Yoga and mindfulness for teens is a topic many of you have asked us to write about. We thought it would be great to bring in someone who has recently worked with teens herself. Introducing our Community Coordinator and Educational Assistant, Cassandra Troughton. Cassandra shares 5 tips for engaging teens in yoga and mindfulness practices.
Teens are complex.
They are moody. They don’t always handle their emotions well.
Teens push boundaries. They don’t always make the best choices.
They lack confidence and are always concerned about others’ opinions.
Teens gossip uncontrollably with friends. And when it comes to us, it’s like pulling teeth just to get a conversation going!
Being around teens can be frustrating.
You want to shape them and steer them in the right direction. But they don’t always want your help…
Like I said, teens are complex.
And like an iceberg, teens have a lot more going on beneath the surface than we can see…
A teenager’s brain is still developing. They don’t have full access to their rational brain—the prefrontal cortex. They push buttons to learn about boundaries.
Meanwhile, raging hormones are causing a massive influx of emotions. It causes the drive to find their own identity and the desire to connect to others separate from their families.
Looking back, I remember the challenges that came with being a teen in middle school. And working with my Grade 9 students this year reminded me of all those challenges…
Whether you live with a teen or work close with teens, you know they could use a little help and a little guidance, even if they aren’t always willing to accept it.
- So, how can we support our teens through this stage of their development?
- How can we raise confident, compassionate, and emotionally regulated teens?
- How can we help them get past all the complicated pieces of being a teenager?
By teaching them about the power of yoga and mindfulness of course!
“Wait, you said teens don’t want to listen to us. So how am I supposed to engage them in yoga and mindfulness? And how am I supposed to KEEP them engaged?”
Don’t worry! I have some tips for you!
5 Things to Keep in Mind When Engaging Teens in a Yoga and Mindfulness Practice (and How to KEEP Them Off Their Phones and in the Present Moment!)
#1: SET THE SCENE
With teenagers, you must set clear expectations from the start. These may look a little different than those for elementary kiddos. Some expectations, though, are universal.
Teens are insecure—their bodies and brains are going through major changes. They get embarrassed and don’t want to move their bodies in exposing ways. This is why it is important to set some compassionate ground rules for class.
Remind your teens that they are ALL different and we embrace those differences. It’s okay that our bodies don’t look and move the same. This is a place of non-judgement. No one is ridiculed for looking different. Remind your students that the yoga space is a safe-space and we are ALL are responsible for keeping it safe.
Remember, teens WILL push buttons. It is part of the developmental stage they are in. They get off topic and push back from attempts at redirection. It’s how they learn. How YOU respond is crucial. Redirect them back to your safe-space expectations.
They need to know you will stick to your word about creating a safe environment. Remove them from the activity without removing them from the room. Chances are they don’t know what a safe space is if they can’t contribute to one themselves. They need to see it to BE it.
Another expectation is to limit distractions by setting up a phone-free zone. Let your teens know they are NOT being punished. Instead, they are practicing being in the present moment. Cell phones remove our minds from the present.
This means YOU also have to follow this rule. If teens are giving up their phones for this period of time, so should you. Walk the walk.
#2: CHANNEL YOUR INNER TEEN!
Do you remember what it was like being a teenager? I do… And it was NOT easy. Teens are anxious. They are in their heads constantly, worrying about how others view them. They are insecure and in need of validation.
Teens want to be seen, heard, and understood by their peers. This goes hand-in-hand with creating a safe space. It is up to you to maintain this safe space. Show empathy for teens who aren’t willing to get into certain postures or close their eyes.
They are not being defiant on purpose. It’s more likely that their insecurities are showing. They are refusing because they are afraid of getting judged. As adults, we can show them patience and understanding.
Provide modifications if necessary. Let them skip an uncomfortable posture or breath until they are comfortable doing it on their own. And don’t force anyone to close their eyes!
Don’t push them into anything they aren’t comfortable doing. They will come around on their own time as long as you stay true to your space safe. And you meet them with a little compassionate understanding.
#3: ASK YOURSELF: WHAT MOTIVATES MY TEENS?
