When it comes to teaching yoga and mindfulness to teens many people don’t think that this requires a particular knowledge and expertise. The lack of specialised teen teacher trainings pays witness to this. Often people refer to their own experiences as teens and assume that this would be sufficient to teach.
Teaching yoga and mindfulness to teens can be exhilarating and rewarding but also daunting and scary. For the past three years I have been teaching yoga and mindfulness to young people aged 12 to 24 in yoga studios, state schools and independent schools in London. What I have learned in this time was not only a great deal about teenagers but also about myself. And it all started with having my dreams shattered and deepest fears surfacing.
I was once one of these yoga teachers who started out teaching without much prior knowledge about adolescence other than being mum of a healthy and happy teenage son. Fair enough preconditions. I stumbled rather accidentally over the opportunity to teach yoga and mindfulness to teens, and instantly fell in love with the idea of passing on the tremendous gifts of yoga.
It didn’t work out quite like that. For my first class I found myself in a neon-lighted drafty gym together with thirty fifteen-year old girls who were involuntarily be made to participate in this “anger management program”. As you might have guessed, I had not been briefed about these details.
A flash of fear ran through me as I became aware of the girl’s close to non-existent interest in the subject and unwillingness to being here. The upset was expressed through procrastination in arrival, chatter, involvement with mobile phones, dismissive looks and generally an uninviting vibe. I couldn’t blame them, and yet what was I going to do?
The PE teacher’s sharp drill pierced through my slightly panicky thoughts, and put me on the spot in a cold silence. My heart was beating fast but my counselling background saved me. Realising that I needed to establish a real relationship with those girls first, I let go of my noble motives of telling them anything about yoga. Instead I started asking them questions about how they came to be here and what made them angry, and acknowledged their disparaging thoughts about yoga. It was true, on a practical level yoga could not help them with any of the problems they faced in their lives. However, through my honest engagement with them I somehow managed to inspire their curiosity just enough to give it a try. We ended up laughing and experimenting, talking and discussing, and eventually even holding a few minutes of silence. I walked out feeling humbled and grateful for what these kids had taught me.
[blockquote align=”right”]It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. – Albert Einstein[/blockquote] This incredibly moving experience has since formed the foundation of my approach to teaching yoga and mindfulness to teens. Making the relationship the most important aspect in teaching has, in my experience, has always opened doors to working with each other. I endeavour to inspire young people through my embodiment of the practice – its benefits on being who I am – not mere talking about it. For me this means to hold a space for teens to explore who they are, what they enjoy and how they become adults. In my experience this requires a capacity to allow for chaos, laughter and discussion, which in return yields interest, honest respect and appreciation.
As a yoga teacher I find myself in an exceptional position with young people. Although I have aims and lesson plans, I neither have to follow a tightly timed curriculum to fulfil educational requirements (yet!) nor do I have parental duties. For me this highlights the responsibility and preciousness of my role in a young person’s life.
Being real with young people takes courage. They loose interest when I preach, track when I repeat myself, spot when I am not present, don’t bother when I overload them, worry when I let them down, and laugh when I make mistakes. They are never afraid to share and show any of this openly. They are with me, not against me. As they show me where to develop as an adult, I help them bridge their way into adulthood.
Growing up is not just a physical task but impacts on the emotional, psychological and social life of a teenager. Adolescence should be an exciting time of discovery and exploration, but is often overshadowed by overwhelm, anxiety and stress. In my yoga and mindfulness classes I aim to support the transition into adulthood by providing a space to relax, unwind, recharge and explore. In my teen yoga and mindfulness teacher trainings I aim to help you explore who you are, equipping you with teaching tools and skills, so you can enjoy your time teaching teens as well as be of real service to them.
Veronika is the founder of Teen Yoga & Mindfulness. She is an experienced YAUK Senior Yoga Teacher, teacher trainer and Mindfulness teacher as well as a trained Teen Yoga & Mindfulness teacher and teacher trainer. In addition, Veronika works as a counsellor and training integrative psychotherapist.