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A Personal Journey

 

I say I found yoga too late.  Having never been a particularly active kid or teen, I grew into my young adult body feeling physically weak, emotionally ungrounded, and lacking in focus and self esteem.  Then, in my late 20’s, I attended my first yoga class.  I found it physically challenging, even torturous at first, but soon I was attending daily classes.  My body rapidly grew stronger, and leaner, my mind became sharper, my breathing fuller, and my emotions more even.  I was experiencing a sense of lightness and ease as my mind and body were working efficiently in unison.  Why hadn’t I tried this sooner?  It was this transformation toward equanimity that was the beginning of my yogic journey.

Years later,  I became a yoga teacher to help my son.  “But…what’s wrong with him?”  I thought.  My son’s signs of developmental challenges appeared suddenly at first;  highly irritable, extremely sensitive to noise, and overwhelmed by crowded places at the age of 3.  Difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and horrible temper tantrums were still present at age 7, and by age 9, his muscle tone, gross motor skills and coordination were lacking.  Doctors provided no real answers other than the ubiquitous ADHD.  Unfortunately or not, his “symptoms” didn’t fit into any neat little diagnostic box.  

As he grew, his cognition of his challenges caused him great anxiety, exacerbating his symptoms.  I was scared, heartbroken, and angry.  How was I going to help my son?

I recognized in him traits from my own youth; limited body awareness, scattered thoughts, fragmented focus and low self esteem.  A “system in crisis”, I thought.  I taught him to cope with his anxiety with breathing and mindfulness techniques, and how to move with intention.  My son began to thrive, and so did I.

A growing population of adolescent children are struggling with similar challenges triggered by everyday stressors.  Kids today are “a system in crisis”, with packed schedules, cut-throat competition in academics and sports, accelerated societal pressure and the skyrocketing diagnoses of chronic illnesses like ADHD and depressive/anxiety disorders.  How can we, as parents, caregivers and educators, help our youth from feeling physically weak, incapable, self-conscious and anxious? 

 There is compelling evidence as to the benefits of teaching yoga to teens, including stress resilience, increased social and academic achievement, and reduction is risky behaviors.  And I believe that my life's journey has led me to this place of healing, where I now have the privilege of helping to empower kids on their path toward adulthood through the practice of yoga.