Those probably aren’t words you would normally put together. Middle school and high school are periods where girls and boys are focused on academics and the pressure of fitting in. Add to the mix the whirlwind of new hormones, and it’s no wonder more and more children this age are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. Counseling and pharmaceuticals are a traditional approach to coping with this very real stress, but yoga should be considered as well.
Study after study has shown that yoga reduces stress, helps the mind focus where it needs and wants to, improves physical health, and can even improve behavior and academic performance. So why isn’t it at the forefront of treatment for tweens and teens struggling with the pressures of academics and peer situations? I recently experienced the near suicide of a young girl who was being bullied in the eighth grade. Like many girls in her situation, she experienced abuse, took shame on herself, and didn’t talk with anyone about it. Caring friends brought the situation to light, but not before the bullying became overwhelming and drove the young girl to try to take her own life.
Too many young girls are under this kind of pressure. Secrecy, shame, bullying, and low-self-esteem have taught our girls to quietly take whatever is dished out to them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Believe it or not, yoga builds self-esteem, the key component to having the confidence to confront toxic situations. What if we started our girls in yoga classes in the fourth or fifth grade? How would they benefit?
In a yoga class for young girls, taught by someone who’s walked the road before, girls would have a safe place to learn mindfulness, how to focus on the positive, on their breath as a tool to combat the overwhelming urges to behave negatively. Poses increase strength, another tool to build self-esteem; girls who believe they are physically strong are less apt to be bullied. And with an instructor who teaches specifically to the place these girls are at will give them courage to go within to find what they need to combat pressure, stress, and challenges.
Yoga is not the answer to every case of depression or suicidal ideation; but it can be a tool we give our daughters to mitigate the profound stresses they face in middle and high school. If there are no such classes offered in your area, visit a yoga teacher and suggest the idea. The class will fill up in no time, and your daughter will stand a fighting chance in school and life.