teens

Yoga shows psychological benefits for high-school students

Yoga classes have positive psychological effects for high-school students, according to a pilot study in the April Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Since mental health disorders commonly develop in the teenage years, “Yoga may serve a preventive role in adolescent mental health,” according to the new study, led by Jessica Noggle, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

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. (Two-thirds were assigned to yoga.) Based on Kripalu yoga, the classes consisted of physical yoga postures together with breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. Students in the comparison group received 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. Specifically, while students in regular PE classes tended to have increased scores for mood problems and anxiety, those taking yoga classes stayed the same or showed improvement. Negative emotions also worsened in students taking regular PE, while improving in those taking yoga. (There was no difference in a test of positive emotions.)

However, the tests of self-regulatory skills were not significantly different between groups. Although attendance was only moderate, the students rated yoga fairly high—nearly three-fourths said they would like to continue taking yoga classes.

Adolescence is an important time for the development of mental health, including healthy coping responses to stress. Several types of school-based stress management and wellness programs have been developed with the goal of encouraging healthy coping strategies and resilience among teens.
One promising approach is yoga, which combines strength and flexibility exercise with relaxation and meditation/mindfulness techniques. Studies have shown benefits of yoga in a wide range of mental and physical health problems, including a growing body of evidence showing positive effects in children and teens.

Although limited by its small size, the study suggests some positive psychological effects of Kripalu yoga for high school students. The results are “generally consistent” with the few previous studies of yoga in school settings. Dr Noggle and coauthors call for larger studies including multiple schools and tracking teens for several years into adulthood. These larger studies will be needed to clarify the psychological and other health benefits of yoga for adolescents—including the possible preventive benefit on development of mental health problems.

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Amidst chaos, 15 minutes of quiet time helps focus students

On a recent morning at Visitacion Valley Middle School in South San Francisco, Principal James Dierke looked out over the school’s auditorium at more than 100 eighth graders. A restless din filled the large room. Bursts of laughter and errant shouts punctuated the buzz. Most of the students seemed disinterested in Dierke’s announcements about the spring’s impending graduation, upcoming field trips, and recent birthdays.

Then, Dierke struck a bell and said, “Okay, it’s quiet time.”

And just like that, a hush fell over the auditorium. Students straightened their backs and closed their eyes. Some bowed their heads. Others rested them on the backs of …

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Monks teach meditation to incarcerated teens

Melissa Russo: Some of New York City’s angriest teens are learning the way to a more peaceful path with a little help from the Buddha.

Inside the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville, the contrast between the street kids in their orange detention suits and the monks in their brown robes could not be more pronounced.

The group of monastics files into the facility, and they’re unlike anything these kids have seen in their neighborhood: soft-spoken, barefoot and bald.

“It was pretty interesting,” said one 15-year-old. “I didn’t think they were real.”

“When I saw them walk through the door, I was …

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Relax, kids: Meditation touted as stress buster for children

Tralee Pearce: I haven’t studied enough. I’m going to fail the test. My mom’s going to be mad. Maybe I’ll skip class.

Thoughts like these can quickly gallop out of control in kids’ minds, but what if there was a way they could clear them away? Enter the three-minute breathing meditation, which can be done anywhere, whether it’s on the bus or in a school hallway.

It’s one of the cornerstones of the increasingly popular practice of mindfulness, a blend of Buddhism-inspired calm and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Used as a therapy for adults for about 30 years, it’s now moving into the world of kids …

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Teaching meditation at school

Liese Stanley: I’ve been teaching meditation to adults for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve worked with school students.

Session 1

The first surprise is the boy/girl ratio: there’s only one girl but eight boys. We began with a switching off of phones, and we chat about their thoughts and expectations for meditation. I introduce myself and give a bit of background.

They have some really good comments and it turns out that one person has tried meditation before. We begin a meditation within 10 minutes as it feels right to practice rather than talk and I think it will ease …

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Secular prayer flags

Secular prayer flags made by students at Timberlane High School, New Hampshire

A few days ago I gave a talk at a high school about 40 minutes from my house. Some of the students had made secular “prayer flags,” which had the purpose of expressing their positive thoughts and sending them out into the world.

The prayer flags had been hung where they would brighten up a rather unattractive central courtyard, which now contained a “ger” (Tibetan yurt), designed (I think) in the geometry class. You can just see the ger in the background of the second photograph.

Some of the images were intriguing, and I wish I’d been able to talk more with individual students to discover more about what they were trying to communicate.

Below, you’ll find the text of the address I gave to the students who made these flags.

Secular prayer flag with image of Audrey Hepburn

 

String of secular prayer flags created by high school students in New Hampshire

Good morning.

