While anxiety is natural, experts say certain yoga postures can relieve students’ first-day nerves. Here are nine to try.
Hey, teens, It’s that time. If you aren’t already, you will soon strap on the backpack stock up on supplies in preparation for the new academic school year. While anxiety is natural, experts say practicing certain yoga postures can reduce back-to-school jitters for teens. So keep calm and yoga on. Try this yoga sequence for a stress-free start to the school year.
From standing, fold forward into Rag Doll with a slight bend in the knees. Take opposite hand to opposite elbow and let the weight of the head release any tension in the neck. Shake your head yes and no, releasing all neck and shoulder tension. “This gets the blood flowing to the brain,” says Mary Kaye Chryssicas, a Boston-based yoga teacher, and the author of, Breathe: Yoga for Teens. “The key to eliminating worry during the first few days of school is to become aware of your thought patterns.”
Flow through a few rounds of Sun Salutes. “They are fun and invigorating, with whole body movement, which offers opportunity for focus, confidence, and self-reliance,” says Debra Perlson-Mishalove, co-founder of Flow Yoga Center in Washington, D.C.
Hold Chair Pose with the feet hip-width distance apart to feel grounded and burn off excess nervous energy. “The strong use of legs cultivates a feeling of groundedness to anchor anxious energy,” says Kate Graham, M.Ed, E-RTY and founder of Soulful Yoga Therapy of Boston, Massachusetts. “Extending your arms over head builds self-esteem and confidence.”
Do Eagle Pose anywhere! Do the standing version or just try the arm variation at your desk. Either way the pose locks in calm as the intertwining arms close the circuit of heart chakra energy, says Christy Brock Miele, founder of YogaMinded.com. “You’ll take on the wisdom of the Eagle and be confident in the new landscape you are entering.”
Handstand reverses blood flow and boosts focus, feelings of equanimity and a connection to the present moment, Graham says.
“Butterfly is a great hip opener, so you don’t get fidgety in your school chair,” Chryssicas says. Sit upright and bring the soles of your feet together. Hold your toes and lengthen through the crown of the head as you ease your torso forward over your legs.
Seated Forward Bend in a Chair
Try the traditional Seated Forward Bend on the floor or this variation that you can even do atschool. “Break from holding the world up on your shoulders with a seated Forward Bend,” Miele says. If you’re sitting in a chair, scoot to the front edge with feet wide and bend forward, allowing the spine to release fully and head to dangle. Hold opposite elbows so the weight of your arms can help your spine release. Take a few breaths with long exhales. “This pose gets the blood flow to the brain and releases tension, which will refresh you,” she says.
Meditation in Savasana
An approachable, guided meditation, coupled with Savasana is great for stress release and deep relaxation, Perlson-Mishalove says. Chryssicas recommends a simple breathing meditation: To try it in Savasana or a seated position, set a timer for just 2 minutes to start, and let all of your thoughts leave your head as you focus on your breath coming in and going out.
Chryssicas says cultivating more mindfulness can also help students handle obsessive thoughts. “Every time you start obsessing in your head (why ismy friend sitting with her instead of me, this teacher will be impossible, nobody likes me, I’m definitely going to fail), just notice your negative thought process, label it as such, and let it leave your brain. All of those destructive, over-reactive thoughts just shut down your ability to focus, be creative and enjoy the process of learning.” You can practice this anytime, anywhere.
ABOUT OUR WRITER Erika Prafder is a veteran writer and product reviewer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A long-time yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits KidsYogaDaily.com, a news source for young yogis. The working mother of three resides in a beach community in Long Island, New York.
Featured photograph by Angela Coppola from Mary Kaye Chryssicas’ teen yoga book,Breathe.