Yoga for Teens

Benefits of Yoga During the Teen Years
An excerpt from "Yoga for Teens" by Thia Luby
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During puberty and the later teen years, immense changes are taking place in the body's chemistry and physiology. The chakras are also developing and becoming more active at this time. Imbalances of the chakras, body chemistry, and physiology often show up in rebellion and mood swings. The regular practice of yoga can help you maintain balance in the different chakras and keep the spirit and soul strong and healthy, thereby benefiting both the body and mind.

Try these poses:






According to yoga philosophy, a healthy spine creates balance and is a conduit to a sound mind. Yoga is designed to stimulate the nerves running along the spine. Poses involving twists and upside-down positions are especially effective for this purpose. When you practice all categories of yoga poses-seated, standing, lying down on your stomach or back, and upside down-you cause each vertebra (bony segment of the spine) to be slightly separated from the ones above and below it. Creating space between the vertebrae serves to 'plump' the disks between them, allowing energy to flow freely to the brain and giving the blood a clear passageway to circulate in a healthy manner.

Boys and young men in their teens usually develop their legs and arms through sports or weight training. However, they often overlook flexibility of the spine, back, arms, and legs. Yoga stretching poses are highly beneficial in correcting this imbalance and in strengthening muscles that are not used in strength training. The stretching may be difficult at first, but with practice, you will become more flexible and the poses will become easier.

When a girl begins developing breasts, the muscles that hold the spine in place are often weakened or strained, because the front of the torso is carrying more weight. Doing chest opening, backward bending, forward bending, and upside-down yoga poses will strengthen arms, shoulders, and back, as well as teach these parts of your body to balance out the weight in front.

Internal organs are growing and changing during this period and can become upset with diet changes or over stimulation of nerves. Yoga helps to keep organs healthy despite everyday stresses. It also assists in balancing out the mood swings and eliminating the body aches resulting from the hormonal imbalances experienced during sexual maturing. During this growth period, yoga is useful in easing the tension of tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it can also help to strengthen bones. Certain poses alleviate menstrual cramps, and others work internally on clearing energy blocks that may cause headaches, sinus problems, irritability or digestive problems.

Yoga promotes unification of body and mind, and as you practice, it will increase your awareness and your ability to look within, think for yourself, and trust yourself. The result is that you will feel more peaceful and self-confident during a period of rapid change and be able to engage the world with a more positive outlook.

In yoga philosophy, the body is considered a temple to be treated with respect, understanding, and acceptance; but dealing with the rapid physical changes of adolescence can be difficult at times. For instance, as girls undergo hormonal changes and begin to experience the internal cleansing process of the menstrual cycle, keeping the body clean and free of odor is very important. As boys undergo the hormonal changes leading to manhood, they often experience glandular secretions resulting in sweaty feet and underarms, which also require regular cleansing.

Frequent cleansing is necessary to keep the pores open so that the skin is able to release toxins freely. Bathing before practicing yoga enhances the capacity of the pores to open and expel toxins and excess oil through sweat glands. Yoga deep breathing exercises promote the process of internal cleansing by improving circulation. An added benefit of yoga practice is the release of negative energy, which can block nadis (energy channels), glands, and pores.

Yoga poses tone and balance the sex glands, while improving energy. During the teen years, most boys and girls become self-conscious about the changes in their bodies that go with sexual maturing. Boys may suddenly become concerned about whether hair is beginning to grow in the right places, such as on their faces or in the pubic area. They may also be concerned with muscle tone. Boys who mature more slowly or are not as physically strong as their peers often feel less manly, when they compare themselves with others. With regular practice, yoga will build muscle tone and strength and will improve energy and balance to enhance your physical performance and make your body the best it can be.

Girls experience shifting hormonal levels surrounding menstruation that can create sudden mood swings, ranging from anger to sadness. Girls also typically compare their physical changes, judging whose breasts are more developed, and worry about various other aspects of their developing bodies. Yoga practice improves fitness and health. It allows you to develop greater poise, grace, and confidence, as well as a more accepting relationship to your body and a positive image of who you are in the world.

Throughout adolescence, when the body is still growing, and bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are changing, stress injuries are common. A quick or energetic body movement can sometimes cause a stress injury to any of these areas. Athletes who do not stretch enough in warming up experience injuries that often could be avoided-such as pulled hamstrings, knee injuries from tight tendons and ligaments, and shoulder, wrist, and ankle injuries from weakness in these areas. By offering a complete body workout, yoga balances out the stresses of any sport and helps correct tightness or weakness.

Stretching before and after a rigorous workout from any sport is recommended.

About the Author
Thia Luby is a nationally known yoga teacher and best-selling author. She has developed yoga programs for children, teenagers and adults. Her Children's book of Yoga was selected by School Library Journal as one of the best children's books of 1998.

Excerpt from "Yoga for Teens" reprinted with permission of Clear Light Publishers To order a copy of this book and other Clear Light titles call 1-800-253-2747.