It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here, and I’d like to thank you for having me. I’m delighted to hear that you’ve been putting your positive thoughts on flags and sending them out into the universe. Of course I don’t believe that your thoughts will literally be sent out on the wind, but I see great significance in what you’re doing.

To print your positive thoughts on fabric you have, of course, to have had a positive thought. And that in itself is a very significant thing to do.

How many people consciously cultivate positive thoughts? I suspect it’s not many. Most of our thinking is “accidental” and most of it is negative.

The world is direly in need of positive thinking. It’s even more in need of compassion and clarity.

The world is very much in need of idealism.

Now to some people the word “idealism” is a slur, an insult. Idealists are seen as being disconnected from reality. They’re seen as dreamers. They’re seen as impractical. They’re seen as naive.

But to me, idealism is a beautiful thing. To have a meaningful life, we have to have goals that go beyond the mere satisfying of our selfish desires.

Of course some idealists are indeed dreamers. Some idealists are impractical, and naive. But the best idealists are practical, grounded, and wise people. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. He was an idealist. He was a dreamer. He had a dream. He dreamt of course of ending racial segregation, and had much success in turning his dream into reality.

But Dr King didn’t stop at just having a dream. He attempted to live his dream. And in doing so he put himself in the way of angry mobs, policemen’s batons, and eventually an assassin’s bullet. And his actions, and those of the many courageous people who stood by him, changed this country for ever.

And lest we forget, in the year before Dr. King’s murder, marriage between black and white people was still illegal in 15 states. At the time of our current president’s birth, in 1961, there were over 20 states in which his parents could not legally be married.

There has been much progress made since those days — our current president is after all a black man — but there is much still to be done. We still need our practical dreamers. We need them more than ever.

King dreamed of ending racial segregation, but he also dreamed of ending poverty, and one of the reasons he opposed the war in Vietnam was because it diverted funds from social welfare projects.

And in the field of poverty we especially need practical dreamers. The number of people living in poverty in the United States is higher now than it was at the time of King’s death. Of course the population of the country is higher too, but the percentage of the population living in poverty was lower at the time of King’s murder than in almost every year since then, and it was lower than it is today. Yes, a greater percent of the US population lives in poverty than in 1968.

And in fact, since the recession of 2008, the poverty rate in the US has been rising dramatically.

Here are the figures for the last three years for which we have figures:

2008 39.8 million
2009 43.6 million
2010 46.2 million

2011 is almost certain to be worse.

The United States now creates more than twice as much wealth per head of population as it did in 1968, the year of Dr. King’s murder. The country is more than twice as wealthy as it was when King campaigned against poverty, and yet there are more people living below the poverty line than in his lifetime.

(In case you’re wondering where all the wealth our country has been creating has gone, roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009 went to the richest 5 percent of households.)

We’ve become a more unequal society since King had his dream of ending poverty.

So on the one hand we have a black president, which I think would have stunned Dr. King in a positive sense. But on the other we have seen the problem of poverty worsen, which I think would have found not only shocking, but incomprehensible.

I mention all this because I think it’s obvious that we need more practical dreamers.

Of course if your dream is simply to be part of the richest 5%, then I wish you well.

I want to say a bit more about so-called “prayer flags.” It’s only in the west that we call these prayer flags. In Tibet, where the tradition originated, they’re called Dar Cho. “Dar” means to increase life, fortune, health and wealth. “Cho” means all beings. They are not intended to send prayers to heaven, but to symbolize the sending of good wishes into the world, much as you have been doing.

But there’s an important aspect of prayer flags that’s often overlooked. They are impermanent. They are hung out in the elements, exposed to harsh sunlight, constantly torn at by the wind, frozen, thawed, and soaked in the rain. The quickly become tattered rags. Eventually, in order to prevent them becoming litter, they are taken down and burned.

The flags — the Dar Cho — return to the elements from which they came.

And this reminds me of two things. The first is to do with the burning of the Dar Cho. Buddhists are fond of burning incense, and besides the fact that incense usually smells nice, it has a symbolic function.

When you light a stick of incense in a meditation room, the smoke doesn’t stay within the room. It drifts out, and circulates around the world. It never stops. It just keeps on going forever.

And the symbolism of this is to do with what goes on in a meditation room. There are many things that people can be doing when they’re sitting there with their eyes closed. But one of the things they do is to cultivate positive thoughts. They cultivate love, and compassion, and kindness, and patience. And here’s where the symbolism comes in. When people cultivate kindness, and compassion, and patience, those qualities don’t stay in the meditation room any more than the incense smoke does. The positive emotion that’s developed has an effect on the world.

