About halfway through my son Stephen’s fifth-grade year, I started to worry about middle school. Basically this meant I began to dwell on my own middle school experience, since Stephen’s, of course, had yet to begin.
As most adults would attest, spending much (or even any) time remembering middle school is simply not good. My long-forgotten middle school memories seemed to grow when exposed to the light of day…
Dark hallways; tile as far as the eye could see in dull shades of banana and sea foam; the unappealing scent of cafeteria food wafting throughout the brick building; the banging of lockers; the metallic scuffing and scratching of desk chairs; and the crush of humanity at class dismissal when it became clear that far too many 12 and 13 year-olds were crowded into one location. Middle school. (And this is obviously just a surface description.)
On the other hand, during Stephen’s fifth grade year, I was also practicing more yoga. We’d recently joined our local YMCA which offered free yoga classes as part of the family membership. This price worked for us! My husband, Todd, and I were attempting to fit yoga into our busy schedules whenever possible.
Ahhhhh yoga. Well at least that’s how you feel at the end of a class. I remember my first yoga experience, though. I kept thinking, “The people in Yoga Journal don’t look like they’re in this much pain. Someone should have told me how much these ‘sensations’ will hurt!”
About four years and two babies later, I sampled another yoga class. Now I was prepared for the “intense sensations” of some poses (though I didn’t expect to have flashbacks of labor while in a five minute Pigeon pose). This time around yoga stuck. How I wished I’d done yoga during college, and even more so during graduate school. But yoga encourages us to live in the present, so I pushed those thoughts aside and kept attending classes.
Then one day that year, when I was thinking too much about middle school, I was in Savasana pose at the end of a strenuous class. I was resting on my back on my purple foam mat, on the teal-tinted marmoleum flooring, in the peaceful plant-filled yoga studio.
In Savasana pose you simply lie there and let go of any thoughts that enter your mind. Except here’s my dirty little secret… sometimes I do my best thinking in Savasana pose. At this particular moment, I realized that the lessons I’ve taken from yoga could be really useful in middle school.
- Noticing what you are feeling but not immediately acting on it.
- Staying in a challenging situation (or yoga pose) for a while and “sitting with” the discomfort. Think: learning new geometry concepts.
- Learning to simply breathe when the going gets tough.
- Being flexible in body and mind.
And Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D. says this is just the beginning of what yoga can offer. Dr. Khalsa, a neuroscientist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, studies yoga’s affects on depression and insomnia. He notes that as well as helping one reduce “unmanaged stress,” practicing yoga “enhances resilience, and improves mind-body awareness which “can help people adjust their behaviors based on the feelings they’re experiencing in their bodies.”
From what I’ve read, western research on yoga is in its infancy and we’ll likely discover more yoga benefits in coming years. However, what I’d found for myself through yoga, and the research results I’d seen thus far were enough to convince me that yoga could benefit Stephen as he began middle school. And heck, if we were bringing Stephen, why not bring his 9 year-old brother Daniel too?
Read next week’s post to find out how the yoga trial went over with my 9 and 11 year-old boys.