Yoga is for girls, softies and tree-hugging vegans – show us a yoga teacher who hasn’t heard this, especially one teaching teenagers. But Helen Clare has another view!

So, how do you get the reluctant boy – whether through ‘machoism’ or shyness – to the mat?

This is a bit of a thousand dollar question and it is often a case of trial and error to see what captures their interest. But as a yoga teacher of many years for young athletes, Helen Clare knows more than most about how to make yoga appeal to all – including those boys (and girls) at the back of the class.

She says: ‘I think that there is still some stigma about yoga only being for girls, or that is it easy. But I also think these preconceived perceptions are fading, with so many professional athletes publicly talking about yoga as being part of their daily life. This we can encourage.

Helen has a sporty background, something she keeps up now in her home of Cornwall, making her ideal to teach yoga to young people in school groups and local clubs.

‘I have always been into sports – a competitive swimmer throughout school and a keen runner. I now love to surf and run on the Cornish coast path. I teach yoga to many athletes of all sports and love to encourage young athletes to take it up early,’ she says.

So, where do you start when you’re (somewhat nervously) standing in front of a group of doubtful teens?

  • Famous yogis – talk about the sports stars who do yoga. The obvious ones are coach and former footballer Ryan Giggs and world number one tennis player Andy Murray. Even the stereotypical world of rugby has taken to the mat, with the England rugby team doing a few postures to get in peak fitness. If you have images – or better still a film clip – to show of sportspeople doing yoga, even better.
  • ‘Impressive’ postures – ok, yoga is non-competitive but showing a few challenging asanas will get their attention. Try arm balances such as crow for boys and some hip openers for girls – maybe pigeon.
  • Physical benefits – use a bit of anatomy and explain how yoga can boost your physical fitness and help with recovery, allowing the young athlete or sportsperson to return quicker and stronger to the field.

Helen says: ‘I love learning about the anatomy and combing that knowledge of our physiology with the breath and the focus that yoga brings. I love seeing people who come to yoga expecting to only benefit physically, gaining so much more!

And how do get a foot in the door initially to teach these benefits? Let those once sceptical students speak.

‘That was way better than I was expecting! I thought it was going to be really boring.. but that was awesome,’ says a Year 10 boy.


Helen will be sharing more tips and how teachers can specialise in yoga for athletes during her talk at the Instill conference, organised by the Teen Yoga Foundation, in November. Book here!

Find out more about Helen at