We can even measure this. It has in fact been measured by psychologists, not specifically in relation to meditation, but more generally in relation to positive emotion. When a person is emotionally positive, this affects the people they’re in contact with. And they have an effect on those that they in turn are in contact with. And so on.

In fact psychologists have been able to measure the effects of emotionally positive people radiating out to their friend’s friend’s friends. It’s actually measurable. Of course the effect, just like the incense smoke, never stops. It permeates the entire world. But just as you can no longer smell the perfume of the incense once you’re a certain distance away, to the effect of a positive person becomes more dilute as it moves out into the world around them.

This is true for negative emotions as well, by the way. Which is all the more reason that we need to work at bringing more compassion into the world.

So there’s something to think about. The positive thoughts you’ve been cultivating will quite literally affect the entire world.

By cultivating the positive thoughts you’ve printed on these Dar Cho, you’ve become more emotionally positive. And while the writing on these flags will not literally waft on the breeze out into the world, your concerns for the world around you will affect the people you know, and the people those people know, and so on. There is no end to it.

The other thing I wanted to mention about prayer flags is that they symbolize impermanence. Just as they are impermanent, so are we. Prayer flags remind us the unavoidabiity of death. In fact everything we see reminds us of impermanence, although we often don’t want to think about it.

We generally assume that thinking about death is a bummer. That it’ll bring us down. That it’ll depress us.

But that’s not actually the case. Again this has been studied. When we fully accept that we will die, we feel challenged to make something of our lives. There’s a saying, “Very few people on their deathbeds think, I wish I’d spent more time in the office.”

And it’s true. When people are dying, they mostly wish two things. They wish they’d paid more attention to having a joyful life. And they wish they’d loved more. Take it from the dying: love and joy are the two most important things in life.

People who consciously think about death are more likely to embrace life, and to love more.

Just take a minute to picture yourself on your deathbed. If you want to avoid having regrets about how you spent your life, start right now. Think about what kind of life would be the most meaningful for you. Become a practical dreamer.

And take another moment, right now, to look at someone standing next to you. The person standing next to you will die soon. We’ll all die soon. It might not seem like it from your perspective, right now, as teenagers, but again, very few people on their deathbeds think, I wish I hadn’t lived as long.

As you look at the person next to you, aware of the fact that they’ll die soon, you might find your heart opening a little. You might feel a bit more tenderness and respect, and kindness. Try and remember that. And try and remember that in geological time scales, the life of a human being is briefer than the life of a prayer flag is to us.

A human life isn’t a long time, but it’s long enough to make a difference in other human lives.

So in conclusion, I’d encourage you to take away the following thoughts:

  • The world needs practical dreamers. In some ways things have gotten better, but in other ways they’re no better than they were — or are worse — than when your grandparents were your age.
  • Don’t let your thinking be accidental. Consciously think. Consciously cultivate positive thoughts and positive emotions of love and compassion.
  • You can have an effect. In fact you do have an effect. Your inspiration, your idealism, your positive emotions, will change our society for the better. It’s measurable.
  • And lastly, think about the fact that you’re going to die. Think about the fact that everyone you know is going to die. Let an awareness of our impermanence enrich your life. Live so that you’ll have no regrets on your deathbed. Embrace life. Live well. Love well. And leave the world a better place than you found it.
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Ex-convict teaches yoga to help calm violence in Mexico’s prisons

Lauren Villagran: Teenage boys shuffle into a cramped room. Wearing the same navy blue sweatpants and white undershirts, they sit cross-legged on yoga mats laid out on the floor. Thick scars on forearms and biceps are apparent as they stretch their hands to their knees and shut their eyes.

Yoga instructor – and ex-convict – Fredy Díaz Arista begins guiding a meditation aimed at relaxing the group of 10 young offenders. Among them and their peers, about 300 youth in this Mexico City jail, the crimes range from drug abuse to robbery, assault, and murder.

“How long can you stand yourselves with your…

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Yoga helps improve asthma symptoms

Ani, The Times Of India: A new study has suggested that meditation and yoga can be ‘helpful’ in improving asthma in urban adolescents.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) shows that urban adolescents with asthma may experience worse outcomes when not using spiritual coping and often use complementary and alternative medicine, or integrative medicine, like prayer or relaxation, to manage symptoms.

These findings by researchers could help physicians and other providers gain insight into additional ways to help pediatric populations self-manage chronic illnesses.

The study, led by Sian Cotton, assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine, looked at urban adolescents dealing with asthma and uncovered the ways that they were both coping with their illness as well as ways coping methods affected their mental and physical health outcomes.

