Monthly Musing – January 2019 – Pause for thought
Big daughter has left one of her text books on the table. It’s a book about yoga for teenagers and she’s been reading it as reference for a university essay she’s writing about reducing stress. I wasn’t impressed by yoga when I was a teenager. My Mum was a yoga teacher which may have had something to do with it as I was a bit of an awkward so and so as many teenagers are, but I liked to move faster; I liked squash and badminton, I wanted to be out on my bike or walking, not stretching oh-so-slowly.
Now that I’m older and have found my own yoga class (I’m surprised that my Mum hasn’t fallen off her cloud laughing at all the things I do now which I refused to do when I was younger), I can see the benefits of stretching oh-so-slowly. I have seen my flexibility improve, I have impressed myself with my downward dog (aren’t mirrors in studios a marvellous thing?!) and I have learnt to quiet my mind so that I can turn down the noise of the day and remember who I am. I can see exactly why our teenagers need the option of a yoga class, even as I can remember being that teenager who would have refused to go.
It does make me wonder how else we can help our youngsters reduce some of their stress. Traditional lessons which take away some of the strain, such as art, music, drama and textiles, no longer have a full-time place in school curriculums and always the emphasis is on learning more, working harder, getting better results. Conversations never stop thanks to social apps (although these are also immensely useful when small daughter suddenly remembers that she had homework that she’s lost the handouts for), TV shows are constantly on tap and the snapshot moments of social media make us think that we less than we are. We hide our real lives behind a carefully staged photograph; for me it might be clutter that I’d rather not show, but for others it can be mental anguish as they compare themselves to something that’s not real and show a happy face when deep inside their own reality is much more painful. And this is not just the reality for our teenagers. All of us, from tiny tots to the oldest in our society, are living with stress on a daily basis when all of the technology and social advances of this century should surely mean that our lives have become easier.
So what’s the answer? If we knew that nobody would be stressed, but if we could only discover what helps to reduce our stress then we could start by doing more of it every day. It’s going to be different for everyone: meditation, knitting, yoga, running, singing – it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it works, and as long as it’s something that we can encourage our children to do as well. Stress may be a symptom of modern society, but traditional activities may be what we need to deal with it. Will we ever see every teenager encouraged to take up yoga? I don’t know, but it’s better for them to have the opportunity and turn it down than never to be offered at all – along with all the subjects in schools that are now not deemed academic enough for a curriculum slot. We seem to have forgotten that it’s OK to switch off from time to time but I think it’s something that it’s vital that we remember, and before it’s too late.
Coincidentally, we were sent the link to this letter to send to our MP to support the new APPG Yoga in Society and in particular in schools. Feel free to send it to your MP as well if you’d like to.