Teen Yoga Monthly Theme – April 2021
Every month the Foundation focuses on a different aspect of young people’s lives and looks at how yoga can help disadvantaged young people address it. It might be stress, or social media or how to keep focus on your studies. This month we focus on:
YOGA FOR ANXIETY
Calming the Mind through the Body and Breath
Modern life and feeling anxious go hand-in-hand these days, especially for teens. They are interwoven into our everyday existence, and for that reason alone, it can be easy to forget just how limiting it can be.
Stress cannot only build feelings of tension in our muscles but what may go unnoticed is just how shallow breathing becomes. Teens find themselves sitting at desks all day, in a cashew-like posture, which squashes the lungs and restricts movement of the diaphragm and full capacity of our lungs. The breath has a direct link to how we feel mentally, ranging from feeling exhausted or sleepy to short-tempered and reactionary to forgetful or depressed.
For teens, being able to identify feelings and put words to emotions as a way to recognise that they exist, can be very difficult – making it impossible to deal with. Yoga has a wonderful way of dealing with this through the practices of sensory awareness, as well as offering up language that identifies the capacities of the mind and the practices that guide us to aid stress reduction.
Yoga can benefit three aspects that are often affected by stress: body, mind and breathing. No one needs to wait to feel stressed out to do yoga nor should they!
This month, we’re providing tools to help you support your yogis who might be feeling anxious or stressed. There’s a practice you can use with your yogis – a meditation to share with them – an activity involving writing a letter to themselves – and more general information about stress and anxiety.
Here’s an overview:
LINKS AND RESOURCES FOR APRIL
Yoga Practice for Calming the Anxious Mind and Body
The practice we are providing for this month offers a way to guide the internal narrative in such a way that it reduces the heat, the charge of energy felt in the body and the pain of stress in the brain, and calms the rapid heart rate.
When life begins to feel all too consuming, which it certainly can for teens, then the act of lying down and stopping or pausing can create a sense of letting go or surrender. This enables the mind to witness and label what is being felt, making what was once obscure and even recognisable. ‘I see you anxiety, you are still there, but I am choosing to not get lost in you. I am choosing instead to quiet my mind for a moment and welcome in some other energy instead.’
Use this awareness practice to offer up intention setting; where the practice can be to offer up moments of taking time to notice, to be, to have a pause in the day, and to change the internal language to that of observation rather than confusion or judgement. Try it out and even have a dialogue afterwards to see how they feel at the end of practice, compare to how they felt at the start of practice
You can download the whole sequence here:
You could use some of the sequence or the entire sequence.
Stress, Trauma and Anxiety in the Pandemic
Jo Mountford, registered counsellor and Teen Yoga Foundation teacher, has been doing mental wellness workshops on anxiety, stress depression, fear and addiction. She also spent time asking for feedback from teens about their stress during lockdown and found some common themes including isolation, hopelessness, fear of family members getting sick and others.
In addition to that, Jo looked at how anxiety, stress, depressions, etc., presents and how to cope with it. Jo’s full paper on understanding triggers, and how yoga, meditation and a nutritious diet can help is available here:
Mindful Walking Meditation
Use this walking mindful meditation with your teens or share it with them so they can do it on their own. This meditation can be done indoors or outdoors (maybe at a beach or park!) and socks and shoes can be kept on or off.
There are many benefits to a walking meditation including improved sleep quality, improved well-being, alleviates depression and reduces anxiety. Definitely one to try or share with your teens!
You can hear Lisa take you through this mindful walking meditation in this audio file.
The audio file will be available shortly.
Letter to Self
Here’s a practice you can do at any stage in life and equally, it is something you can offer your teen students too! This is a multi-layered mindfulness practice in order to support their mental health when feeling stressed, anxious or filled with worry for what the future holds.
The practice of writing to yourself creates the chance to shift perspective, particularly when feeling down. When the author of the letter is feeling more at ease and calm, you can suggest they write a letter to capture those feelings.
This is the first layer of the practice. Noticing and writing a letter filled with gratitude, and offering care and empathy to the reader, whom will be themselves. 😊
The Sankalpa (or intention) of the letter is to support the future self when times are more challenging, consumed in fear and panic. The language of the letter is full of positive affirmations and bolstering, uplift and care. You are your own best friend, you know what you need to hear when you are down and it’s with this voice the letter is written, to support, to offer guidance and insights on what to do when feeling stressed.
The second layer of the practice is to note in times of stress what it is that you need to hear, what works and what helps you shift perspective and offer self-care. Are there some practices you have learnt that your future self will need to be reminded of when down and blue?
Offer those up and share what it has done for you in the past so your future self can benefit. As if it will cause a small ripple in the time-space continuum that can travel back into the past and cause a sudden realisation of your old self.
The purpose of the practice is this realisation, these practices, written in your words will put you on a path towards recovery sooner. So when you or your teens are feeling down or anxious, they can open this letter that will offer a sense of comfort and ease without all the past suffering resurfacing. And, instead, self-care will be reestablished.
Here is an idea of what a ‘Letter to self’ might look like.
THE APRIL CHALLENGE
Every month we propose a challenge related to the current theme, for you to do with your class, to help us in our work. Supporting the teen yoga community, especially those who most need the benefits of yoga, needs your help.
Our fundraising idea for April involves more Sun Salutations! With Easter being this month and spring arriving, there is a sense of renewal and new beginnings in the air.
Yoga is a wonderful gift to the whole world, having many physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It stimulates and rejuvenates every system of the body, relaxing and calming the overworked mind and renewing the spirits.
Your challenge: 108 Sun Salutations over the month of April. Why 108? The number 108 is a sacred number in the yoga tradition and philosophy. Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture, for example, saw 108 as a number of wholeness of existence. There are 108 main temples in India, 108 beads on Malas, Pranayama is often practiced in 108 rounds, there are 108 chapters in the Rig Veda (an ancient yoga text) – and now you can do 108 Sun Salutations during the month of April. 😊
It’s really up to you as to how you set-up your fundraising event. We’d recommend you suggest a donation of a certain amount (maybe £5) and once people have made a payment, you can donate the funds to Teen Yoga Foundation. You could also create a JustGiving page.
All funds donated will go to Teen Yoga Foundation, which means we can offer more classes to those who need it most and teacher training scholarships.