Sherise James waits for more than an hour after school every week to go to yoga.
She’s not a master yogi, isn’t into the hippie granola lifestyle, and like most teens her age, has a mind that is in constant go-go-go mode.
But for James, 14, yoga has become an outlet needed to calm her mind and body if only a couple times a week.
“It makes me happy,,” says James, a Grade 9 student at Chance Alternate. “It helps me cope with a lot of things. It helps me get through the day.”
James isn’t the only teen in Chilliwack benefitting from the spiritual powers of yoga.
Last year Laurea Palmantier, co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga in Vedder, started donating yoga time at Chance Alternate. Asked by a client if she’d be interested, Palmantier jumped at the opportunity. She hadn’t worked with youth prior and wanted to see how yoga could benefit that generation like it had hers.
The program was a huge success. Girls, boys, young athletes, troubled youth all signed up, and all benefitted.
In January, Palmantier, in partnership with Chilliwack Youth Services, opened those classes up to the wider community, offering once a week in-studio classes to youth, free of charge.
“There’s a lot of focus on competitive sports for youth, but not much in terms of this,” says Palmantier. “I’m hoping it gives them an outlet to just be themselves and be happy with being themselves.”
While yoga may be seen as an oxymoron when paired with teens, for several in Chilliwack, it became the calming force their minds and bodies so desperately needed.
In a world of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos and text messages, today’s youth rarely have a chance to just be.
Bradin Logan-Litke easily falls into that category.
The 14-year-old is a budding athlete, committed to several high intensity sports including football, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, weight-lifting, jiu jitsu, mixed martial arts, and running.
Yoga not only accentuates his athletic endeavors, keeping him loose and limber, but also relaxes his mind.
“It helps me keep my cool,” he shrugs. “A lot of the other sports I’m into are rougher and really intense and it’s easy to lose your cool. This keeps me calm.”
For 45 minutes, youth from 12 to 16 years old leave their teenaged worries behind and put their focus into downward facing dog, sun salutation, peaceful warrior, tree pose. They breathe.
“Nice deep breaths,” Palmantier instructs. “Let your belly fill up like a balloon, and as you exhale, bring your belly button towards your spine.
For every position, Palmantier says the yoga name, and then describes it in a way they’ll easily understand.
Downward facing dog: upside down V.
Plank: high pushup, the flat of your back, straight as a stick.
Cobra: like a snake, back arched, shoulders squared, chest out.
With youth, Palmantier purposely tones down the spiritual side of yoga and keeps the pace of the class steadily moving. She doesn’t want to overwhelm them, or want them to become fidgety with boredom. She wants them to discover what yoga can do for them, with the hope they’ll explore further into the spiritual side down the road.
“It’s a way for these kids to cope with the every day stresses of being a teenager,” says Palmantier. “Yoga encourages them to tune into themselves and their personal power, to build on their inner confidence and not be susceptible to peer pressure.”
The positive changes she’s seen is reward enough for Palmantier.
“The changes are subtle,” she says. “Their posture has improved, they’re relaxing, they can sit still.
“There’s an increase in body awareness as well,” she says. “When they can balance on one leg and have discovered the strength of their own body, that is so important.”
Without yoga, “it’s something they might not have even tried.”
“Let your mind be still,” Palmantier tells the class sitting cross legged before her. “For just a couple moments, try to let go of everything else from the day. Any worries, stresses, let them go.”
And just be.
Youth yoga is offered at Inner Vision Studio on Lark Road every Monday from 3:15 to 4 p.m.
For more information, contact the studio at 604-824-5555 or visit the website www.innervisionyoga.ca.