There are those who tell you that your school years are the best of your life. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Even as a teenager, I had a strong sense of that my childhood was something that needed to be weathered until the age of legal independence. If I hadn't, I'm not sure I'd be here to write this.
Of course, there were lovely bits. The long school holidays. The lack of responsibility. The pool parties (I spent much of my adolescence in the US) and the late night gossiping about boys. But what I remember most about my teens was a constant sense of powerlessness. I was powerless over my unhappy home life, powerless over my changing body and over the eating disorder that had been gaining momentum since I was thirteen. I felt powerless over what I wanted to do (be creative) versus what I kept being told to do (be sensible).
Of course, not all teens have eating disorders or are unhappy at home or at school. That's as much of a stereotype as saying that all teenagers like to eat at McDonalds. But any teen navigating the choppy waters between childhood and adulthood will know it to be an exhausting and confusing journey at times.
As it was, I didn't discover yoga until my early thirties. I had tried all sorts by then; therapy, support groups, shouting at empty chairs pretending that they were people from my past. I jogged in public spaces and drank two litres of water per day. I was living the 'well' life.
But the thing that struck me most about yoga was the sense of refuge that it provided me with. There was something about getting on the mat that allowed me to feel like somehow I was coming home. I was by no means flexible, or even especially coordinated, but I often found that after I practiced, I just felt a little more, well... Me.
When I look at my teens, I can't help wishing that I had just discovered yoga sooner. My story is my story, and made me the person I am today (yadda yadda), but I can't help but wonder how differently things would have turned out had I just found that place of refuge at a time when I needed it the most. Movement in school always came in the form of sports, and sports always seemed to be the terrain of happy, uncomplicated people. Besides, by its nature, sports are competitive, and whilst that's not always a bad thing, isn't it nice to do something just because it feels good and not because you might win a trophy?
Teaching yoga to teens isn't always easy. Sometimes it feels like crowd control and sometimes I have moments when I swear I have gone back to being that sad, confused young person myself. For there's nothing like being in school, surrounded by teens, for bringing up anything unresolved from that time in your life- and I don't just mean New Kids on the Block and crimped hair. But mostly, it's a great chance to discover the wonderful people behind the confused and often heavily stressed facades, and best of all, a chance to help them discover that for themselves.
If you'd like to know more about how we work with teenagers at Teen Yoga, please get in touch!