Yoga on High
I am often asked about how one can get adolescent boys to buy into yoga. Good question. First, regardless if it’s yoga or if it’s adolescent boys specifically, the answer is the same: Meet them where they are.
So, in the case of the angry, insecure, hormone-ravaged adolescent boy who likes video games and weed (yes, please excuse my generalization) how can we invite them to try – and maybe even enjoy – yoga? The answer is in their proclivities… they want to be high, stoned, blissed-out or checked-out. An hour of yoga has the capability to produce some real physiological effects that mimic being “high” and I’m not afraid to have that kind of conversation with our students.
This conversation has to start with humanizing and normalizing our innate desire to experience more pleasure and less pain. Otherwise, we are fighting the same old dogmas, stigmas, and judgements – that is bad and this is good – at which most defiant or depressed youth will snub their nose at (or worse) and rightfully so. It starts with asking the question, “why do you like____(insert drug of choice here)?” After we get through the deer-in-the-headlights silence and the participants wondering if this is some kind of trick, I hear the obvious answers. “I want to feel high.” “I like feeling more relaxed, more creative…” “I like the body high I get when ….” “I like the rush…” These answers beg the next question, “What if you could feel that without the drama, the personal, physical, financial strain, would you?” And now curiosity, hopefully, sets in…
And, no, I’m not selling snake oil. The notion that yoga gets us high is written repeatedly in blogs to peer-reviewed articles. I have even adopted a phrase from something I read a while back. Ready? “Yoga-stoned!” Not celebrating nor minimizing the devastating effects of drugs or process addictions, just trying to clean out the closet of shame that often keeps us stuck in our cycles of self-judgments and subsequent addictions. Furthermore, there is rapidly expanding body of research being done on the physical and psychological effects of yoga. I don’t care to bog you down, dear reader, with the science. I’d rather invite you into an experience.
STRETCHING AND SIGNALING A RELAXATION RESPONSE IN THE BODY: PRASARITTA PADOTTANASANA (EXTENDED STANCE STRETCH)
1. You don’t need to be fit or flexible to try this out so stop the internal dialogue now… pretty please.
2. Stand with your feet wide apart (3 feet or so). Toes point straight forward and instep (inner arches of feet) are parallel to each other. If you know you have tight hamstrings or lower back issues, place a chair in front of you. Hands on your hips.
3. Take a deep inhale and elongate the spine – keeping the shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Exhale, reach the heart forward as you pitch forward from the hips.
4. Place hands on the chair, on your thighs, shins, or ankles, or on the ground if you have that range of motion. *If using a chair, keep the weight of the body in your feet and legs. Don’t shift weight forward i.e. leaning into the chair.
5. Stay here. Bend the knees if you feel tension in the lower back. Focus on lifting the sit bones (bony points of the pelvis situated deep in the buttocks) up to the sky. This will create stretching in the backs of the legs. Keep lower back as straight as possible.
6. Keep the face, shoulders, neck relaxed and breathe through any discomfort.
7. Take 5-10 deep breaths here. Can you feel the skin of the back stretch or the ribs expand with your inhale? Can you feel your pose get a little easier when you exhale?
8. To come out of the pose, step feet closer to each other a couple inches. Bend the knees, lift the belly in toward the spine. Use the core and legs to lift you all the way up to standing as you inhale.
9. Exhale, step feet together, relax. Notice how you feel.
BREATHING: NADI SHODHANA
1. You can do this separately or after your quick leg stretch above.
2. With your right hand, close index and middle finger.
3. Place thumb on top of right nostril, ring finger on left nostril.
4. Use only gentle pressure at the place where cartilage meets bone.
5. Inhale completely, shut off left nostril.
6. Exhale through right nostril.
7. Inhale through right nostril.
8. Pause breath at the top, close off right nostril and open left.
9. Exhale completely through left nostril.
10. Inhale through left nostril.
11. Pause at the top, close off left nostril and open right.
12. Repeat for 10 cycles.
13. Stop if you feel anxious or dizzy.
Hope you find some relaxation and perhaps even a little natural high from this easy practice. I wish you much health and happiness!