By Dr. Rita Khanna
Adolescence refers to the period of transition from childhood to adulthood. During this period young boys and girls develop to sexual maturity. Developing one’s own identity, dealing with sexual maturation and development, emancipation from home, re-examination of beliefs are the major psychological developments for the adolescent. A method for providing the major necessities for a healthy, confident lifestyle should be introduced to the adolescent, if not before adolescence. The systematic practice of Yogasanas is ideal for these children as it helps to keep the glandular system balanced and functioning well. When practising Asanas, there is stimulation and balancing within the thyroid gland, which is the second most important gland in the body and controls all the lower glands.
Yoga postures not only help to strengthen bones and muscles, but when one reaches the adolescence stage, the execution of the postures is done with more time and awareness than when one is younger and the body is still developing. Physical movements from one posture to another provide strength, flexibility and health in general to the bones and muscles; maintaining the positions for a period of time brings about internal, hormonal and cellular changes. Most sequences, e.g. Surya namaskara, Ardha Chandra namaskara, poorna Chandra namaskara, Chandra namaskara sequence, warrior sequences influence the pineal gland and hypothalamus, helping to prevent pineal degeneration and calcification. This balances the transition period between childhood and adolescence in growing children. When one performs, these practices synchronizing the physical movements with the breath, all the muscles, joints and major internal organs are stimulated and balanced. The value of the sequences is that they are well-rounded sets of Asanas that have been put together to bring about the maximum state of health with minimum effort. The breath and concentration that accompanies the postures makes them a complete Sadhana (practice).
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Nadi shodhana Pranayama is a very important Pranayama as it induces tranquility, clarity of thought and concentration whether you practice only happy breathing (alternating without retention) or you go on to develop your own ratio of, say 1:4:2:2 of inhalation-retention-exhalation-retention. This Pranayama keeps the pineal gland healthy for as long as possible. As long as your pineal gland is healthy your sexual glands will remain under control. The flow of Prana in Ida and Pingala Nadis is equalized. Blood is purified of toxins.
Studies have indicated that when the right nostril is blocked and the breath is drawn in through the left nostril, activity in the brain wave patterns in the right side of the brain rose while the same side brain, i.e. left brain hemisphere was quiescence. The opposite was also true; air in the right nostril raises left hemispheric activity. The majority of the time, either the right or left nostril is dominant in terms of the amount of air entering the lungs through the nostrils. One nostril will be flowing freely and the other slightly engorged. They also noted that approximately every 90 minutes nostril dominance changes. There is usually a short period of seconds when both flow freely and then the dominance changes to the other nostril. At exam time it is important to be able to be aware of the nostril dominance and understand ways to bring about the free flow in the nostrils and, therefore, stimulation to the side of the brain necessary for exam performance. This can be learnt from a competent teacher.
How to Develop the Ability to Focus the Mind
Probably the most important question for the adolescent is how to develop the ability to focus the mind. The primary aim of Yoga is to develop consciousness. Yoga nidra (relaxed alertness), Trataka (the practice of fixed gazing at a point), Nada Yoga and Mantra are such Yogic techniques which can help the child to develop Dharana and Dhyana (concentration and absorption).
Yoga nidra: Yoga nidra or relaxed alertness is a great way to learn and prepare for exams, especially if the child has been working hard or actively engaged in sports, and is physically tired. After some time he can bring about the same state of relaxation as while sitting with this practice. It has been shown that we are capable of absorbing more information if we are relaxed.
Trataka: Trataka is used to improve memory and concentration. With this practice you are not only able to watch your concentration, but also intensify it. Trataka is also especially good for tackling insomnia. So when one has been studying hard and needs a rest, a bit of Trataka will get a good night’s sleep.
The Nada Yoga: The Nada Yoga not only brings about a very deep state of relaxation but can also help facilitate one of the fundamental behaviours necessary for learning to read, that is, listening.
The basic practice of Nada Yoga is to close the ears and inhale deeply and exhale by humming out or by chanting Ommmm… One listens to the sound from the moment it explodes until the sound totally disappears. After about five to ten minutes, the humming can be stopped, the ears are still closed, and one simply listens. Finally, one may relax the arms, open the ears and sit quietly for a few minutes before opening the eyes. This has a specific effect on the brain wave patterns. When we chant O or AU ,beta rhythms dominate and when we chant M, alpha rhythms dominate. So, a long O and short M gives alertness and is great for morning chanting. Short O and long M induces introversion and relaxes alpha rhythms in the brain so it is perfect for preparing for Meditation or for going to sleep.
Mantra: Relaxing the brain through Mantra is one of the methods of increasing perception. The superficial aspects of thoughts, emotions or desires which are not needed within the mind and which need to be expressed will be swept away by the Mantra. A proper Asana or posture should be selected and maintained for the duration of the practice so that there is no movement to distract the concentration.
Every adolescent requires understanding, assistance, wise guidance, listening to and love if they are to pass through this important stage of development without damaging themselves or others. Yoga gives us a lot of techniques which help induce clarity of thinking. It is important not to abandon, reject or dislike a person just because he is experiencing the normal adolescence phase.
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Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio.
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