Yoga is not only beneficial for girls but also for boys too. To help learn what some of the benefits of yoga are for teen boys and what a typical yoga session would be like for teen boys, I have interviewed therapist Carol Marks-Stopforth, LMHC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with an MA in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts. In addition I have a certificate in Foundations in International Health and Community-Based Development from Boston University’s Department of Public Health. For five years I was the clinical director at Rebound a Volunteers of America program that treated adolescent males with substance abuse and other co-occurring disorders. It was at Rebound that I first initiated a yoga/meditation group for adolescents. I became interested in yoga as a way of developing mental and physical fluidity many years ago and I have been practicing yoga and meditation for the past thirty years. Currently I am studying Internal Family Systems (IFS) as a means to developing further fluidity.”
What are some benefits of yoga for teen boys?
“Boys (and girls) go through many changes during their teenage years. While these changes are developmentally appropriate they also keep teenagers in a constant state of agitation, as intense emotions surface at the drop of a hat. For boys this often brings a lot of aggression to the fore and they may discharge this energy, which can seem intolerable, through physical violence. The most important benefit of yoga for teenage boys is to regulate their affect, in other words to calm them down. When any of us are agitated, and particularly teenage boys who do not have much experience negotiating situations that are unfamiliar to them, good decisions are not likely to be made. The yoga that I did with the boys at Rebound was very active and was designed to use up excess energy in a fun way. Once they had gotten rid of their energy they were ready to relax and at the end of the session would be in a better mood. In fact a number of them would go to sleep during the guided relaxation period so they would come out well rested too!”
Some teen boys may think yoga is only for girls. How can a parent motivate their teen to try yoga?
“Teen boys might think and say that yoga is only for girls, but after they are given examples of sportsmen doing yoga exercises they become a bit more interested. It’s a hard sell, but I have found that the best motivation for teen boys is to let them know how much better their bodies will perform at skateboarding, break-dancing and all sports if they can do yoga. It would also help if the parents did yoga as a way to motivate their teen son.”
What would a typical yoga session for teen boys be like and where can someone find more information about yoga for teen boys?
“A typical yoga session for teen boys begins with a lot of resistance and excuses as to why they can’t do it. At this point I enter into the discussion keeping it as light as possible by moving about, getting the room ready and asking the kids for help. I get the resistance and try to roll with it instead of becoming punitive. My great good fortune has been to always have a couple of boys who are curious and willing to give it a try. I also use the most energetic and intricate of the yoga poses. While the boys are doing the yoga I shower them with praise, not difficult as once they get going they are fantastic yogis. Positive reinforcement is the key to it all. And eventually most of them want to show off how well they can contort their bodies, which is great. By the time we get to the relaxation they are ready to rest. They also look wonderful: the release of energy is obvious in their happy expressions and their subsequent behavior.
The only other organization that I know that has done yoga groups with teen boys is the Department of Youth Services (DYS). Peter Kosciusko, Director of Substance Abuse at DYS told me that he once had someone in to do yoga with a group of adolescents boys and that during the year that the yoga class took place there was not one fight on the unit. This is anecdotal and there could be other reasons for the year-long peace, but nevertheless it is impressive.”
Thank you Carol for doing the interview on the benefits of yoga for teen boys. For more information on Carol Marks-Stopforth or her work you can check out her website on www.carolmarks-stopforth.com.
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