When I was a teenager I felt that I couldn’t tell my parents anything. They lost my friendship because I felt that they were judging my decisions and telling me what to do. I felt that I was old enough to make my own decisions and to learn from my own mistakes.
Well, I vowed never to forget this, and I put the lessons I learnt at this age, as well as my experience as a yoga teacher into practice while teaching yoga to teenagers.
1. MUTUAL RESPECT
- Young people want to be treated with respect, as equals, and they deserve that.
- Try see their perspective and to gain their respect and trust.
2. OPEN COMMUNICATION
- Be their friend – Many teenagers don’t have anyone to talk to. The adults in their life treat them as inferior and their peers are as inexperienced as they are.
- Being a yoga teacher in the 21st century is much more than being a yoga teacher. If you choose to be open and accepting of these young adults you become the wise grandparent, the healer, the shaman, the priest, the psychologist, the doctor and more.
- If you befriend them you might be able to help them in many ways, even guiding them through major life events that are more important than yoga.
- In a teenagers class spend a great deal of time just talking about stuff that is bothering them. So try to remember that the class is not about what you planned to teach them but it’s about them and what they need from you.
- Most of the time they do not need any advice, just someone who will listen to them. So listen a lot, talk a little, and give advice only when asked. Guide them like a good psychologist through questions that help them come up with the answers for themselves.
- This is a hard time for them where self-esteem is concerned, so teach them to love, respect, and enjoy their bodies.
- It’s a good idea to create a special time and space for discussion and self-expression. Here is a cool technique for this:
- High/Low – Each person in the group shares something high from their week and something low. If you don’t have a high, you can share two lows. If you don’t have a low, you can share two highs
3. GO WITHIN
- Teenage life is full of challenges - Finding who you are and going against the current is hard work and can create conflict with parents and with peers. Life is very busy and very noisy for most teens, so they really appreciate being quiet for a bit and going within.
- Start with relaxation and even a short guided imagery; they have lots of stress in their lives and need a moment to quiet down and become present. This sets a better tone for the class.
- At the end of the class place just as much emphasis on quiet time and going within as you gave to the yoga poses throughout; they need this quiet time to wind down and enjoy it immensely.
4. CHALLENGE THEM
- As opposed to other age groups, at times you may find it challenging to get them moving.
- Challenge them with progressively more difficult poses/practices that require concentration and teamwork. Keep them working physically, and give them lots of positive feedback.
- Being physically active will help them to release pent up aggression and frustration and also increases their ability to focus.
- These classes are much more like adult yoga classes, but remember to keep the class interactive and fun, full of cool yoga poses, acrobatics and human pyramids that they can later use as party tricks!
- Include a yoga game or a social game in every class; they still need and like to be a bit silly!
- Incorporate lots of partner and group work.
- The class should still be totally fun and engaging! No boring yoga; make it fun and creative!
5. GIVE THEM MORE THAN POSES
- Teenagers are often curious about meditation, Sanskrit, the history and philosophy of yoga, veganism and even about mysticism. It is rare that I’ll have a direct discussion around these topics; rather, I try to incorporate these themes through movement (doing a class with a concept).
- I also like to send them home with an inspiring quote, poem, or question; something they can carry with them into their lives and think about until we meet again. Something that they can think about later or ask me about during the next class if they want to. I do not give planned talks about these things, but will gladly answer their questions and open the topic for discussion if they approach me.
6. MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL
- We are being nourished not only with food, but also with what we absorb through our other senses. When we make a particular yoga pose more beautiful we move with more awareness, and this makes it more yoga!
- Creating beautiful group sequences will engage your students in the poses for an extended period of time as well as give them a sense of achievement
- Always allow time for them to be creative and add their own elements, they find this very empowering!
- Here is a cool exercise to try – Yoga Choreography:
- Sitting in a circle, divide the group into Mermaids and Dolphins; go around the circle and touch their heads saying Mermaids and Dolphins alternately.
- All of the Mermaids will start in the Folded Forward Bend with their feet making a circle at the center.
- Each Dolphin stands between two mermaids in Warrior Three, hands on each other’s shoulders in the circle.
- From here start choreographing the two groups through different yoga poses.
- Use BIG movements.
- While the Mermaids are doing one pose the Dolphins intertwine into it with a different pose.
- Beautiful flower-like Mandalas or shifting kaleidoscope poses can be created in this way!
- After demonstrating about 10-20 poses for the two groups, you can let each student in their turn choose a pose for their group to come into.
- Another option is to have each student choose a pose to instruct the other group to do; a bit more challenging with verbal instructions, but also lots of fun because the two groups can choose difficult poses for each other, or lots of massage!
- Ask your students if they would all feel comfortable with you filming it and putting it on Facebook so that your students can share their yoga creation with their friends!