Published by Kids on the Coast magazine on the 21 January 2018
Yoga is a leisure activity fast becoming one of the most popular complementary health practices in the world (Wei, 2015). This practice combined with mindfulness meditation tools is said to foster the development of awareness and perception improving teens’ emotional intelligence (Rivers, Bertoli, Brackett, Salovey, Omori, & Sickler, 2013). Important aspects of emotional intelligence involve the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and regulating emotions allowing to cheer up or calm down according to the situation. (Mayer, 2009). Research suggests that the practice of yoga will boost the development of emotional intelligence as it helps to maintain the overall physical and emotional wellbeing of individuals (Mallya, & Anand, 2012).
Yoga and teens
The interest in yoga among teens has been increasing and they seem to be mostly drawn to the destressing tools offered in this practice. Melina Alarcon, bachelor in physical education, yoga teacher, owner of Fluid Yoga in partnership with Fluid Performance in Sunshine Coast, has been teaching yoga to children and teens for 7 years. After participating in a yoga workshop, Linn Koerner, 16, an exchange student spending time in Australia, reports some of the benefits of practicing yoga regularly: “Practicing yoga makes me feel relaxed after a stressful day. I’m usually busy juggling school and casual work so I feel that yoga brings my mind back into balance, especially when I’m faced with an unexpected experience”. This report aligns with recent research affirming that overall, teenagers notice benefits such as improved self-regulation, stress release and better mental functioning after a yoga class (Mallya, & Anand, 2012).
The physical part of yoga which focuses on natural body weight strength postures, flexibility and balance is also recognised as beneficial and has become popular on improving mental and physical performance of young athletes.
Sasha Baker, 16, a surf competitor, part of the surf training team at Fluid Performance, reports enjoying yoga for its physical and mental benefits: “Practicing yoga helps me to stay with a clear mind while surfing, which is especially important in competitions. I find that my best performances happen because my mind was in the right place”. Research suggests that muscular and mental relaxation allows athletes to reduce any tension before competing, calm their thoughts, think rationally under pressure and focus on their performance. Diaphragmatic exercises are also beneficial prior to competition in order to prevent feelings of anxiety (Singh, 2014), another aspect of yoga mentioned by Sasha: “I find that the combination between yoga and functional training has improved my strength and balance on the surfboard along with simply helping me breath better in the water”.
Studies conducted by neuroscientists indicate that yoga promotes a distinctive psycho-physiological state of restful alertness (Ganpat, Nagendra, & Selvi, 2013), a process that helps to de-stress body and mind. Tests on brain waive coherence after a yoga intervention with young adults recorded a strong connection between the logical part of the brain (left hemisphere) and the intuitive part of the brain (right hemisphere), which indicates improved mental performance (Ganpat et al., 2013). A combination of emotional intelligence skills, balanced mental functioning, physical performance and yoga make up a great recipe for the wellbeing of adolescents and young athletes. By acquiring these skills, they will transition smoothly through their teen years and work their way up to becoming confident, calm and resilient adults as well as real champions at whatever they choose to do in life.
Ganpat, T., Nagendra, H., & Selvi, V. (2013). Efficacy of yoga for mental performance in
university students. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(4), 349-352. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.120550
Mallya, D., & Anand, V. P. (2012). Effect of yoga on the intrapersonal emotional intelligence
among adolescent girls. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(1), 27-29. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.usc.edu.au/docview/
Mayer, J. D. (2009). What emotional intelligence is and is not: Does it exist and what is its
significance? Psychology today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-personality-analyst/200909/what-emotional-intelligence-is-and-is-not
Rivers, S. E., Bertoli, M. C., Brackett, M. A., Salovey, P., Omori, M., & Sickler, C. (2013).
Emotion skills as a protective factor for risky behaviors among college students. Journal of College Student Development, 54(2), 172-183. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.usc.edu.au/docview/
Singh, R. (2014). Personality, spiritual exercise and cognitive-behavioural interventions in
enhancing sports performance. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(3), 301-309. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.usc.edu.au/docview/