The teen years can be a chaotic time as developmental changes in the body and mind are paired with social and academic stress.
A 2013 research study on “Stress in America” from the American Psychological Association shows that 83 percent of teens said that school was “a somewhat or significant source of stress”. Twenty-three percent of those teens report experiencing “extreme stress” throughout the school year. Excessive amounts of stress in these years can lead to a lack of focus and enjoyment in school, poor digestive and physical health, and many other mental health issues.
Legs up the Wall is a pose that can offer teens many benefits and help combat the effects of stress on their minds and bodies. It’s a great pose because it can be done by any fitness level and doesn’t require a lot of exertion, yet it provides many physical benefits.
This pose benefits teens in three primary ways:
1. It improves circulation
Teens spend most of their school day sitting at a desk. When we sit all day, lymph fluid becomes stagnant and toxic in the body because the lymphatic system relies on gravity to circulate. Practicing Legs Up The Wall will improve circulation and support the elimination of toxins. Bonus: A well regulated lymphatic system also helps balance hormones.
2. It can decrease stress and anxiety
Teens are in a constant flux of stress and anxiety: academics, social pressure and emotional confusion due to changing hormones and a developing brain all cause constant activation of the sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response. When our bodies are in this state, blood pressure rises, the digestive system slows and we tire more quickly. By combining Legs Up the Wall with mindful breathing, teens will start to activate the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” system of the body. Digestion will improve, stress will decrease, anxiety will lower, and the body will have a chance to heal and repair.
3. It can improve decision-making skills
Too often emotional upsets and stress cloud a teen’s ability to learn, pay attention and concentrate. When most teenagers are asked a situational question about risk and reward, they will usually answer as rationally as an adult would, but when they are actually put into the situation, the adolescent brain is balancing emotions, hormones, stress, and the need for social acceptance, all of which end up negatively influencing a teen’s decision-making skills.
The good thing is that the brain is constantly changing and can be “trained” to become more mindful in stressful situations. Legs Up the Wall can help train the adolescent brain to calm down, breathe, and access a point of mindfulness before making decisions.
So what exactly is this pose? Legs Up the Wall is exactly what it sounds like. It’s done by lying on the floor and putting your legs up the wall.
Yoga Ed., an educational company dedicated to changing education through the practice of yoga, has provided step-by-step instructions to safely get teens into this pose:
1. Begin lying down on your back, lying horizontal against a wall.
2. Inhale, bring your leg closest to the wall up the wall.
3. Exhale, use your arms to help turn your body to bring both legs up the wall until they are perpendicular with the floor.
4. Inhale, straighten your legs and flex your toes towards your shins.
5. Exhale, extend your arms to a “T” alongside your body.
7. When you are ready, bend your knees and turn to one side to release.
Teaching essential stress management skills early in life to support physical, mental and emotional health is more important than ever before. Legs Up the Wall is one simple strategy we can teach teens to combat the effects of stress in their lives.
For more information on bringing yoga to teens, e-mail [email protected]
Author: Candis Ogilvie
Editor: Caroline Beaton
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