The Beginning: From teaching kid’s yoga to teaching teen yoga
Teen yoga teacher training was something I started thinking about soon after I had completed my Kids YogaDance teacher training, Yoga Philosophy short course and Chakra Balancing diploma back in 2016.
I felt that whilst the training to be a children’s yoga teacher was excellent (My inner child greatly enjoyed The Hungry Caterpillar yoga session) and I am excited to offer yoga classes to Tween girls (age10-12), I realized I felt more drawn to helping and teaching teens and young adults.
This was largely because of what I had personally been through during my teenage years and yoga was one of the tools I used to bring me back to myself and help me on my healing journey. I also noticed there aren’t much recreational options for teens as there are for kids and even adults (yoga retreat anyone?), teens are under too much pressure in western society to grow up fast and be molded into the perfect adult, they study full time- juggling projects, essays and exams and they are expected to work weekend jobs as well- essentially having no time off to rest or do something out of pure enjoyment! Some even have no choice but to be carers for relatives on top of their student/work life too!
I empathize with young adults greatly for this is a very sensitive time in their emotional, mental, physical and psychological development, yet we are forcing these young adults to be on overdrive during a time where they need the freedom to discover themselves and thus process who they are in relation to the external world.
My painful teen years: the personal reasons for why I wanted to become a teen yoga teacher
For me, the years between the age of 17 up until my late 20’s were horrendous to say the least (a turbulent family life, abusive boyfriends, an eating disorder & depression, self harming from age 22, suicidal at the age of 25), and I developed high anxiety soon after, not to mention finding out a close relative was diagnosed with a severe mental illness and sent to a psychiatric ward around the same time I was falling apart with my emotional traumas that were surfacing like weeds in my mind. These are just a few things I went through and I went through them ALONE. How does a young adult cultivate a positive mindset as they mature if all that’s around them is destructive to their emotional and psychological well-being? Many teens are walking into the world without proper guidance on how to create positive coping strategies in order to find tranquility and resourcefulness within themselves in such a messy world.
At age 27, I took myself to see a therapist who explained what happens to the teenage brain when it encounters trauma and why as an adult I struggle with low confidence, body dysmorphia and anxiety. He taught me mindfulness meditations to practice when my emotions overwhelm me but most importantly he taught me the power of forgiveness-mainly the power of forgiving myself and gently letting go of my past.
I came to yoga soon after my therapy sessions, I needed to move my body and just be with my pain and inner self in a positive way. At this point of my life I was so broken I didn’t even have the desire to practice my belly dancing or make art. I am so thankful to this day for my Yoga teacher Jo Thyssen for being a positive influence on my healing and teaching me brilliant mindfulness skills and breathing techniques that helped me cope better with daily life and it was her classes that inspired me to become a yoga teacher to pass on these resources.
The Teen Yoga Teacher Training: what I expected & what I got!
On the first day of my Teen yoga teacher training our teacher gave us our manuals and said, “Write in the top corner what you want to offer as teachers.”
I wrote ‘To give healing and to remind teens of their magic!”
This Teen Yoga teacher training was so beautiful and so intense! Ran by Charlotta Martinus over 5 days with a bunch of incredible women, one of them invited her three teen daughters along and it was great asking them questions about “what makes a good teen yoga teacher?” And “How can we make our classes fun and suitable to a teenage class?”
I expected the training to be a very simple explanation of class management, lesson planning and how to create sequences based on teen physicality much like many kid’s yoga teacher trainings where they teach you about the art of story telling-bringing picture books into class with puppets and rainbow mats to make it a sensory experience, I thought our tutor was going to teach us in a similar way and whilst she did teach some of that i.e. yoga games for teens and teen partner yoga she guided us through the deeper spiritual, mental and physiological benefits of yoga for teens.
We studied adolescent psychology and what the teen brain goes through neurologically when it encounters trauma, how boys and girls develop differently and why this is important information to know when creating classes, how to lead menarche (first period) yoga classes, Understanding attachment theory, hormones and the neurobiology of an adolescent as well as learning about “Extended Adolescence”, how untreated trauma can have a ripple effect throughout your adult life and how yoga and mindfulness can have a profound healing affect on teens. It was all fascinating and mind opening stuff!
