Yoga is a comprehensive system of philosophy and lifestyle practices that can be incorporated into daily life activities. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in Western parts of the world and a growing body of research is pointing to its many health benefits – both mental and physical.
Yoga can be practised anywhere and in a solitary or group setting. It can also be practised across a wide range of the lifespan, from childhood through to advanced years. Yoga classes for teens with arthritis have recently been introduced to the suite of exercise classes offered by AOWA.
Yoga classes for teens are designed to provide young people with tools to assist them to deal with the demands of daily life. For teens, yoga can also provide a mechanism to help manage the pressures associated with the transition to adulthood. In particular, for young people with a chronic pain condition, mindfulness and breathing techniques can be incorporated into yoga practice to help calm the nervous system and promote wellbeing.
Specific postures are perhaps the most commonly recognised aspect of yoga. The yoga postures (known as asana) increase strength, flexibility, coordination and balance as well as teaching body awareness. The AOWA yoga classes teach participants to understand where their body is in space and how to recognize habitual ways that they may hold tension in their body. For example, with encouragement repeated gentle reminders about how to move well, participants can become more mindful of their body and begin to notice where they may hold tension as they practice the postures. They can then use this knowledge and awareness to consciously relax tense areas in their body.
Yoga is non-competitive and allows teenagers the opportunity to explore their potential by trying different poses and techniques in a safe and supportive environment. They are taught how to approach more challenging postures step by step and learn how to modify and adapt postures according to their individual capabilities. This can increase body confidence and self-esteem.
Other techniques that are taught include breathing, mindfulness, and conscious relaxation. These are taught with the aim of improving concentration and focus and to encourage self-soothing to promote a reduction in the stress response which is important in managing chronic pain. The Group class setting also provides an environment where participants interact and exercise with others with the same or similar health conditions.
The benefits of yoga given from the perspective of one of the regular participants are summarized as follows:
“I love yoga because it allows me to exercise without the pain and exhaustion that usually comes with it. Not only does it make my muscles stronger and more flexible, but it also improves my mental health. I find that the mindfulness aspect of yoga really helps me to cope with stress and anxiety, especially during exams. I would highly recommend this course to anyone seeking to improve their physical and mental health”. E, age 17.
Writing this article in my capacity as a yoga teacher, I am reflective of how hugely rewarding it is to see young people develop body awareness, confidence in the postures and learn how to relax throughout the course. To see the look on their face as they develop mastery in a pose, or relax deeply at the end of the session, is priceless and inspires me to teach yoga to teens.
The Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA Yoga classes are taught by Theresa Venz, a yoga therapist. Classes run in Term 4 every Monday 4.45 to 5.30 (subject to demand).
For more information or to register, visit our website calendar or call us on 9388 2199 or 1800 011 041.
By Theresa Venz, Yoga Therapist