cultivating tomorrow’s yogis
It seems that everywhere we turn lately, we are bombarded with new information and studies about how yoga can benefit bedraggled professionals and stressed-out executives. Yoga‘s ability to bring balance to the mind, body and spirit has lured thousands of adults to the mat in search of rejuvenation and relief from the rigors of the rat race.
But adults aren’t the only ones benefiting from yoga. Every week, the kids involved in the teen yoga program at Silver Lake Yoga are discovering a new approach to exercise as well as gaining valuable exposure to a broader cultural perspective.
Yoga teacher Mara Pineda, who leads these young people through their practice every week, has seen many of her students blossom in her classes. “Something about the experience of doing yoga just brings them out of their shells,” notes Mara. “They’re so much more in touch with the playful side of yoga.”
While some of their parents stand with stern faces and clenched jaws in their most austere tree pose in their own classes, these kids laugh and play their way through their postures with a curiosity and eagerness rarely seen in adult classes. They all want to show off how long they can hold their sideways crow pose or how strong their headstand is. Mara laughs, “They are definitely a handful sometimes, but they are so present and so eager as well.”
Mara, who favors a flow approach to yoga, leads her students through their postures at a quick pace that keeps their active, energetic minds focused. “At this age you have to keep things interactive and interesting.
They have to be able to touch and feel more than adult students do.” They play games like “yogi says” and Mara sometimes includes traditional Indian dancing along with their hatha practice in order to expose the students to a different culture. “They love to learn all of the Sanskrit names for the postures and to hear the stories behind them,” explains Mara.
The education these students get in their yoga classes transcends what they learn in school. Though they are from different schools, there is a bond between these students that has grown up around their shared experience with yoga.
According to Mara, some of the students’ parents practice yoga and others do not, but all of the parents of these students are delighted that their kids are so enthusiastic about being able to practice yoga. Sarah Inkelis, aged 12, says, “I come to yoga because I like the way I feel afterwards”¦ I feel like all my troubles have been cleared.”
According to Sydny Mofit, aged 10, “I come to yoga because it relaxes me and it’s fun because my friends go.” Sophie Cohen explains, “It’s a good place for me to think or just empty my mind.” Mara has also gained a new appreciation for what yoga has to offer through her work with these young people. “Working with these kids has really brought me back to the roots of my practice. It boils it down to the bare bones.”
One thing you will definitely not find in these teen classes is the heavy austerity that can sometimes accompany adult yoga classes. There is a lightness and sense of fun in these students’ practices that is reinforced by Mara’s positive, affirming instruction.
The work these students are doing each week bodes well for the next generation of happy yogis.