Why Yoga Is Essential For Your Teenager’s Health

 A ­congenial atmosphere at home, with the entire family interested in one another’s activities and spending a lot of time together is very essential in the good health of a teenager, says, Dr.Krishna Raman, Consultant Physician and Yoga expert.

There is a spurt in the maturity process, both mentally and physiologically, in the teens. The teenager is at a very capricious stage when his or her value systems undergo constant change, and unless he or she maintains a healthy physical and mental outlook on life, problems will occur. This is a time of insecurity and the need to prove oneself to others. It is also a stage of rebellion when a sudden, so‑called `independence’ takes over the mind.

Parents have to ensure, at this point in their children’s lives, that they are taught proper values. The line of communication with the younger generation must always be kept open, providing opportunities for a free and frank discussion on whatever worries them. The family as a social institution is breaking up in Western countries, with a consequent increase in teenage problems. Fortunately, this is not yet so in India. Our family ties are still strong and we ought to take the utmost care to maintain them.

Teenagers pick up habits — both good and bad — from their peer group. Motivated by their comrades, and in friendly competition, they prove themselves in their studies and in the playground. Good companions bring out the best in them. On the other hand, the wrong company leads to bad practices like smoking, drinking, drug addiction, and meaningless violence. Poor upbringing, lack of monitoring, unchecked exposure to sex and violence in books and movies, and the ills of socio‑economic instability are some of the causes of wayward behaviour.

The crucial aspect when raising teenagers:

An important aspect of teenage life is the burgeoning relationship between the sexes. Parents should encourage a healthy friendship right from childhood so that boys and girls grow up together in a normal, natural atmosphere. By the time they reach their teens, boys and girls should have learnt to regard each other as equals and not just as objects of the other sex.

As can be observed, the teens are a crucial stage. The future path that an individual’s life will take is decided now. Patanjali’s guidelines for a healthy body and mind will prove to be very useful. The basic good instincts of teenagers should be strengthened by parents and teachers, who must take pains to help and guide them in every way.

The health of the teenager:

The teenager ought to be bursting with health. However, as a clinician, I notice the rising incidence of orthopaedic disorders, chronic sore throats and the increasing severity of lung disorders (such as asthma) in this age group. The causes are many. One factor stands out — that of negligence. Many patients avoid ­attending to the problem till it reaches a certain ­proportion.

The classic example is that of asthma. Asthma is a chronic disorder. Climatic conditions and different kinds of food are some of the main aggravating factors. It is important to obtain relief first. The regular and uninterrupted (I lay stress on this because asthma is a disorder of hypersensitivity of the lining of the bronchial tree, and attacks vary from time to time in the nature of onset and severity and frequency) practice of asanas and pranayama gives relief to the patient. Pranayama stabilises the sympathetic nervous system and decreases the tone of the parasympathetic. This abolishes the severity of the bronchospasm. Drugs used to treat this disorder work along similar lines, but repeated stimulation by drugs induces a certain inertia in the cells of the body. Natural systems of stimulation or inhibition are more useful.

Due to the gentle and steady action in yoga, the relief is soothing. A definite change is felt in the asthmatic after the introduction of the breathing exercises. However, the habit of smoking, usually formed at this age, precludes any chance of recovery. The lining of the respiratory tree is damaged and the nerves of the body made insensitive.

Is your teenager’s posture right? 

Teenagers have poor posture when they sit or stand. Added to this is lack of exercise, making the spinal and hamstring muscles very stiff. The problems of chronic low backache and slipped discs were, a decade ago, seen in the older age group of thirty‑five to forty‑five. Today, they are common in younger people, between nineteen and twenty‑five years old. Unhealthy eating habits make teenagers obese, and this complicates the problem. The best method to tackle these problems is education about right posture (though this might seem elementary, it is not surprising to see a large number of educated people unaware of the basics of right posture) and back care. This means practising asanas on a regular basis. If the practice is suspended, the problem will recur, as the body inevitably stiffens over the years.

Pain in the neck accompanied by radiating pain in the shoulders and arms, is also more common in teenagers. This is due to faulty habits of sleeping with two pillows, slouching in the bed with the chin pushed into the chest, slouching in the chair when reading, hunching at the desk — in short, bad posture at all times.

The first step is to know where one is going wrong. The next is exercise. If the cervical muscles are stiff, then exercise to loosen the relevant areas is a must. In addition, the thoracic (dorsal) region is also deformed. This requires twisting and back bending postures to abolish the hunch. The minimum time the teenager needs for these exercises is only thirty minutes every day. If the cervical and dorsal muscles are flexible and yet pain occurs, all that is required is a conscious awareness of posture from time to time. The patient often notices that the pain is less when the posture is better aligned.

It is good policy to maintain the flexibility of the entire body by regularly practising a group of exercises, rather than waiting for troubles to start.

Backbends are highly useful to remove deformity in the cervical and dorsal spine. Even one backbend (urdhva dhanurasana) regularly practised, keeps the entire dorsal (thoracic) spine healthy. If the teenager is very stiff, the props available ensure that flexibility is obtained in a short time and with accuracy. The use of the ropes for backbends is indispensable. Chairs and the horse prop for setu bandha sarvangasana are also valuable for relieving deformities in the dorsal spine.

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