In the spiritual struggles analyses, outcome variables included anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as quality of life. Researchers then determined the association Read the rest of this article…

between spiritual struggles and health outcomes after accounting for age, gender, ethnicity and asthma severity.

“As hypothesized, religious or spiritual coping and secular coping predicted similar amounts of variance in these outcomes, similar to previous findings in adult populations, suggesting that spiritual coping is an important element to consider when caring for adolescents with asthma,” said Cotton.

In the second analysis, the same group of adolescents completed a survey looking at 10 forms of complementary and alternative medicine methods used for symptom management, including prayer, guided imagery, relaxation, meditation, yoga, massage, herbs, vitamins and rubs as well as dietary changes.

“These findings show that this group of chronically ill adolescents is using complementary methods and finding them helpful,” said Cotton.

“Providers should consider discussing the use of complementary or alternative medicine with their patients with asthma to help improve outcomes.”

“These analyses point to findings that will help physicians care not only for patients with asthma but also for those with other chronic illnesses to ensure the best outcomes physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, producing a better quality of life,” added Cotton.

The findings were presented at the National Conference in Pediatric Psychology in San Antonio.

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Meditating teens: This is your brain on vacation (Dallas News, Texas)

ROBIN GALIANO RUSSELL, The Dallas Morning News: Teens discover special benefits from meditation

If you’re a teenager, you might be chilling out this summer with a good video game, a favorite CD or the latest movie.

But some area teens have learned how to chill through meditation, focusing on breathing and relaxing the muscles to free the mind of distractions.

And unlike other forms of relaxation, the benefits of meditation last throughout the day. Daily meditation helps reduce stress, improve focus and develop positive attitudes, says Gen Kelsang Sangye, a Buddhist monk from England who is the resident teacher at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation in Irving.

“Meditation helps us control our mind. Rather than react, you can respond in a peaceful way with gratitude,” he says.

This year, the center offered its first Buddhist summer school for teens, aiming to teach them the fine art of doing nothing. A half-dozen Dallas-area teens enrolled. They learned how to meditate for five or 10 minutes at a time through guided instruction.

Sitting with backs straight, heads tilted slightly forward, feet flat on the floor, eyes closed and hands in laps, they focused on breathing deeply and releasing muscle tension in various body parts, from their foreheads to their toes.

“When our mind becomes still, we become happy,” Gen Sangye says later. “There is so much noise and energy going on, but you realize there is a choice. As an individual, I can choose myself. As a teen, you can be so influenced by those around us that it seems we don’t have a choice. Children have so much energy, but they can focus. It’s giving them the opportunity to do that.”

WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE HAD TO SAY ABOUT MEDITATION SUMMER CAMP

Brooke Husereau, 15, of Garland
Why she came: “I came to drawing class here a few weeks ago and wanted to learn more. I can find myself here.”

How she does it: “You focus on one thing and really get into it. You learn to take all your thoughts, put them in a bag and leave them outside.”

How meditation makes her feel: “Sometimes I feel stressed before I meditate. After, I’m very relaxed. I like to do it early in the morning when you can hear all the birds. You find yourself. You’re just happy and peaceful.”

Dhiren Parbhoo, 13, of Dallas
Why he came: “My mother signed me up. My dad does meditation. It’s really hard to lose your concentration when it’s guided.”

Why he likes meditation: “It’s calming the mind. It relieves stress and calms you down. It’s kind of a reliever.”

Robin Galiano Russell Allison Braley, 9, of Frisco
Why she likes to meditate: “My mom and dad decided to become Buddhist together. I talk about it a lot with my dad. Meditation helps us get a grasp on our religion and learn what happens to us, to our bodies.”

How she meditates: “You want to have a guided meditation at first. It’s pretty hard. It takes a few times to focus. The best place is outside on a calm, peaceful day. It’s just so calm, like the ocean when no one else is around.”

Alisha Wakefield, 14, of Dallas
Why she came: “The guided meditation keeps you on track. He’ll bring you back. This will get it flowing for me. I’ll do it before bed. Or before and after doing homework. It helps you focus on whatever you want to do.”

How she feels during meditation: “Before, I’m just normal, awake, I guess. After, you’re still kind of in a haze. You have to slowly get out of it. You don’t want to get back to the world. I want to just keep doing what I’m doing. It’s just soothing and relaxing. Like, after a day of doing everything, it’s like taking a bubble bath.”

Nathan Holloway, 15, of Mesquite
Why he came: “I was invited by a friend. I’ve been meditating for four years. I borrowed a yoga book to try it, and it brought me to a state of peace. At first, I used it as an escape. It made me more outgoing, more comfortable with myself and with others.”

