is a great way to reach a new market that most yoga teachers haven’t even thought about. And while most teens may not have the money to pay for a yoga class, there are many parents, schools and organizations that are more than willing to cover the cost.
4) You Become Stronger and More Authentic. It can be easy to veil ourselves when teaching an adult class, hiding our own challenges, moods and imperfections. However, teens have strong barometers for inauthenticity and require us to show up fully as ourselves when we teach. This forces us to be real and vulnerable with them, which builds trust and creates a safe space for teens to connect with themselves. Also, teaching teens often requires us to be assertive and establish boundaries. This in turn creates an environment where students can truly open to the practice.
5) You Build a Better Future. It can be pretty scary to think about the future of our planet. If we want to see outer transformation in our world, it must begin with inner transformation of the hearts and minds of individuals, especially our youth. Yoga can provide young people with the tools to manage stress, connect to their authentic selves, and embrace themselves and each other. Empowering the next generation through yoga sows seeds for a more conscious and compassionate world.
Join me for my upcoming Yoga for Teens Training Intensive from November 20-22, 2015.
About the Author:
Erin Lila Wilson, E-RYT 500, is the founder and Executive Director of the RISE Yoga for Youth, a nonprofit that brings yoga and wellness education programming to public schools in the Bay Area. Lila has worked with youth for over ten years, teaching yoga to thousands of teens in schools, studios, and incarceration facilities. She teaches the Yoga for Teens Training both domestically and internationally, and is the author of the forthcoming book Bring it OM: Yoga Practices and Principles for Teens. Her dream is to help build a better world by making yoga accessible to as many youth as possible and empowering them to be agents of change in the world.