When Melissa Williams opened Yoga Junction 2011, she wanted to offer classes for all ages in the community. As a teenager, she experienced a great deal of anxiety and panic attacks. Finding yoga in her twenties was a life-changing experience. She wanted to bring yoga to children, in particular teens, to give them the tools of yoga at a younger age.
“There are so many benefits of yoga for teens,” said Williams. “I feel that yoga gives them an abundance of tools to have in their tool belt, so to speak. Ranging from being mindful of their breathing when they are stressed or anxious to paying attention to their thoughts and how their thoughts are not who they are.”
Laura Zeigler, the teen yoga instructor at Yoga Junction, agreed with Williams that teens can benefit from yoga. She explained they learn breath and meditation tools to help manage emotions which often run high at these ages. “Their bodies are growing and changing quickly, and maintaining a strength and flexibility practice eases that process,” she said. “At this age they are establishing life-long habits, and if yoga becomes a routine they may well continue to practice into adulthood.”
Since teens are in a different stage of life, their yoga class is altered from a normal class at Yoga Junction.
“Teen classes differ from adult classes in that we have a bit more conversation not only in the beginning, but also sometimes during class,” said Williams. “I also find teen classes tend to go off plan a bit more, as you’re catering to the needs of the students, which tends to vary a bit more than in an adult class.”
Zeigler said it’s extremely important to build rapport with teens. “They need to feel they can trust the teacher, environment and other students in class,” she explained. “Communication helps with this, which is why I always open with an icebreaker question and check-in.”
Getting the word out that your studio has a teen class can be a challenge.
“Since teens have a fair amount of agency about activity choices, but are still minors, both parents and teens have to buy in to the idea,” said Zeigler. “This means you need to get advertising into places where both groups will see it.”
Williams suggests polling current clientele to see if they have teens themselves that would be interested. Clients might be parents, teachers or in some way have connections to teens in the community. “I would suggest offering a few teen pop-up/drop-in classes to garner interest,” she said. “And finally, be flexible with timing and dates. Know you won’t be able to accommodate everyone, but check out when school is dismissed and how far the schools are from your studio.”
Another challenge that comes with teaching a teens class is their schedules. As a studio owner, Williams get requests all the time for different days and times because the kids are so busy. They are fixing this issue by working on scheduling private group sessions for a group of teens that can’t make their usual teen class.
Overall, Williams said offering yoga to teens is one of the most rewarding programs they have at Yoga Junction. “This is the next generation and it makes me so happy to think that although it seems this generation is more stressed than perhaps I was at that age, we’re giving them more tools and more awareness to deal with the busyness and emotional challenges that can come their way in high school and beyond,” she said.
Laura Zeigler shares three pieces of advice for other studios considering adding a teen program:
1. Create a warm, welcoming environment with a teacher who knows how to talk to this age group.
2. Be willing to go to where teens are rather than expecting them to come to you right away. Teaching yoga to a high school sports team or heath class is one example of this.
3. Include restorative poses in class. Teens rarely get as much sleep as they need and can be quite stressed with school and social environments.