My memories of school, ages 5-18, are almost entirely wonderful. I made friends for life, messed around with them, became netball captain, tormented teachers, became teachers pet, wore too much eyeliner, realised I loved geography, realised I hated PE, chased boys like nothing else and rolled my skirt up one too many times like any other grammar school girl. Did I get stressed about work and exams? I suppose. Did I feel pressure from school or parents? Kinda. For me, the work was never the issue. Looking back, I now see that I may have had a few minor mental health issues... No big deal, I was just a young girl; I felt inadequate and always in competition with fellow students and I always thought their opinions defined me. It was nothing serious at all, but I remember feeling like that. In addition, I was just a typical teenager; making my parents lives difficult, sulking when I didn't get my own way, storing Bacardi Breezers under my bed aged 15 and refusing to do homework. Since then, I've grown up a little bit and now store the alcohol in the fridge.
Practising yoga, using mindfulness apps and listening to guided meditation podcasts has changed my mindset entirely over the last few years. Although I'm grateful I found these at 23, I'm also gutted I only found them at 23.
There is a huge amount of evidence that illustrates the benefits of yoga; benefitting the mind as well as the body. Yoga's physical benefits... it promotes lean muscle and muscle growth, improves flexibility, regulates adrenals, improves digestion, helps you focus and aids sleep - plus about a million other things. Even baby yoga has physical, physiological and psychological benefits; promoting better sleep and digestion. Yoga can be gentle, which is perhaps why it has a reputation for being popular with older generations. But more and more it is being practised in younger children, teens and yes, even babies. Looking after your body with stretches, strengthening, breathing and mindfulness will undoubtedly encourage a routine and kickstart those physical and mental benefits from a young age.
Kids today are more likely to battle with negative emotions, anxiety and stress (Garner, 2018). And as pressure increases not only in school, but from parents and social media, the number of those self harming has increased by 68%, mental health issues by 46% and with cyber bullying also on the rise - things aren't looking great (Tait, 2018). No one is claiming that yoga, mindfulness and meditation are the solution, but it has been shown as one way to reduce levels of stress and anxiety in school children. I've also seen first-hand benefits in students who use my yoga class as a time to de-stress, switch off from the outside world and leave in a calmer headspace.
As I've already said, my time at school was really enjoyable but that doesn't mean to say I wouldn't have benefitted from yoga and a little mindfulness. I found PE stressful and tended to be 'on my period' every week to get out of it. A study of High School students found that practicing yoga reduced levels of stress, bad mood, negative emotions and other mental health problems and in fact the levels among those students doing PE actually increased/worsened (Hagins and Rundle, 2016). Yoga encourages self acceptance, teaches different breathing techniques to control emotions and brings you into the present moment; reducing worry about the past and stress about the future. I wish I had started sooner, but I'm also delighted that I didn't go another 20 years before I discovered yoga. A practice that encourages self acceptance and reminds you that you're perfect as you are can't be a bad one... and if you're a cynic, at least you'll have a good laugh ;)