The benefits of yoga are widely known: stress reduction, improved immunity and flexibility, increased energy, among others.
Not A Fad
According to the Huffington Post, a survey produced by Yoga Journal last year revealed that over 20 million adults in the United States practice yoga. The practice of yoga has become increasingly popular with children and teens as well.
Now in its third year, the Greenwich Education Group (GEG) yoga program is thriving and a class that many students consider their favorite. No one is more surprised than Janet Andrews, a GEG classroom teacher and the creator of the program. Andrews, a yoga practitioner for many years, raised the idea of offering yoga at the GEG schools. Knowing that teens are a fickle bunch, she was unsure of how the class would be received.
The class consists of asana (yoga poses–some basic and some more challenging), breathing exercises called pranayama, and mindfulness meditation. Before exam weeks, students enjoy specialized classes to teach them how to self-regulate their test anxiety.
Yoga As A Tool
While yoga is increasingly being offered in schools these days, the GEG program is unique. Rather than focusing on the fitness aspects of yoga, GEG’s program is tailored to the specific needs of its student population. The students in the class attend one of the GEG Day Schools: The Spire School or The Pinnacle School. Many teens, like some adults, face the challenges of anxiety, depression, and learning differences. These challenges make it even more difficult for teens to practice self-acceptance and to thrive academically and socially. Yoga can help teens to minimize stress and to learn to appreciate their unique talents and challenges.
The GEG yoga classes are not your standard yoga studio class. Teaching yoga to teens requires a different approach. First, knowing that unlike most students in a yoga studio class, some of the students are not attending the class by choice. Indeed, yoga is a required component in The Spire School and offered as an elective in Pinnacle’s fitness offerings. The classes cover an introduction to the practice of yoga, without focusing too heavily on yogis’ philosophy. A class focus is on anatomy though proper alignment and the avoidance of injury.
A typical class includes some warm-up poses, a “peak” pose – one that challenges the students, and a closing meditation. Longer meditations are also a focus of the class, and occasionally students will participate in a 45-minute deep relaxation session. Yoga students are encouraged to foster an atmosphere of non-competitiveness – that is, exploring their individual abilities and challenges and developing an appreciation for their own expression of each pose. Self-acceptance and appreciation are recurring themes of the class.
There is no better testimony on the program than from the students themselves. Yoga student Olivia comments, “Yoga gives me a 45-minute break during the day during which I don’t need to worry about anything – not academics or social issues. After yoga class is over, I feel better equipped to handle the challenges in my life.”
There are several local yoga studios that offer specialized programs for children and teens including Kaia Yoga, Mantra Mind Body and Elements Yoga and Wellness Center.