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Leave Your Stress On The Yoga Mat

As she walks into the studio her mind is racing. Making her way to her mat she takes a deep breath, attempting to let the stress of her day go. She goes into childs pose, surrendering herself to the now, and forgetting the test she failed, fight she had with her friend, and homework due the next day. She takes her first downward dog and her mind steadies. The heat of the room helps her turn focus inward, it seems as if no one else is in the room practicing with her. As she comes into mountain pose she feels strength and energy fill her body.

Yoga in the physical form  is now widely accepted in America. Yoga study for many begins as a fitness goal, then comes to encompass mind, body, and spiritual dimensions.

imageYoga can be especially helpful in our teenage years because our brain is the last organ to fully develop. The two frontal lobes of our brain, which control communication and reason, aren’t as active in adolescent years, so we are forced to rely on our amygdala which is home to our emotions. As a result, teens tend to be more emotional, risk taking, moody, and sometimes don’t make rational decisions because of this reliance on our emotional side. But what if teen yoga and meditation classes could steady these feelings? According to US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, certain meditation and yoga practice has been shown to reduce activity and even decrease the size of the amygdala. People with a highly active amygdala are more exposed to depression and anxiety. So, in teenage years where this part of our brain is more active anyway, yoga and meditation become vital.

One study by Wolters Kluwer Health illustrates yoga’s power to help balance teens mind. in this study “Fifty-one 11th- and 12th-grade students registered for physical education (PE) at a Massachusetts high school were randomly assigned to yoga or regular PE classes. Students completed a battery of psychosocial tests before and after the ten-week yoga program.  In addition to tests of mood and tension/anxiety, both groups completed tests assessing the development of self-regulatory skills—such as resilience, control of anger expression, and mindfulness—thought to protect against the development of mental health problems. Teens taking yoga classes had better scores on several of the psychological tests. …Negative emotions also worsened in students taking regular PE, while improving in those taking yoga. ”

Many teens relate and experience anxiety in everyday life. We are at a time in our lives where we are expected to turn in homework, do the dishes, study for tests, be a good friend, and so many other tasks that we juggle. It’s extremely difficult to handle, but yoga and meditation can help guide teens through these hectic years.

Student Alexis Blais from Thornton Academy started yoga at a young age. Her mom decided to start bringing her to practice and Alexis remembers wanting to go more and more. She loved the release of  going into a pose and stretching deeper almost to the point of pain and then coming out.

“It relaxed me a lot, yoga is such a positive thing,” Blais explained, “I think anyone can benefit from yoga class.”

People are starting to compare yoga to other fitness sports, and what they’ll see is yoga has some of the best benefits. According to Harverd Health Publications, after one class you will have more flexibility, higher brain function, and a reduction in stress levels.  And after about 3 months of doing yoga you can expect to have higher lung capacity, anxiety relief, and improved balance. Yoga can help treat chronic back and neck pain, as well as lower blood pressure.

Local yoga teacher Monique Robitallie practices in a small Arundel studio connected to her Pet Care business .

When she first started yoga she admitted, “I never really felt anything besides a good workout. But after a while I could see that it was changing me.” She found her practice had become about more than pure fitness. “It just changes you… If it changed me, it will change anyone.”

She had people tell her that she was the last person they ever thought would get into yoga. Robitallie said she wishes she could have found yoga earlier to help her through hard times. She admits, “I’m not quite sure I was ready for yoga yet. I think that in your life yoga will find you, there’s no doubt about it.”

Robitallie said she was raised in a very judgmental household and she thinks thats what sets her apart from other teachers. “Some teachers have grown up with yoga and known it their whole lives, but this is what I know- I had 53 years of life happen to me before I taught yoga, I had a lot of crap happen to me. If I can save someone else from that crap I went through because I didn’t know how to deal with it, then I’m happy,” Robitallie explained.

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