For the past seven years, I’ve worked in urban education as a physics teacher. After I became a Registered Yoga Teacher, my principal asked me to start a Yoga enrichment class. Second period each day, 10-15 teenage girls would come into my classroom, push all the desks to the side and, set their mats up in a circle. They would check in on a chart hanging in the room, writing their mood before class began, an idea they came up with and requested. At the end of class, they’d roll up their mats, check in with their mood again, and push the desks back into place. The first semester was particularly challenging, and there were good days and bad, but for the most part, this became our favorite time of the day.
Training with Next Generation Yoga taught me a lot of things I could add on and improve about the classes I was designing for my Yogis, but some of the most important things the training shined light on for me, I found I already subconsciously knew.
When we create a Yoga class for teenage Yogis, we are holding space for them. Space to be themselves, space to choose, space to speak openly and honestly, space to get to know their bodies, space to understand their minds and their emotions. NGY classes truly embody all of these things.
When working with teens, it is so important to let them share themselves. Teenagers love to talk, and often no one, especially adults, wants to listen. My rallying cry: Listen. Teens have such amazing things to say. I would begin each class with a question. Sometimes as simple as, “What’s something positive from your weekend?” and sometimes as challenging as, “How does your body feel when you are angry?”. Most days this was a quick 5-8 minute check-in before moving into our Yoga routines, but some days, when we went deeper, this might take up half the class, or more.
We spoke one week about using our breath to help us regulate our emotions, practicing breathing techniques together. Their homework was to try it, next time they felt their body or mind starting to feel upset. A tenth grader reported back the following week, “My mom did something that made me so angry and I stopped and counted ten breaths. And when I was done, I still felt really mad.” “Maybe,” I suggested to the group, “we aren’t trying to stop ourselves from feeling angry, because it’s okay to feel angry. Maybe we are just trying to make ourselves more aware of our feeling, so we can stay in control of our choices.” She nodded, “Yeah, I didn’t curse her out, like I usually would.”
Yoga plays such an important role for teens, as they are learning and discovering who they are and who they want to be in this world. Hold space. Listen. Be the adult that asks them to share their true self, that validates their sometimes confusing emotions, and helps them move their body in a way that feels good to them. You never know the impact you have. Given the journaling prompt “What does Yoga mean to you?”, one of my sixth graders began, “Yoga means everything to me.”
Next Generation Yoga Teacher for 2-13 yr. olds
Veronica is a high school science teacher, who first started practicing Yoga as a pre-teen with her mom. She found herself practicing sporadically throughout her life until the stress of being a teacher brought her back to her mat with a vigor. She became a RYT, completing her 200-hour Yoga teacher training, in 2016 and soon after began teaching an adult candlelight class, as well as an elective class for the students at her school. Seeing how Yoga helped her students, many of whom have experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives, lit a deep passion for bringing Yoga & Mindfulness to schools, especially in high-need areas. Shortly after beginning the Yoga program at her school, she began to learn all she could about Yoga in schools, attending the Yoga in Schools Symposium at Rowan University, organizing a Mindful Educators training for teachers at her school, and training in trauma Yoga through Street Yoga. Continuing along this path, in 2018, she became a Next Generation Yoga teacher for ages 2-13 and has been teaching Kids Yoga at her studio, for birthday parties, and Girl Scout groups ever since. Her goal is to empower kids to be their very awesome selves!