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Success with Teen Yoga: A Class Planning Example

Every time I teach teenagers yoga, I learn from the experience.  When you put yourself in front of a group of students in the t(w)een years, you never know what's going to happen!   And yet, with some advanced planning and anticipation, you can achieve that teen yoga magic you're hoping for.  My hope with this blog is that by sharing my recent experience of teaching 22 thirteen-year-old girls I might help other teen yoga teachers have better success and engagement with teen yoga.  

I was asked to give a one time yoga class to girls who were having a club meeting.  This group's monthly meeting topic was stress management and they elected to bring a yoga teacher in to conduct a class.  I asked the leader to tell me more about the group:  who were these girls, how did they know each other, what the group's objective, what did she hope to gain by having me teach a one time class?  It turns out that these questions VERY MUCH helped me form my objective for the class and how to approach it.  I could get a sense of who they were; I even knew two of them.

Because the girls hadn't met very often and attended different schools, they did not know each other well.  She said she hoped they could bond a little bit over the experience.  I further pried about what the area would be like where I would teach and exactly how much time was available.  Turns out that there were two options of where to conduct the class.  It helped me to get there early and choose which space.  The girls needed to be picked up promptly at meeting's end.  We had 40 minutes.

Understanding the dynamics of the group and that they were still a bit uncomfortable with each other was important information.   I elected to start the class in a circle so we could all face each other.   After the organizing mom introduced me, I set up my objectives for our experience:  1) that their group could get to know each other a little better 2) that we could experience a little fun and de-stressing through yoga 3) that they could leave feeling a bit more relaxed.  Discuss the purpose of your gathering and you set up the possibility to achieve success as a group.  (It also felt good to review this objective at the very end of class.)

I brought a meditation bell to center us and begin.  At this age, it may not surprise you to know that centering and meditation is not universally met with quiet concentration.  Comfortable with the discomfort of a few students (given my longtime experience with teen yoga), I proceeded.

I taught five poses that we could do individually and then connected as a group  (for instance, hands on each others' shoulders).  We could observe how the group connection enhanced our sensory awareness in the individual poses and also see how the group connection enhanced our balance and connection.   It pleased me to see that the dynamic way I introduced and prepared them for Eagle Legs had each and every girl avidly concentrating.  (I recently posted a short video about this on Instagram.) 

Moving on to partner poses, I had the girls find someone they didn't know well yet across the circle.  We proceeded to do a partner pose and then switched to do the other side with a different partner.  Partner tree pose was a great success! Then we set up in two lines and did a couple more partner poses juxtaposed with performing them individually.  Facing each other, we did partner crossed legs twist.  Reverse table top extending one leg with a partner foot connection was fun for all, too.   Before finishing in final relaxation, we took on the yoga "body riddle", so I termed it,  of getting from Reverse Table Top to Downward Dog.  The big hint was that Eagle Legs was the helpful transition needed.  Final relaxation was enjoyed by all with eye pillows.  

In planning yoga classes for teens, it goes so much better when we understand our class circumstances and objective.  I left feeling satisfied to deliver on our shared objective.   Smiles abounded.  I couldn't hope for anything more. 

Is this a helpful article for you?  Do you have comments or questions?  Please let me know by commenting.  Also, keep in mind that our online course and training package can unpack a working toolbox for teen yoga teachers everywhere.