Life for teenagers can be challenging enough, but with exam time upon us stress levels are rising. This invariably takes it's toll on family life which isn't fun for anyone! We thought we'd share our top tips for overcoming this stress and helping to bring a little calm back into your homes.
1. Belly Breaths - Place your hands on your belly and close your eyes. Feel the movement of your belly in your hands as you breathe in and out. Allow your belly to rise towards your hands as you inhale, releasing back down as you exhale. Practice 5 minutes of belly breathing every day. Over time, the benefits of the breathing practice will be felt much quicker, making it a great way to take control of your emotions and help you feel calm.
2. Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) - Sitting comfortably, lengthen up through your spine. Bring the right hand into Vishnu mudra by folding the tips of the index and middle fingers in to touch the base of the right thumb. Place the thumb over the right nostril and inhale. Bring the ring finger over the left nostril, release the thumb from the right nostril and exhale. Inhale, then bring the thumb back over the right nostril, release the ring finger and exhale. Repeat 5 times, rest then repeat again. This helps to calm and regulate breathing, which has an amazing effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
3. Tree Pose - Find a point in front of you to focus your gaze on. Bring the weight in to your right foot. Place your left foot against your right ankle, calf or thigh, pressing the foot and leg together. Root down through your right foot whilst imaging you're trying to lift the foot off the ground, activating the muscles in the leg. Feel that lift through your body, up to the crown of your head. Place your hands together in front of your heart, or lift them above your head, lengthening through your body. Tree pose helps to cultivate balance, a sense of calming and grounding.
4. Cat/Cow - Come to all fours, bringing your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. As you inhale, soften your heart towards the ground, lifting your sitting bones and crown of your head up. Exhale and press into your hands, rounding the back and lifting the space between your shoulder blades towards the ceiling. Repeat 5-10 times, moving slowly with your breath. This brings connection to the breath, helping to cultivate calm. It mobilises the spine and encourages gentle movement, stretching across the shoulders and upper back which often get tight when we are studying and/or stressed.
6. Childs pose - Come to kneeling, taking the knees out wide and bringing the toes together. Fold over your legs, bringing the forehead towards the ground or resting them on your hands. Let your buttocks sink towards your heels. Childs pose is a gentle and calming asana that can help us to feel grounded. It's great before bed and if you want to make it even more nurturing try placing a pillow between your belly and thighs to release onto.
7. Eagle arms - Isolating just the arms in this asana brings more awareness to the shoulders, bringing relief from tension around the shoulders and upper back that we often feel when stressed. Lift your right arm up and cross your left arm over the top, hands pointing up. Bring your palms together, and as you exhale begin to draw the elbows away from you whilst shrugging your shoulders back. Repeat on the left side.
8. Tensing and releasing - Lying on your back, take your feet slightly apart and bring your hands by your side. Starting with the feet, inhale and press them into the ground, exhaling to release. Continue by inhaling to press the legs down, exhaling to release, pressing the buttocks down, back, arms, clenching the fists on the inhale, shrugging the shoulders, clenching the jaw. Working your way through your body bit by bit, encouraging progressive relaxation and helping you to feel a deeper sense of letting go. This is another great practice before bed but it can be used at any point, even whilst sitting at your desk.
There are many more techniques and practices that are beneficial during times of tension. However often it is during these times that we feel too busy and stressed to stop for a few moments and do something else, even when that something may make us feel so much better. It is therefore so beneficial to start to practice before we need it, cultivating a positive habit that will stand us and our children in good stead in future.
Our Youth Yoga training courses delve far deeper into this subject and are perfect for yoga teachers, youth professionals and parents who want to learn tools to support the young people in their lives. Find out more about our upcoming courses this Autumn.