On a personal level it helped me understand aspects to my teenage years that I can now forgive and let go and having that knowledge to be able to do that means I can now teach that to teens and even their parents. Like did you know the adolescent years don’t stop at 19, it carries on into our mid twenties! Interestingly your 25 year old is still in essence a teenager and therefore needs support as they transition into adulthood by their late twenties.
“Our interactions with the world “Organize our brain’s development” and shapes the person we become. The brain develops responses to both negative and positive environments. Chronic stress, and neglect sensitize neural pathways and over-develop certain areas of the brain such as the Limbic region involved in how we respond to fear and anxiety. Violence, abuse, hunger, pain etc focuses the brain’s resources on SURVIVAL meaning other areas of the brain are not “available” for other duties like learning social and cognitive skills.”-Charlotta Martinus/ Teen yoga teacher training manual.
Research Figures from NSPCC, UK (March 2012)
- Approximately 50,500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse.
- One in four young adults were severely maltreated during childhood.
- One in 14 children have experience severe physical violence at the hands of an adult
- One in 10 children have experienced severe neglect.
If an adolescent is constantly faced with trauma and a negative environment during this sensitive time then these negative behaviors and realities may become structurally encoded in their brain for the rest of their lives and they may not develop the cognitive abilities to control or regulate emotions or behaviors as they become adults.
So why become a Teen Yoga Teacher? Why does Yoga benefit Teens?
The benefits of yoga are massive and yoga is for everyone but it is specifically great for teens and young adults, here are some examples:
- Yoga is non-competitive- no exams-no certificates, teaches everyone is equal.
- Builds self awareness and the ability to self regulate effectively.
- Increase self-confidence and self control.
- Reduces peer pressure.
- Decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity.
- Increased attention span.
- Reduces anxiety, leading to higher IQ scores and improves complex learning skills.
- Increased spatial memory.
- Increased motor skills performance.
- Increased body/self-image satisfaction.
- Improves decision making skills
- Increased social adaptation and communication skills.
- Encourages positivity in mood, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety.
So, what now? What are my dreams for the future?
My dreams are so expansive! Here goes: Whilst teaching regular classes in schools or youth clubs, I hope to continue studying mental health awareness and be a member of a mental health organization; teaching yoga, dance and art to young adults suffering with emotional trauma and eating disorders. I want to work in the PRU Unit (Pupil Referral Unit), Homeless charities, Dyslexia organizations and Refugee support centers too.
As well as this I am saving up to do my 200hr Yoga teacher training and for specialist trainings in Yin yoga and Yoga Nidra.
I have just become a fully initiated Pagan Priestess as well which means I can facilitate sacred feminine healing circles & retreats for women and I have plans to lead menarche sessions for girls as freelance side projects too.
As a yoga teacher my aim is to go beyond what we see mainstream yoga to be and bring back its sacred connection to nature and to our spirits. I dream of teaching yoga well-being sessions by waterfalls and honoring the water element in and around us or teach under a full moon to howl like she-wolves in upward facing dog or teach lessons dedicated to the seasons with Puja ceremonies & flower blessings included! I want my classes to feel beautiful and for those attending them to feel beautiful, safe, refreshed and loved.
Yoga isn’t just asana (physical postures)-that is only one petal on a thousand leafed lotus flower! Yoga can be art making, it can be story telling, reciting poetry or journaling, yoga can be sleepy (yoga Nidra), it can be a reiki or massage session or whatever you want it to be for Yoga means union- the union of the body & mind, its about doing what you love MINDFULLY and practicing it with devotion, its about taking a step back in all the chaos and being present. Passing on these skills to teens is such a beautiful and humbling experience I hope to continue for the rest of my life, even though I am just one person, perhaps I can make a positive impact somehow for somebody out there in this vast world?
If you are interested in becoming a Teen Yoga teacher, click on this link: Teen Yoga
“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”-David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas