Bringing Tools for Mood Management to Teenagers in New York
by Merrill Black, LCSW, Reiki Master, Hypnotherapist, RYT, Certified LFYP-1
In March, I presented experiential LifeForce Yoga (LFY) to groups of teens at Ardsley High School’s 10th Annual Wellness Day & Fair, in Ardsley, NY. The theme was “Wellness Around the World” with emphasis on stress reduction and mental health; I felt right at home. Numerous tables and stations offered a variety of activities, exercises, foods, and alternative therapies which the teens could explore and experience.
As the kids walked around, a group caught my eye. Smiling, I sat on my mat and said, “Hi! Do you want to try some yoga?” They looked up at the LifeForce Yoga sign and then asked one another if they wanted to do it. They agreed! It was so sweet. I had forgotten about those days, asking my pack of friends to join me do something I wanted to do. One of the boys was super psyched because he had done yoga before and I think that helped.
My first group of seven was six boys and one girl. This surprised me because over the past five years at my healing & yoga center, most of my students have been female. They were open to joining me as I explained about the many types of yoga. I spoke about how LifeForce Yoga uses breath, sounds, mudras (hand gestures), bhavana (images), and asana (postures) to meet their mood. Whether they are down, tired, anxious, or energized, breath can meet them right where they are.
The group was feeling wound up, so I started them on their feet to shake things off. We bounced for release, then got to easy seat sukhasana. There we began our breathwork and the magic began. I was dearly impressed with how open and willing they were to try something new. Yes, they giggled when we did bellows breath with a hearty “Ha, Ha, Hah!” out and holding adhi mudra; ditto during a seated breath of joy with some “Ha” breaths and “lums” with an emphasis on the “L” sound. After those breaths they looked at each other with a “wow” kind of look. Their eyes lit up and when checking in with them they were surprised how good they felt and how much they liked it.
Yes kids. Maybe there is something to this LifeForce Yoga thing?
They were indeed present throughout the breathwork, asana, and bhavana practice. They repeated “So Hum” (I am that), held mudras of dove and lotus. They loved savasana. I don’t know many people who don’t love savasana. Perhaps there are a few out there, but personally it is one of my favorite parts of yoga!
At the end of our LFY practice, I noticed that the group was calmer, centered, and peaceful. I ended with a loving “Namaste” and looked at each of them saying “the light in me honors the light in all of you.” With their hands in prayer they returned a gentle “Namaste” and as they departed they gave me heartfelt thank yous! I wished them a beautiful rest of their day exploring “around the world.”
My experiences were similar with with 2 more troupes of teens. Again, I was struck about how many boys took part that day. Each group had their own flavor of course; some were more tired and reserved. I began those groups with Ujjayi (ocean sounding) breath and/or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril), and then moved into LifeForce Yoga StairStep breath. Together we worked our way up from seated, to table, to standing asanas, and each group seemed to equally be taken with the practices.
The mostly-girls group wanted to move more and experience downward dog. After some breathwork and seated poses, I led them into a slow flow of table to Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog), to knees, to table, to Balasana (child’s pose). Then we moved into standing asanas such as Tadasana (mountain pose), tree, and warrior while resonating the “lum” sound for grounding.
Having these young beings experience LifeForce Yoga was immensely enjoyable for me. Did I say I love working with teens? I always have and think I always will. How amazing it would be to offer LFY to kids and teens on a regular basis and add this to their “tool box” of strategies to negotiate life as they mature. I’m enjoying adding it to my personal and professional repertoire now, but I wish I’d had access to this as a teenager, because I know it would have helped me with my moods and stressors at that time. Sure, I had to explain and demonstrate the asanas, including child’s pose, as some kids were new to yoga, but they were receptive and attentive throughout!
One of the things that struck me most after teaching LFY to these teens and into the evening at my healing center with the adult support group for BFRB’s (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors) that I facilitate: how powerful the LFY breathwork is! This has been one theme over the past week or so with many of my clients. It is always accessible to everyone at all times. It can help us slow down, calm down, re-calibrate, energize, re-fuel, and balance us.
For years I’ve experienced similar results through my own practices (guided relaxation/imagery, meditation, and hypnosis) but to see it “fresh” right in front of me in these teen’s eyes and faces! Wow! This brought it home radically! It gave me an instant “YES!”, this is why I do the work I do.
I love the LFY protocol. I believe in it. I have watched it work over and over again, and I can’t wait to offer more of it!
About the Author
Merrill is Cognitive Behavior Therapist who has been treating clients since 1987 and has been in private practice for several years. She is the founder and owner of a healing center, The Temperance Center (Eastchester, NY). She works with children, adolescents, and adults and specializes in anxiety disorders including OCD, and BFRB’s (Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors). Merrill believes in the mind, body, soul connection when working with clients. She uses a variety of techniques to help others manage their anxiety, such as Reiki, Hypnosis, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavior Modification, Exposure and Response Prevention, Systematic Desensitization, Imagery, Visualization, Relaxation Training, Breath-work, LifeForce Yoga & Meditation. She runs a bi-monthly Guided Channeling Adult Meditation Group. She also facilitates a free monthly adult support group for people who are dealing with BFRB’s. She is an Usui Reiki Master and teaches Reiki. She has received training for hypnosis from ASCH and past life regression training from Dr. Brian Weiss. She also has received training in “Light Body” energy work. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher, a Certified Level 1 LifeForce Yoga Practitioner. and Certified Restorative Yoga teacher. She has provided numerous workshops and trainings all over the United States through a variety of organizations and venues to help others manage their anxiety as well as awaken/raise their energetic consciousness.