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Navigating the journey between childhood and teenager status can be both a fantastic and treacherous adventure. At the onset of puberty, everything seems to change. Youth experience dramatic, often sudden, transformations of physical systems, cognitive capacities and social relationships. It is natural for youth to experience some degree of confusion or disequilibrium about these major life alterations. The fluctuations in mood and opinion can be just as confusing for the people who live and work with youth.

Fortunately, ancient health systems, like Yoga, can contribute to finding balance and ease in the face of today’s mounting challenges. Here, I will share three practices that I have found helpful to the teens I have worked with over a decade’s time in the field. The following practices address three distinct needs that many early adolescents share: self- awareness, emotional regulation, and energy rejuvenation. The benefits of each exercise are included.

  1. Breath Moves Energy

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged pose on the floor. Sitting on a cushion or folded blanket that lifts the hips higher than the knees can be helpful for achieving more lift in the spine. Root the tailbone into the Earth. Extend the spine tall, drawing the shoulder blades onto the upper back. Spread across the collarbones. Balance the ears just above the shoulders so the neck is lengthened, but not straining. Enjoy five deep breaths simply being aware of breath and body.

With a deep inhale, extend both arms out to the side and up, joining the palms overhead. Exhaling, draw the joined hands down the midline of the body, past the face, heart and center. Inhale, arms reach out and up overhead. Exhale, center the mind and body as the hands pull down the midline. Repeat 10 to 20 times being mindful of movements and breath the entire time.


  • Increase self awareness
  • Build lung capacity
  • Develop core strength

Why this works: When the body, mind and breath move together in concert, the whole system reaches a higher level of harmony. Explain to youth that yoga is about linking all of the different parts of ourselves together: physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social. All of these parts can be compared to a band. When one part is out of tune, the whole song can sound unpleasant. Yoga is a practice of tuning our various parts to the same note.

  1. Balance Through Challenges

Stand tall with feet hips width apart. Spread the toes and press evenly through all four corners of the feet. Firm leg muscles. Extend the tailbone towards the floor and activate the abdominal muscles. Lengthen the side body. Draw the shoulder blades onto the upper back, spreading across the collarbones. Gently lengthen the back of the neck, reaching up through the crown of the head. This is Mountain Pose.  Once Mountain Pose is established and steady, find one spot on the floor about 4 feet in front of the feet to focus the eyes. Try to keep the eyes softly placed on the chosen spot for the entire exercise.

Now, extend both arms out to the side to help maintain balance. Press deliberately into the right foot, slowly lifting the left foot from the floor. Place the sole of the left foot onto the inner calf muscle or inner thigh of the right leg. (Note: Avoid placing the left foot on the right knee as the pressure on the joint can be unsafe.) The left knee points outward and the toes of the left foot face the floor. As balance is established, reach arms overhead into Tree Pose. Practice paying attention to the breath and keeping the eyes focused. Repeat on the other side.


    • Cultivate core strength and balance
    • Develop emotional regulation
    • Increase muscular strength and tone in legs, trunk and arms

Why this works: Learning to stay focused and calm during the challenge of balancing on one foot is a skill that transfers to many activities. In this exercise, the body, mind and breath work together to achieve balance for the whole system.

  1. Let Go and Trust the Flow

Lie down face up on the floor. Use a blanket, mat or rug for comfort if desired. With legs straight, place feet wider than hips width. Extend arms out beside the body with hands below heart level and palms open to the sky. Close the eyes and find the breath. Starting from the toes and feet, relax each part of the body all the way up to the crown of the head. Let the bones and muscles release into the floor. Allow the organs to soften. Find the heartbeat. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 minutes rejuvenating the body’s energy and allowing the mind to be spacious.


  • Strengthen body/mind connection
  • Relieve mental stress
  • Rejuvenate physical energy

Why this works: Adolescents need to rest! They often stay up until late hours of the night and need to wake up early for school. Lack of rest creates moodiness and lethargy. Five to 10 minutes of focused resting can save hours of wasted time.

These simple, practical practices can be offered to tweens at home or in a classroom environment. One does not need to be a certified Yoga teacher to help guide youth toward the practice. Remember: youth do not typically enjoy being pushed in any direction, so a subtle approach may be most successful. Letting tweens know that they have power in shaping their life can inspire them to give the tools a try. Offer the practices as a choice and allow them to enter the practice in their own time.

Yoga practice can contribute to wellness, happiness and balance in anyone’s life who is open to the experience, particularly youth.  Be mindful to educate youth on the benefits of the practices and how their individual lives can be enhanced.

For demonstrations of these techniques and more, visit

Abby Wills, MA, ERYT, Shanti Generation Abby serves as Program Director for Shanti Generation, an organization she co-founded to bring the transformational practice of yoga to youth and school communities. She is on faculty at New Roads Middle School and The Walther School. Abby shares her twelve years of experience teaching youth in the Shanti Generation Facilitator’s Training. The curriculum of the training is also informed by graduate studies in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College. Most recently, Abby collaborated with WSR Creative to produce an innovative DVD program called Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers.

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Category : Yoga