Happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have got. Pamela Allen.
We live in a world filled with images and ideas of how we should look, dress, behave and think, and nowhere is this menu of judgement more powerfully felt than in the world of the teenager. It comes as no surprise then that teenagers are experiencing anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and disordered eating more than ever before.
Yoga can help.
Yoga addresses the intertwined mental, physical and emotional aspects of these issues. For example, negative thoughts create anxiety which in turn triggers an immediate physiological response which could manifest as an increase in heart rate, hot and cold sensations, or tightness and pain in the stomach.
This is accompanied by an equally immediate emotional response, as our teenager feels these physical changes and reacts to them. The reaction can be overwhelming. This heightened state of awareness and anxiety then triggers more negative thoughts. And so the cycle continues.
Yoga can help to break this cycle. It gives teenagers the tools to begin to self regulate their emotional state. Through gentle breathing practices we can begin to move the body away from a state of hyper arousal and allow the rest and digest response of the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in. We all know how hard it is to think clearly when we feel panicked, or overwhelmed by our thoughts and feelings. Once we begin to feel calmer it’s easier to tolerate those uncomfortable feelings or thoughts and to recognise that they will eventually end. We start to train the mind over time to observe unhappy unhelpful thoughts and begin to see that we can move away from those thoughts and lessen their emotional impact. Even more helpfully, over time our teenager can use these same skills to cultivate new helpful thoughts, and begin to foster a positive relationship with her body, and a stronger sense of self. This enhanced and balanced sense of self creates an internal and permanent safe haven – someone to fall back on, the rock in hard times who will always be there, no matter what.