Since teenagers are always willing to try new things, fun yoga asanas for middle school students are a good gateway to a potentially lifelong practice.
How Yoga Can Help Teens
Many teens deal with a number of difficult issues, from body image concerns and low self-esteem to pressures in school and finding a voice among their peers. Presenting yoga as a way to explore individuality helps young adults feel that something is within their control.
There are other advantages teenagers may experience from yoga, because:
- Yoga is a non-competitive activity.
- It allows for group interaction and personal, more private, expression, similar to band, choir, and dance.
- Nobody can do every asana perfectly, which helps teens build confidence in how they look and how their bodies perform.
- Focusing on deliberate movement quiets the mind and reduces stress.
- The practice gives teens "permission" to be calm without scrutiny.
Certain yoga techniques, especially breathing exercises, also help teenagers in other areas of their lives, such as public speaking, performance, and concentration.
Medical studies indicate that yoga may also help teens slim down. WebMD reports that in a 2006 study featuring 60 students in high school, the participants lost an average of six pounds over three months. They also reduced their body mass index. The students performed breathing and yoga exercises four days a week during the study period.
Other medical findings point to yoga as a method to relieve depression and ADHD symptoms.
It's best to check with a health practitioner before practicing yoga, just as you would if the student tried out for basketball or ballet. As pubescent bodies grow and change, there is a greater risk for pulled muscles and sprains if pushed to the limit.
Also, decide on how much yoga history to delve into. Yoga does provide opportunities to talk about the influence of different cultures. However, many teens may simply not have the attention span to learn about the intricacies of Sanskrit - and some might not care at all. Present both the layman's term for a pose, and the Sanskrit version with definition if you have it, and keep a book or two around for fast reference. Let the teen decide how much yoga calls to him or her personally, so that the relationship with the practice develops naturally.
Fun Yoga Asanas for Middle School Students
Many of the basic poses are fun yoga asanas for middle school students to learn. While at first they may mock the Mountain Pose-"Duh! I'm just standing here!"-in time, they'll uncover the meaning of each position.
Hatha yoga is probably the most accessible style of yoga for beginners. The use of props also enables a young student to learn without the fear or pressure of not "getting it right" all the time.
Start with more simple postures, such as Child's Pose, Downward Facing Dog Pose, Lotus Pose, and Wide-Legged Forward Bend. Make sure teens understand that form is purposeful, and teach them how to listen to their bodies for the best result. For example, in Child's Pose, it may be uncomfortable for some people to have their arms extended, so use the arms at the sides as an alternative. Learning how to modify a pose in response to what they feel increases concentration and intent.
Move on to some standard poses, like the Warrior Pose series. Ask them to focus on something they're proud of and ask them to feel like proud warriors. Have them push out any anger or frustration through their arms and legs. Let them make faces at one another or let out a "whoop" at the end of the sequence in exultation!
Then, introduce some of the more funky postures, including Camel Pose, Cow Face Pose, Eagle Pose, and Firefly Pose. The names alone jazz up any yoga session, but the challenges of twisting, bending, and balancing are sure to send everyone into fits of giggles.
Helpful Books and DVDs for Teen Yoga
These resources will have more fun yoga asanas for middle school students to try:
- Yoga by Teens is a DVD yoga program taught by teenagers Lauren, Emily and Jessica Parsons.
- Yoga 4 Teens by Christy Brock of YogaMinded is a good DVD choice for more athletic teens.
- The book Breathe: Yoga for Teens by Mary Kaye Chryssicas is considered to be a good introductory book for girls 12-13.
- Evan Cooper's book Um, Like... OM: A Girl Goddess's Guide to Yoga is a wonderful guide for young women interested in yoga.