Ah, yoga... every celebrity's favorite pastime. The crown jewel of every hip New York studio.
Over the years, yoga has developed a connotation of being for hippies who go to Whole Foods and for "woke" elitists. For most teenagers, yoga couldn't be farther from their daily routine. It just isn't a teen thing.
However, yoga has numerous scientifically proven benefits for the body and the mind. Many of these benefits can serve to directly help with teen struggles. Read on to find out how yoga can benefit YOU!
1. Increase flexibility
Yoga is a very broad category- there are actually 13 different types of yoga (vinyasa, hatha, yin, etc) No matter what style of yoga you do, you will be stretching muscle groups which are hardly even touched in day-to-day life. Consistent practice- that is to say, consistent stretching of these muscles- will slowly increase your flexibility.
This is great for all teens, not just the gymnasts. More flexibility means more ease in everyday activities. Shaving all those hard to reach spots will become a breeze! Additionally, those who are more flexible tend to have a lower risk of injury. You see, being flexible means your muscles become soft and stretchy. Being malleable allows the muscle to withstand pressure and tears. Long story short, you won't have to deal with as many sore muscles or rolled ankles.
2. Increase energy
That's right, yoga can give you an energy boost! Despite how slow and relaxing it may seem, yoga is still a form of exercise. It will get your blood pumping, which translates to increased energy. Many yoga techniques also have an emphasis on breathing. As your body learns to breathe deeper, the oxygen influx will give you a boost of energy.
That's the physical aspect of increased energy. Beyond that, yoga feels good! Numerous studies have shown that people feel energized or reinvigorated after doing yoga. Yoga is like a wake-up call for your body after a long night's sleep. You'll feel awake after doing some yoga.
To be honest, any teenager could use a much needed shot of energy. So next time you find yourself reaching for a cup of coffee, try some yoga instead!
3. Better athletic performance
Consider this the culmination of the previous two benefits. Better flexibility and increased energy are both key aspects of improved athletic performance. Beyond that, yoga is a gentle but effective form of training. It exercises every part of your body; if you're trying to target a specific muscle group, there are yoga poses for that too.
This is great news for all the athletes out there! Instead of doing intense workouts every other day, try alternating between yoga and workout seshes. You might just see an improvement in your performance! This has a lot of potential- yoga is a great team-building exercise as well.
4. Improve posture
Yoga is a great exercise to strengthen the core. The stronger core means a more upright body. Additionally, going back to the second benefit, more energy naturally means you'll be more tall and perky. Yet another reason why yoga is great for your posture is that it increases body awareness.
Body awareness basically means you are aware of every single part of your body and what it is doing. This is a skill that yoga instills in the practitioner because, in itself, yoga is the practice of moving (and acknowledging) different body parts. So, once you develop a sense of body awareness, you'll immediately sense when you are slumping or slouching. Think of body awareness as a reminder to keep your chin up.
This is invaluable to teens, especially those of us who spend all day hunched over a desk. Pretty much everyone has been told by their teachers or their parents to straighten up. Well, yoga can help you do that! An improved posture means you will stand taller and fat won't collect in your belly region. Basically, your clothes (especially crop tops) will look much better.
5. Sharpen concentration and focus
Yoga, at its core, is all about body awareness. As you do different stretches, strike unique poses, and contort yourself in every which way, you should be noticing and acknowledging every muscle you move. This demands laser sharp focus and concentration. The other aspects of yoga, such as guided breathing or meditation, also force your mind to be rapt. Ultimately, the regular practice of yoga will result in your mind having a sharper sense of concentration and focus. Your ability to immerse yourself in one thing- and one thing only- will be amplified.
This is a great benefit for anyone, not just teenagers! But for us, long hours of studying and other work can really take a toll. Improved concentration can help you cut down on the time you spend on such tasks, as you won't keep getting distracted every few minutes. Better focus can also improve the quality of work, which could be a for many. For many teenagers, this is the most appealing benefit of yoga!
6. Decrease stress and anxiety
It has been scientifically proven that yoga (combined with mindful breathing and meditation) reduces the secretion of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol has been dubbed the stress hormone, because that is exactly it's job. The more cortisol in your system, the more stress/anxiety you are under. Stress has been linked to lower energy levels (see benefit #2) while anxiety has been linked to a restlessness and distraction (see benefit #5) Notice a pattern yet?
Thus, consider yoga like a literal chill pill. A hearty yoga workout will leave you feeling relaxed and calm, (relatively) free from the worries of the world. This is insanely appealing to any teenager, especially high school juniors and seniors. School and extracurriculars can get tough, and it's the stress which keeps us going. Unfortunately, many students cannot handle the stress and it ends up hurting them more than helping them. Yoga is an effective, natural, and safe outlet to release your stress.
7. Promote better sleep
Numerous studies have shown that those who practice yoga sleep deeper and better. When they wake up, they feel much more energized. Better sleep comes with a whole slew of benefits. A good night's sleep means better memory, a better immune system, and improved creativity. These are just the benefits which don't overlap with the aforementioned benefits of yoga!
Every teenager could use a good night's sleep. All those all-nighters take a toll! Even if you can't sleep the whole recommended 10 hours, yoga can help you make the most of the sleep you do get. Your sleep will be deeper and more restorative, meaning you'll wake up feeling refreshed no matter what!
8. Mood booster
That's right- yoga is a huge mood booster. It lifts your spirits in many different ways. First of all, as mentioned before, the exercise lowers the amount of cortisol in your body, effectively reducing stress. Furthermore, it increases your energy, which inadvertently leads to a better mood. But above all, yoga is an accomplishment. It is very emotionally (and physically) satisfying to do yoga. When your mind feels like it has achieved something, you feel good about it.
This is a universal benefit, not just for teens. But it can be particularly helpful for us. If you're struggling with school, college apps, relationship drama, whatever it may be, it is really tempting to cry in bed and eat a pint of ice cream. But don't let yourself get dragged down. Take your mind and your body into your own hands- yoga is the perfect way to cheer yourself up, at least for a little while.
All those benefits must be tempting! Fortunately, getting started with yoga is a breeze. The internet is full of great yoga resources, articles and tutorials. Yoga with Adriene is the perfect place to start. Her videos are engaging and extremely varied. She has yoga tutorials for everything, ranging from "Yoga to Heal Stress" to "Office Break Yoga" Go check her out and let me know how it goes in the comments! Other great yoga resources are also welcome in the comments!