Today’s tweens have a lot to make them feel anxious. Even when a pandemic doesn’t rage, their hormones do, causing behavioral changes. Many are adjusting to homeschooling, and they miss their friends. They may lament missing their chance to play spring sports or participate in rites of passage like middle-school graduation.
One tool that you can teach your teens to help quell their panic when life gets chaotic is yoga. Yoga provides the ideal way to calm both your body and mind. Read on to discover how this ancient art can prove beneficial to youth coming of age in an uncertain time.
1. Yoga Helps Them Breathe
When you become anxious, your rate of breathing increases. Your heart rate speeds up, and it can feel as if the world is crashing down around you. One way to regain a sense of balance is through deep breathing.
Yoga puts your tween in touch with their breath. Deep breathing, when done correctly, acts as a nerve tonic to restore equilibrium. You have both a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The first tells you to panic, while the second relaxes you after exertion — like after you escape an angry bear. Teach your tween to practice 2-to-1 breathing by exhaling twice as long as they inhale. This process activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps them to relax.
2. Yoga Can Promote Restful Sleep
When you have anxiety, catching your Zzz’s can prove elusive. As you lie in bed, your thoughts race across your mind like so many frenzied monkeys. Before you know it, you find yourself checking the clock obsessively and wondering if you should get a 2 a.m. snack.
Some yoga poses do a phenomenal job of promoting deep, restful sleep. Best of all, you can perform asanas such as a happy baby pose right in bed. Perhaps you and your tween can unplug from your devices 30 minutes before retiring and start an evening practice together.
3. Yoga Decreases Cortisol Levels
Tweens with anxiety often have a comorbid diagnosis of depression. One research study evaluated the effectiveness of yoga versus antidepressants. Nineteen subjects participated in yoga only or a combination of yoga and drug therapy. The others used medication alone.
After a month of daily practice at home, those patients who used yoga alone or in conjunction with prescriptions showed a drop in cortisol levels, a critical stress hormone. This decrease correlated to an antidepressant effect. When your levels of cortisol soar due to prolonged stress, it decreases the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter for regulating mood, and patients with depression often have imbalances.
4. Yoga Helps Ease PMS
As your tween navigates hormonal changes, they will likely experience symptoms of PMS if they are female. These fluctuations are a natural part of achieving adulthood, but that hardly makes them less distressing. Your tween may spontaneously burst into tears when you ask her to run the vacuum. When you ask her what’s wrong, she might shake her head miserably, unable to explain.
Some yoga poses, such as inversions like shoulder stands, can increase the flow of oxygenated blood to the reproductive organs. Your tween can alleviate depression by opening her heart with backbends. During the first two days of the menstrual cycle, gentle, restorative poses can help ease cramps.
5. Yoga Improves Self-Esteem
The way your body moves through physical space influences your feelings of self-esteem and energy. Recently, researchers had participants practice standing yoga poses, those that feature an erect spine and open chest. They found that when these individuals held these asanas for two minutes, they reported increased happiness and self-worth.
Researchers remain unsure exactly how this effect occurs, but they suspect the involvement of the parasympathetic nervous system. Practicing yoga also helps tone the vagus nerve, which is the largest of your 12 cranial nerves. It extends from the base of your brain to the bottom of your spine. It sends signals to multiple organs and may play a role in some chronic pain conditions.
6. Yoga Encourages Other Healthy Habits
Yoga gets you more in touch with your physical body. When you stand in a tree pose, for example, you can feel every tiny muscle in your lower legs working to keep your balance. When you develop this sense of your physical presence, you realize what a miracle the human body is. This revelation inspires you to make other healthy changes.
Once you start your yoga practice with your tween, use it as a starting point to discuss other beneficial changes that you can make. Can you get in the kitchen together and whip up a delicious and plant-based dinner? Maybe you can start a herb garden on your kitchen sink to enjoy the fresh flavor in your recipes.
7. Yoga Anchors the Spirit to the Present
These days, uncertainty swirls in the air like a nightmare tornado out of “The Wizard of Oz.” You don’t know what will happen next, and neither does your tween. Will school start on time next year? Will they fall behind on their learning? Do they need to worry about you losing your job, and, with it, your ability to support them?
When you lie in savasana after a challenging yoga workout, you focus your attention solely on your breath. Drawing your awareness to the present moment helps you to realize that whatever is making you worry isn’t happening in the here and now. Plus, the entire practice focuses not only on your body but your spirit. It helps you remember that you are a powerful child of the universe, made from the stuff of stars. No temporary problem can stop you.
Get Your Tween Doing Yoga to Help Them Manage Anxiety
If you want to help your tween manage raging hormones and a chaotic world, why not introduce them to yoga? You will both benefit from the practice, and you can ease their anxiety significantly.
This is a guest post from writer and blogger, Jennifer Landis at Mindfulness Mama.