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Yoga Supports Teens' Identity Formation

Adolescence is a time of immeasurable change. Teens are going through a number of simultaneous processes whereby their social, biological, physical, and emotional worlds are shifting. They are put under a great deal of pressure to make decisions about their future at a time when they might not be fully equipped to do so. They may be unsure of their own beliefs, values, and desires, ultimately striving to understand and develop their identity. We have found a number of studies that link yoga and identity.

In the book, “Working with Adolescents, Constructing Identity,” John Head explores the complex world of identity formation during the teen years. He explains how schools can effectively nurture this experience. He says that “the principle psychological task for the adolescent is to achieve a sense of personal identity.”

Head believes that a school should “promote exploration, responsible choice and self-determination by students” and that “the young person must be able to understand the alternatives, evaluate each one systematically, and feel a sense of personal control over the decisions he or she makes.”

By teaching yoga to teenagers, I hope to do just that. By giving teens the space and opportunity for reflection, yoga can encourage the self-discovery that helps build a sense of identity. This, in turn can help them to make more clear and focused decisions about their present and future.

Head also says that an “identity-curriculum promotes self-acceptance and positive feedback from teachers and counselors”. This too is one of one of my goals, to inspire an acceptance of one’s body by recognizing the unique strength and abilities that each teen has.

By using our body (postures), focussing our mind (meditation, mindfulness), and working with our breath we learn about ourselves and our relationship with life. This enables us to change unhealthy habits and supports healthy success in physical and academic achievements as well as in our personal life.

By slowing down and connecting with their minds and bodies, teens are better able to think about decisions and make ones that respect themselves and others. It is my belief that yoga is a powerful tool to improve the overall experience of adolescence and provide a solid foundation for the future.

(Originally published on teen-yoga.com)

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