While pursing my Masters Degree in International Child Studies, I conducted first hand research with a group of teen girls who were participating in a yoga and mindfulness class once a week after school. That study, coupled with extensive research helped me produce a comprehensive resource for understanding the ways that yoga and mindfulness can improve the teenage experience. Below is a summary of my findings a link to the entire document.
The period of adolescence is often marked by a number of challenges, from developmental shortcomings, to difficult peer relationships, to academic pressure, all of which can result in considerable amounts of stress. In that teenagers spend a majority of their time in school, many of their challenges are rooted in the school environment, or made worse by academic pressures put on them. In that many schools place a higher importance on academic achievement than the wellbeing of their students, there is a need to implement a strategy to better support students in a way that is accepted by school authorities. A small number of schools have begun to look to yoga and mindfulness programs as a method to support student’s wellbeing and help them to deal with academic pressure. The practices of yoga and mindfulness have been studied for their varied therapeutic and preventative applications for adults and young people. To date, few studies have been conducted with adolescents, and none have specifically looked at 16 to 18 year old females. In that this demographic represents a unique set of challenges, there is a need to understand how those challenges can be supported by a yoga and mindfulness practice. Therefore, a qualitative research design combining a review of the literature with small-scale research was conducted. This included semi-structured interviews with six teenage girls between the ages of 16 and 18 who had participated in a yoga and mindfulness program in a West London secondary school. The findings of this study supported that middle class, academically focused teenagers are under extreme levels of stress and need to be offered effective coping mechanisms. For the students interviewed, a yoga and mindfulness class was able to achieve these aims. The class also offered a space for the students to tune into their own wants and needs, which highlighted a potential for self-acceptance, identity formation, and appropriate decision making.
Of the six students interviewed, all reported benefits as a result of taking part in the yoga and mindfulness class. Benefits included improvements to the physical body, improved ability to deal with stress, improved ability to relax, and benefits resulting from connections between the body and mind. Largely, this study supported the previously determined benefits of yoga and mindfulness, but was also able to determine which of those benefits are most applicable to adolescent girls. The most widely recognized benefit among the interviewed students was stress relief. This element of the yoga and mindfulness class was particularly relevant given the impending pressure from exams and school work. The class provided a welcome break to their weekly schedules. It was even suggested that having the opportunity to relax resulted in improved focus and performance in school work.
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