Teenagers face a variety of life stresses, such as grades, exams, and puberty. They also must deal with family issues, relationships, dating, and lack of sleep. Unsurprisingly, teenagers are among the most stressed-out age groups in the US. This high-stress level can lead teens to use dangerous, harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs, depression, suicide, and unprotected sexual activity. Many resources are available to help teens and young people develop more positive coping mechanisms. The top two are yoga and meditation.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have conducted a recent study that shows mindfulness meditation, and yoga is practical tools for helping youth to develop and maintain healthy coping strategies in dealing with stressors. The 12-month study was part of a comprehensive long-term research project. It highlights the importance of giving youth opportunities to learn yoga and meditation techniques they can use daily.
Researchers led by Dr. Jacinda Dariatis documented how mindfulness meditation and yoga can counteract negative life events that stress people between 18-24 years old. The results were encouraging, showing that participants in weekly yoga and meditation classes were more equipped and likely to use breathing strategies and coping techniques that are useful when dealing with stressful or potentially dangerous situations.
The results also showed that youths who engage in positive behaviors like reading, playing sports, or listening to music were less likely than others to engage in risky behavior such as unprotected sexual activity, drug use, and criminality as a way to cope or avoid.
Useful Applications in Schools and Communities
Yoga and mindfulness have been incorporated into many schools and youth service organizations programs with great success.
Zakk Malecha is a former Field instructor at Blue Ridge Therapy Wilderness in Clayton, GA. He noticed significant changes in youth behavior when they were more mindful in their interactions with other people.
Malecha stated that she saw a rise in positive peer cultures, a feeling of contentment in their lives and their situations, and a calmer and more rational response to issues their peers may react to in unhealthy ways.
This is supported by research, which shows that youth who meditate and practice yoga are more likely than others to show compassion, have a higher sense of self-esteem, be more content, and use healthy coping strategies.
All Youth Services for Meditation and Yoga
The social, educational, and economic systems often fail to provide the necessary support for youths to develop healthy behaviors and coping strategies. Programs like Street Yoga Light, A Path, and Yoga In Schools, provide youth-oriented yoga and meditation services.
Some organizations have volunteer instructors who provide free services for at-risk youth and adults. One example is Light a Path in Asheville. Offering yoga and meditation in public schools was met with some controversy. However, the practice is becoming more popular overall, especially since teachers and parents are seeing the positive effects of youth engagement.
Dariotis’s study is a valuable contribution to the discussion about the benefits of meditation and yoga for youth. Schools and community organizations that continue integrating yoga and mindfulness into their curriculum will empower youth and young adults to engage in healthier behaviors and foster more balanced social interaction.