Christmas lesson for teens

This time of year, it can feel like we are working against our own bodies, pushing ourselves up out of bed when its dark, taking vitamins, supplements, coffee, chocolate or pro-plus to keep going until the mid-winter feast which pushes us even further into activity and consumption.   I have had the benefit of slowing down almost to a halt this past few weeks and I watch how the teens are pushing themselves to fill in UCAS forms, preparing for Mocks, getting on buses in the dark and coming home in the dark.

As yoga teachers, we are in such a privileged position, we can nourish and care for these precious souls, offering them solace in this frantic time, teaching them to slow down completely. Their bodies are telling them to sleep (91/2 hours per night between 13-19) yet most of our teens sleep on average 6 hours per night.

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Yoga from a priest’s perspective

If, with your religion, your aim is to deepen your relationship with God, then this will unfold  in a pace with you getting to know yourself. The way I see yoga, other than making your body feel more soft and flexible, is that it will also soften up the tensions between the body and the soul and take you to a place of a better balance, closer to yourself.   This is what we need in order to come closer to God, other people and the everything else. I don’t see it as a way to come to perfection, which may be a criticism from the Christian perspective, where we talk in terms of grace and faith.  All kinds of self development can be transmuted into an ego-project, but that has nothing to do with its roots or practise, but rather has to do with the intention. You can practise yoga to deepen your relationship with yourself and your higher power, whether you are Christian, Hindu or a Buddhist.

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Relaxing your feet, relaxing your legs, relaxing your SELF!

Young people spend an inordinate amount of time taking care of their image. The grooming, the hair, the make up or body products – all to create a persona.

That persona often becomes the mask that we carry throughout adulthood until, for some, it becomes to heavy to bear – then comes the nervous breakdown, the visit to the psychotherapist, the first yoga class.

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Pre-exam yoga practise

Exam practise

Things to do before exams

1. Sleep well (follow steps below)
2. switch off any screens at least an hour before bed
3. don’t drink coffee or alcohol or eat sugar after supper ( even better, avoid them altogether if you can)
4. have a hot bath with lavender or chamomile essential oils before bed
5. massage yourself slowly with warm (pop it on the radiator) almond oil with lavender drops (failing that, both olive oil and sesame oil that you get from the food shop are fine)
6. have a chamomile/limegrass/valerian tea 1 hour before bed
7. eat a regular times and sleep at regular times, bed around 10 and up at around 6/7
8. make sure your room is cool and clean with fresh air and your bed is warm and clean
9. read something inspiring before bed for a few minutes
10. Ujjayi breath for 10 minutes in the evening.

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How Yoga has changed Teenagers’ Behaviour

 “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will steer our life and we will call it fate “ Carl Jung.

Many teachers and parents sigh and roll their eyes when the teenager grunts and stomps. Bad behaviour! Bad attitude! Disengaged! The desire to manage behaviour and create an optimal learning environment is every teacher’s first aim, without it, learning cannot take place. In yoga, as in many pedagogical circles, we subscribe to Carl Roger’s (father of modern psychology) axiom of “unconditional positive regard”. There is a belief that when we see the divine/light/goodness in the person in front of us, they will shift and change accordingly. (The greeting Namaste is an example of this – we strive to see the godly nature of everyone at all times). This ties in nicely with the psychology concept of labelling, when we label a pupil as clever, intelligent or the opposite, stupid or slow – they tend to respond to the label.

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Why do one in ten children in the UK suffer from a mental disorder?

I heard a story – an anthropologist went to study the songs of the Huichol Indians and found that they were almost all about rain. She asked the chief, “why is this?” The chief responded, “We sing about what we long for, what we miss and what we need. That is our yearning and our song. Why do you think people in the West just sing about love?”

In the UNICEF report card 11 (2011), the UK came 16th in a list of 29 developed countries in measures of well being.

Obesity is at an all time high, and self-harm is rising at an alarming rate.

The long awaited report from The Department of Health, Future in Mind, was published on the 20th March 2015 and looks at how we can promote, protect and improve young people’s resilience to stress and wellbeing generally.

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Let their voice be heard!

What would a conference about yoga, education and welllbeing among young people be, without their voice?

We would like anyone working with young people to encourage them to send in a one minute video answering three simple questions:

  1. How does yoga affect your life?
  2. How could it affect your life more?
  3. Would you like more yoga in school, if so, how?

And send the answers in to me at – for the chance of winning an ipad mini!

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What are the benefits of yoga to teens?

As practitioners ourselves, we know only all to well, how yoga can assuage feelings of anxiety, calm our nerves and generally uplift us. Why would it be any different for young people?

This was my thought as I calmly and confidently strode into my first yoga class for teens ten years ago and was met by a battlefield of flying mats and falling trees!

The precious gift that I had discovered and was desperate to share with others, was being denigrated and thrown out before even being discovered. I had a choice – walk out and never come back or persevere. I chose the latter. I wonder why? Because somewhere deep inside me I knew these kids really needed it. They were stressed out, anxious, hyper and unable to cope, let alone focus or concentrate. How to apply yoga to these guys?

This became my focus and my sole purpose in the following months and years, to create a way to apply yoga to 13-16 year olds specifically, as this seemed to present a veritable “dark night of the soul”. The input and insights of fellow yogis, psychologists, educators, doctors, osteopaths and physiotherapists developed the present course, which is presented worldwide.

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Inclusion in Schools

“Better than…”, “More gifted…”, “More flexible…”, “More friendly…”… do these terms sound like advertising?

There are worse labels though:

“Less able…”, “Less sociable…”, ADHD, Aspergers, dyspraxic, dyslexic…….

Apparently these endless labels “help” teachers and parents to differentiate learners in a class, categorising and measuring outcomes, people, products. They may however just oversimplify the diversity.

As OfSted looks at “inclusion”, and we take side glances at Finland’s non-streaming, all inclusive, successful and happy school system, I wonder how these categories really help, and how they may relate to yoga.

Are we not all looking to belong, to connect, to be part of a whole? Where does this longing come from? It comes from within, yoga says, it is your birthright, it is the truth, this connection, that you may feel on a forest walk or in the midst of a giggling fit with your best friend, or in a big group of friends, on a roller coaster, as you scream together. This is the truth of human existence.

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