Use their interests to motivate them! List as many of your teens’ likes and interests down. And let’s get creative!
- What video games do they play?
- What are their favorite shows?
- Can you incorporate their favorite shows and games into themed yoga?
- Favorite music artists?
- What about playing background music THEY enjoy?
- What influencers do they like?
Do they have a favorite celebrity or social media influencer who also practices yoga? Show them those role models!
Do your teens thrive as leaders? Give them opportunities to lead their peers—once again, only if they are comfortable doing so. Never force an insecure and overwhelmed teen to lead an activity if they are not ready for it.
Another thing to consider… Take advantage of their interest in social media. Use their favorite social media platform to stay connected. Use it to inspire them and to motivate them with yoga and mindfulness.
Share what’s going on in your class, research, and other relevant information. They can follow this account on their own time. Social media influence goes a long way!
#4: RECONNECT WITH THE IDEA OF CONNECTION!
Human beings are wired for connection. Teens are no different. At this stage of life, the teen brain is working on creating a separate identity. Teens begin to distance themselves from the adults around them. They are doing this to find their place in the world.
Teens have this desire to connect with their peers. They go out and search for like-minded friend groups. With awareness, you can take advantage of this desire to connect with peers!
Set up partner yoga or “bring a friend” day to yoga class. Teens are always more engaged when they don’t feel like they’re doing it alone. This is your chance to incorporate some crucial connections! And if YOU want to connect on a deeper level with the teens you teach, get on their level of connection. How do teens connect with other teens?
Once again, social media is a powerful tool for teens—as long as you use it correctly!
#5: AWARENESS IS KEY
Don’t forget, a teen’s rational brain at this point is not fully developed. It is our job to help teens create new neural connections in their brains. We can do so by teaching them WHY we practice yoga and mindfulness.
With young kids, we sometimes skip over the benefits of don’t go into much detail. Teens understand research. So… show them relevant research! Teach them not only why yoga is important, but also why it’s important specifically to teens.
Explain why Yoga and Mindfulness are relevant to them and their lives! Make your Teens aware of the benefits! This is how you will get buy-in from your teens. And general benefits won’t cut it—they need specific benefits!
Show them how yoga and mindfulness will carry over to their home, school, and social lives. Give them a reason to CARE about yoga and mindfulness!
CHECK OUT OUR MINDFUL TEENS PACK
Welcome to your gratitude, self-love and self-appreciation journey!
This unique bundle includes two sets of cards, one journal and one yoga poster.
1. Self-Love Cards for Teens: 50 pages of prompts for cultivating self-love, self-acceptance, and confidence. These cards have a variety of questions and can be used as journal prompts, as well as reflection or circle questions. They work well as prompts for individuals or groups. In addition, we include more ideas for using them both at home or in educational settings.
2. Gratitude Cards for Teens: 50 pages of prompts for cultivating gratitude and appreciation for the little things in life—which aren’t so little after all! On each of our Gratitude Cards, you will find a question to make teens think about gratitude for themselves, others, and the things in their lives. Expressing gratitude to others makes helps us feel good—and it’s contagious!
3. Gratitude Journal for Teens: Twelve weeks of gratitude journal prompts, reflection questions, breathing exercises, positive affirmations, and more! This beautifully designed printable journal helps teens develop a growth mindset and discover the power of gratitude through simple questions and exercises.
4. Yoga Poster for Teens: A beautifully-designed, printable yoga poster for teens with a 5-pose yoga flow to remind them to show self-appreciation to themselves. The five yoga poses represent five self-appreciation aspects teens may like to focus on and be reminded of: self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-worth, self-esteem and self-care.
Get Your Mindful Teens Pack now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassandra Troughton (a.k.a. Miss T) is an educational assistant from Canada. She has worked with Edmonton Public Schools for over seven years, primarily in the special needs adaptability program (Gr. 1-6) and as the Health and Wellness lead at her school in Edmonton, Alberta. Her passions include health, wellness, and the practice of mindfulness! She loves passing on her knowledge of mindfulness to her students and fellow educators. You can find her at https://mindfulmisst.com/. She is currently the Community Coordinator of Kids Yoga Stories.