By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Helping teenagers cope is a positive side effect of Yoga practice. Many teenagers, today, struggle with a degree of anxiety and depression unknown to previous generations at the same young age. There is a great deal of pressure on teenagers from their parents, teachers, and work obligations. In addition, there is a substantial amount of peer pressure surrounding many teens – both at school and during extra-curricular activities. Some of these causative factors of anxiety and depression have not changed much from generation to generation. However, the contemporary context of a fast-paced, insular and impersonal world, with a distinct lack of family and community structure, in addition to an unclear set of expectations and ethics, can increase the physical and psychological isolation and vulnerability of teens.
Helping teenagers with this sense of isolation, both emotionally and physically, can increase a teen’s sense of anxiety, sadness, confusion, anger, and hopelessness. The practice of Yoga helps to enfold teenagers into a community of people, who are looking at the glass half-full, instead of half-empty. There is also a strong underlying ethical code guiding most Yoga practitioners. The intrinsic message of service, hope, and ethical behavior creates a strong foundation for teenagers – the lack of which may be one of the causative factors contributing to depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness. If a teenager practices Yoga with other teenagers, some of the isolation endemic to our contemporary culture will be penetrated, and he or she will begin to share time with other teenagers of like-mind.
The physical practice of asanas, breathing exercises, and meditation will help to support a healthy and balanced nervous system. If a teenager has been stressed-out for a long period of time, his or her nervous system may be in overdrive, and operating in a state of hyper-vigilance at all times. The teen may have a difficult time focusing on his or her school work and may even have difficulty sleeping well. A keyed-up nervous system is exhausting for the body because of the extra amount of cortisol and adrenalin that is constantly being released into the blood stream. Eventually, the teen’s serotonin level will begin to fall from too much cortisol and adrenaline. As serotonin levels fall, depression usually ensues.
Helping teenagers with asanas, breathing exercises, and mediation practices will calm down an overactive nervous system and help the mind to quiet and focus. The physical postures of Yoga are incredibly effective at releasing stress and tension, as well as increasing muscular strength and flexibility. With regular practice, Yoga will also help to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, finally turning off the flight-or-fight mechanism. Eventually, a teenager, who practices Yoga regularly, will be less vulnerable to depression and anxiety. He or she will also be more connected to a healthy community of peers, that will be striving to take care of themselves, and give back to the community.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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