*This post was featured in the Chew Valley Gazette*
Yoga has been practised for hundreds of years, however more recently I have seen a vast increase in Yoga amongst young people. There has been an introduction of meditation in schools as a replacement for detention, as well as an increase in “Kids’ Yoga” classes in and out of schools.
I’ve seen a vast increase in Yoga with teenagers and young adults throughout the past years and I believe the introduction of Yoga in schools has given students who would otherwise never have gone to a Yoga class, the opportunity to experience Yoga in a pure form. As a result, teenagers and young adults have carried on this practice into their later years.
The pressures and stresses experienced by young people often go unnoticed, society turns a blind eye and notably older generations compare their youth to the current youth of today, dismissing the troubles they experience. Young people are frequently criticised for immaturity and ‘not growing up’ quickly enough, whilst being told they need to get good grades, go to University, get a job, be healthy – but still have friends, see the world – but only after Uni.. Honestly the list goes on.
When I think back to my exams (GCSE and A Level) they were notably the most stressful periods of my life. There was not much support regarding my mental and emotional wellbeing during this time, and I know this is still prevalent today. I didn’t go to University but the majority of my school friends did and I can see this theme reoccurring with them. The stress of exams on young people is something that needs to be acknowledged, as well as making resources and support more widely available.
It’s not just the exam period. Young people are increasingly put under pressure to not only succeed in school, but to look, act and be a certain way to fit in with society and to conform to what social media portrays as an ideal / normal life.
After speaking to several students and young people it is clear that the increase in Yoga amongst the younger generations is somewhat down to the stresses and pressure they endure. Young people are often overwhelmed and often feel as if there is no escape, Yoga can help provide this escape. Yoga plays a role in supporting their emotional wellbeing – be that on or off the mat. They are given the opportunity to take time out of their busy lives (school, home, work, relationships, anything) and find a moment of peace in which they can be fully present and focused.
Being able to just breathe and not overthink can massively aid in the reduction of stress, anxiety and negative feelings. As someone who has been practising Yoga since the tender age of 15 I have seen the vast improvement it has made to my life – physically and mentally – particularly throughout my exam period.
We can also look at this in a physical way, not just a mental and emotional way. We think of the younger generation being technologically obsessed; glued to their phones, hunched over laptops. Yoga gives young people an opportunity to step away from the bright glows of their screens and focus their attention on themselves, not their phones or laptops.
Yoga provides a safe, non-competitive and diverse environment for young people as well as supporting their bodies and recharging their immune systems. It builds strength, helps alignment and corrects posture, as well as stretching the mind. Having a clear and refreshed mind is something that can only be beneficial for students and young people – just take a look at the University of Birmingham; they have started their very own Yoga society for their students:
“It’s been hugely successful and popular, each class is fully booked and often over subscribed! It’s an amazing way to get exercise and also take time out of our busy and stressful lives filled with the buzz of technology! …Yoga teaches you to forget your to-do lists and let go of anything which no-longer serves you which is so important to do when the affects of power structures influence everyone’s thinking.” Katie Macnamara, University of Birmingham Student.
It goes without saying, the rise of Yoga amongst Young People can only be a positive thing. I really hope it continues to be introduced in schools around the world, as well as mindfulness being encouraged in every walk of life.