How he meditates: “I play peaceful nature music in my room, and I use oil or incense and candles. I use a yoga mat. Actually, a lot of friends call me a hippie. I focus on what happened during the day. I’ve actually meditated up to 45 minutes at a time.”

How it makes him feel: “Before, I’m exhausted from the day and whatnot. During, I’m very relaxed and in a state of peace. It’s quite relaxing. After, you feel very refreshed.”

Why guys need meditation: “It’s hormones. You’re trying to show up. You have to be big and bad to fit in. To be cool, you have to fight. I just turn around and walk off.”

Suhasini Yeeda, 15, of Mesquite
Why she meditates: “When you have a lot of stress, it helps you find peace. It improves your concentration. If you repeat something, it becomes more real.”

How she meditates: “I meditate in my room in the morning. It energizes me. It both refreshes me and it energizes me. I use a meditation handbook. Physically, you feel like you’re not even there, like floating on water.”

How meditation helps teens: “It helps you release attachment. With girls, it’s attachment to guys and to makeup. With guys, it’s anger.”

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Gen Kelsang Sangye uses guided instruction to talk the students through the basic steps of meditation. Students are seated with backs straight, eyes closed and hands in laps as they listen:

“Focus on your own body and nothing else. From the crown of your head, down to the forehead. If you have a headache, let that go. Moving down to the face, checking out the area around your eyes, down to the jaw, relax those facial muscles. At the back of the neck, let the tension dissolve into an empty space. Just relax your shoulders. Try to lower your shoulders. Relax the chest area and the stomach. Move around to your back. Focus on your spine. Imagine you’re climbing down your spine. Now the legs, thighs, knees, calf muscles. Spread your toes and any tension dissolves.

“Now your body’s comfortable. Focus on your brain, on your breathing. Feel the breath to the tip of your nostrils,” he says, reminding them there’s a close relationship between the breath and the mind.

“If your mind has moved away from the breath, move it back once more to the sensations of the nostrils,” Gen Sangye tells them.

Gen Sangye then is silent to allow students to meditate. Advanced students might focus on Buddhist virtues such as compassion, patience and wisdom. Beginners concentrate on allowing their minds to rest as they focus only on their breathing.

After five minutes, he gently taps a bell and tells students to slowly open their eyes.

“It’s like being in Texas on a very hot day and finding cool water,” he says. “At the beginning, it’s difficult because our minds are like little fish dancing in the water. After time, our concentration gets better.”

For information on meditation programs at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation, visit www.meditationintexas.org or call 972-871-2611.

Original article no longer available…

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Meditation earns high marks (Yoga Journal)

Andrea Menzie, Yoga Journal: “It gives you a boost in the morning,” says eighth grader Kenia Bradley about the meditation practice she has learned at school. “When you don’t meditate, you get tired during your classes.”

There’s no proof that sitting practice improves kids’ grades. But a recent University of Michigan pilot study suggests that students who practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) at school may be happier and have higher self-esteem than their counterparts who don’t meditate.

The study, the first to involve African American children and TM, examined 83 sixth graders at two charter schools in the Detroit area. At the Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, the children were each given an individual mantra and taught how to meditate…

using it. (In TM, the mantras used are not words but sounds without specific meaning.) They practiced twice during the school day: 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day. Students at the control-group school didn’t meditate at all.

TM was chosen because it was considered one of the easier practices for youngsters to understand, according to meditation instructor Jane Pitt, who taught the Nataki Talibah students. Unlike many other meditation practices, she says, TM is not a concentration process or an exercise in contemplation or focus, but simply a gentle method of quieting the mind.

Four months after the sixth graders learned TM, researchers scored them and the nonmeditating students on several scales, including loneliness, emotional competence, self-esteem, positive affectivity, anxiety, and aggression. The meditators scored higher in the areas of emotional competence, self-esteem, and positive affectivity, though there was no significant difference between the groups in the other areas.

The Nataki Talibah pupils were actually taught to meditate as part of the school curriculum before the research began. Then Rita Benn, lead researcher and director of education at the Integrative Medicine Program at UM’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center, evaluated them. While the study doesn’t provide conclusive evidence of TM’s effects on every one of its practitioners, Benn says it does suggest that TM is good for emotional development in early adolescent African American children.

Benn isn’t planning to assess meditation’s influence on overall academic achievement. But she would like to investigate other forms of meditation and yoga to see if they are helpful to children. Meanwhile, Pitt confirms the all-important anecdotal info that after learning to meditate, “many of the students felt their studies were better.”

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