I’ve talked before about all the reasons to make your kid exercise, but in our house, it’s still tough. Amusing Artist is, like a lot of 13 year olds, a bit of a couch potato, a screen junkie, and self-conscious about how her body and physical prowess stack up to that of all the other teens her age. I hate that, because physically I was a ‘late bloomer’ and I don’t want her to wait until 43 to run her first half-marathon (if she wants to run one).
So I took my teenager to yoga class.
When I decided to drag her along to my favorite yoga class (my city holds free yoga classes on Sunday mornings in the summer and the teacher is so good it’s worth skipping church for), I was nervous about all the resistance I’d get. You know all the things teens say – ‘don’t want to’, ‘can’t’, ‘not flexible’, ‘why’, and worst of all, just ‘no’.
But I dangled a trip to her favorite coffee shop post-workout and told her lots of people of all levels come, and what do you know? She said yes.
‘Prepare to be a proud parent that she has the self-confidence to humble herself in public’, I told myself.
‘Prepare to be humbled’, I should have said.
The fact that she agreed to come surprised me, but I assumed the offer of snack afterwards (Amusing Artist is highly motivated by good food) might have been what did it. But as we were sitting on our mats waiting for class to begin, the conversation went something like this.
Me: Don’t be surprised if there’s stuff you can or can’t do, or some things you can do on one side, but not on the other.
Amusing Artist: I’m actually pretty flexible.
Me: Oh, yeah?
Amusing Artist: (reaches one arm overhead and one arm behind her back and proceeds to clasp them in a way I have never been able to do despite many shoulder stretches). Yeah.
While her downward dog still needs some work, she frustrated – er, surprised me – by also pulling off a near perfect firelog pose – that’s the type of sitting position some yogis do where they have their feet up on their knees while sitting cross legged.
I can’t do it. Thanks to my tight hips, it may never happen, despite a pretty good yoga habit for years now. But kids are more flexible than adults and sometimes don’t have that mental block we have.You know the one – the one where we say ‘I can’t’.
When do kids start saying ‘I can’t’?
Most kids don’t say that. Some time in their teen years, they move from ‘I’ll try it’ to ‘I can’t’.
I supposed it’s different for everyone – I didn’t stop saying ‘I can’t’ until I was in my late 30’s, when I looked around and noticed I had managed to keep two kids alive for longer than I had expected given what I thought my parenting skills would be. It was also partly the fact that I was raised by a mom who said ‘we can’t’ quite a bit – to anything that took time, energy, money, socializing. She had great confidence in her mental prowess, and thought her brain was capable of just about anything, but I really only heard the can’ts, not the cans.
Taking your teenager to yoga sends the message that you think they can do this – or anything.
Amusing Artist didn’t say she couldn’t do yoga. She simply told me what she could do, and proceeded to surprise me and herself with what else she could do. I worry a bit too much about that moment when she might start in with the ‘I can’t’ part of life, but I also wonder….what would she be capable of doing if she never said ‘I can’t’?
It may seem as though it takes patience to learn yoga, and for time strapped teenagers, that’s going to be a turnoff, but the benefits – finding out what your body can do, the mental health benefits of the deep breathing and meditation, and the acceptance and body positive attitude 99% of yoga teachers have makes it something everyone should try.
If you’re interested in having your teen try yoga, or better yet, trying it with your teenager, here are two fabulous resources.
Jessamyn Stanley is a body positive yogi who has a story sure to appeal to anyone wrestling with their self-image. If your teen thinks they can’t do yoga because they are overweight, underweight, not ‘perfectly’ proportioned, not flexible, or not female, her site and book are worth checking out.
Yoga by Candace – Candace Moore has a fabulous underdog story of her own, about how she went from lying in bed, crippled by depression and Lyme disease to running her own business and bringing yoga in a totally approachable way to people of all levels around the world. Don’t let the fact that she is intimidatingly gorgeous scare you. Her YouTube videos are beautifully shot, have plenty of options for beginners, and full of kindness and self-acceptance.