By Loraine Rushton
According to Beyond Blue, one in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition and one in 16 is currently experiencing depression. Does your teen worry a lot? Have they ever experienced a panic attack? Do they withdraw from social situations or ever seem worried when you can’t identify a reason. These are all possible signs that they are experiencing anxiety and if not dealt with now, could impact them seriously for years to come.
Rather than turning to medication as an answer, maybe we should be saying, “What about yoga?’ The tools, techniques and practices of yoga can be a solution.
One of the most frequent comments I receive from adult yoga practitioners and teachers, is that they would love to have had these yoga tools as a teenager. These tools are even more important for teens today than they were for previous generations: coping with stress, school or study problems, body image, depression and family conflict all have an impact.
Here are 5 tools your teen can do that work fast in any stressful situation.
- Pound it out!
Starting from sitting, ask your teen to make their hands into tight fists and using the flat part below the knuckles, start pounding all the way down their bodies from the top of their heads, across the shoulders, down the outside of the arms and up the inside, into the chest and down the back, down the legs and finishing in the balls of their feet. Tell them to tap as strongly as they like, feeling any tight areas release and pounding stress out of their bodies.
- Swimming Asana
This is a fabulous pose for helping stress and anxiety as it works directly into the kidney area in the back and opens the kidney meridian, which relates to stress, adrenals and cortisol. Tell your teen to lie down on their belly and take their arms and legs apart into a star. If you have a younger child, it’s great to ignite their imagination and tell them to visualise a sparkling ocean that is warm and inviting and they jump right in. Tell them to get ready to swim.“Take a big breath in, and as you exhale, lift your right arm and left leg high. Inhale as you lower and exhale, lift your left arm and right leg.” They repeat for 5 more times on each side, then tell them to lie down, turn their head to the side and rest. If they place a hand on their lower back, ask them if they can feel their lower back rising and falling as they breathe in and out. Ask them to notice if they feel stronger and more powerful in their lower body and lighter in their upper body.
- Breathing in the new.
Yogic breathing exercises are now widely used to calm down an over-active mind. This is an effective and simple technique for teens or little ones that they can do anywhere. Tell your teen to place their hands on their belly and close their eyes. They take a big breath in and a big breath out. On the next breath in, ask them quietly to “breathe in all the new and breathe out the old. Breathe in new, fresh air and breathe out all the old unwanted, stagnant air. Breathe in new and breathe out old unwanted thoughts, feelings, worries.” Keep it going for about three minutes or as long as they need for the mind and stressful thoughts and feelings to subside.
- Breathe out the grey.
Many teens and kids are visual learners, so it helps if they can combine a calming breathing practice with a visual aid. If the previous breathing technique didn’t settle the mind and worries, this one will. Tell them, “Take a big breath in and as you breathe out imagine all the stress and worry leaving your body. Take another big breath in and as you breathe out, assign the negative thoughts and feelings the colour grey and breathe out the unwanted stress.
On the next breath out watch the grey colour travel down your arms and out through your fingertips. Breathing out, watch the grey unwanted feelings travel down your legs and out through your toes.“ They keep this going, releasing more and more until all the grey has gone. This is a very relaxing exercise and so it is a good night time one to do, if your child or teen is having trouble falling asleep because of stressful and anxious thoughts.
- The Worry Tree Visualisation
Lay them on their backs, turn their palms up, let their feet flop out to the sides and ask them to pull their chin in slightly into their chests. Tell them to relax every part of the body and close their eyes. You are going to guide them to a place where they will picture letting go of all their worries. “Keeping your eyes closed, imagine a big tree in front of you. Notice the branches, the leaves, maybe there is fruit or flowers growing on the tree. This is your worry tree, the place where you can hang all your worries, troubles and whatever is causing you stress.”
Ask them to imagine walking up to the tree and placing all their worries and fears on the tree, however big or small they may seem. Ask them to thank the tree and to walk away knowing that everything will be taken care of. Remind them that they can go back to the tree whenever they need to. If you’ve ever noticed that a teenager has caused you some stress, you may want to try them too. They work well on adults as well.