For thousands of years the world has pursued the “why” of Yoga. Adult classes concentrate upon the movement and breath and reap the benefits. Children’s classes introduce the poses and balance and make it fun. But somewhere lost between these two groups are the adolescents; too old for simple introductions and not fully developed for complex concentration. Their rapidly changing bodies and brains demand a program designed for them. Combining the most recent brain research with the most ancient yogic practice may be the solution.
Barry Corbin, M.Ed. in Unleashing the Potential of the Teenage Brain tells us that the prefrontal cortex (which allows us to be consciously aware of our actions and their consequences) and the cerebellum (which affects coordination and motor control) continue to grow throughout adolescence and are not fully mature until well into the twenties. In addition, the limbic system or primitive brain, which deals with emotional response and control, is bathed in a continual surge of hormones during these years. Simply, this “soaking” throws the entire motor, focusing, regulation, processing and memory areas of the adolescent brain temporarily off balance. In order for adults to support adolescents during this growth spurt Corbin has some “Powerful Ideas.” Interestingly many of these ideas are basic tenets of “mindfulness” and therefore included in yogic practice. We need only to make them accessible to teens.
Corbin offers that adults can help teenagers with “whole brain learning,” combining physical activity and movement with reflection and self-awareness, constructing personal meaning. The breath practice of a teen yoga class is primary… designed to have the adolescent follow the breath, studying the way it moves both the mind and the body. This helps each teen focus, process between thought and action and “create space”… clearing the mind.
Corbin suggests that teens need assistance developing patterns and utilizing multiple memory pathways (engaging all learning styles). The sequencing of a teen yoga practice is repeated, posted and verbally/musically cued so that visual, auditory and tactile learners recognize the pattern and “see/hear/feel” the pose/counter-pose logic (forging new neurological “ruts” and kinesthetically creating “cellular” memory).
Finally, Corbin addresses the emotional environment of the adolescent, his social interactions and peer collaborations. Within the peace and quiet of the yoga sanctuary the teen works individually and in pairs, moving with the breath, through the poses. In this way each adolescent becomes a member of the yogic “community of learners” while, concurrently, “coming back to him/herself.”
*Maui Yoga Shala provides Keiki Yoga Classes.
Image Credit: Maui Yoga & Dance Shala