10 May 2012
Teenage years are a troubling time; your body starts sprouting in unexpected directions, the opposite sex go from being an annoyance in the playground to being strangely attractive, and suddenly your parents become poor fools with little true understanding of life. All at once you feel life much more deeply than any person in history and have the urge to write poetry that puts Keats and Byron to shame. Although we should be able to laugh about the dramas of being teen (as we should smirk at the absurd seriousness of being “adult”) it is true that the psychology of being a teen can be minefield. So for teens and parents of teens a new study showing the psychological impact of yoga on teenagers is wonderful news.
The looked at teenagers in the final two years of high school, so around sixteen and seventeen years of age. Two thirds of these teenagers were assigned to Kripalu yoga classes that included relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation. The subjects attended these classes two to three times per week for ten weeks. The rest of the subjects were assigned to attend physical exercise classes for the same time frame.
Before and after the ten week course all of the subjects completed tests that measured their mood, tension levels, and anxiety.
The group that undertook yoga had fewer mood problems and showed less anxiety. Additionally, negative emotions worsened in the exercise group but either were unchanged or improved for those doing yoga.
This was only a small study but it is promising in what it suggests about the power of yoga to improve the psychology of teenagers. Yoga is gentle and accessible but it needs to be practised regularly to yield benefits. It would seem though that yoga might be a welcome support for any parent who is living with a teen-beast and a relief for any teen who is tired of trying to find a rhyme for “desire”.