Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 6, 2013

Teens and stress

Yoga can relieve anxiety and boost confidence in young adults

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON —  If a teen is worried about an upcoming history exam or driver’s test, yoga could help them manage stress more efficiently. According to a new study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, teenagers who participated in three yoga classes a week experienced a 20 percent reduction in anxiety scores, were 10 percent less moody and showed an 8 percent improvement in their general outlook on life.

Stephanie Stinson, a local instructor at the Princeton Health and Fitness Center, has been teaching yoga since 2003. She sees some teenagers in her classes, but not many. She said young adults shy away from the class and fail to realize all the benefits.

“With advances in technology, teenagers live a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. As youngsters, they grew up with Gameboy and Play Stations and as teenagers, they’ve become socially active by using MySpace, Facebook and of course, cell phones. So physically, yoga can provide strength training, build balance and strength and lengthen the muscles,” she said. “Teenagers can also greatly benefit from yoga with respect to mental well-being.”

A teen’s life is filled with school, sports, part-time jobs, friends and social media. Stinson said their active lifestyles leave no room for a quiet time, even during the evenings. Their stress — peer pressure, home and school life, body image and more — can make an impact.

One way yoga manages stress is through breathing techniques. According to Stinson, breathing patterns impact the nervous system.

“When we breath in shallow manner, we can activate out sympathetic nervous systems ... this can create higher heart rates and more tension in the body. Using various breathing techniques, we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can calm and heal our nervous system,” she said.

This type of breathing can calm a student during an exam, a future business meeting and even help handle long lines at the store.

Athletes can also benefit from yoga.

“It helps to stretch all muscles groups releasing tension and tightness in the body,” she added. “So much attention is placed on strength and cardio training that we forget that muscles that are stretched and relaxed not only make for a more well-rounded fitness level, but helps to prevent injury as well. Mentally, it helps one to focus, especially when using breathing techniques, whether in practice or on the field or court.”

Marietta Buckner, a registered nurse and instructor at the Mercer County Technical Education Center, introduces yoga to her health occupation students.

 Every spring, students who are preparing for a career in health care take one yoga class. Buckner said the session is considered complementary medicine and goes along with other medical practices like lab work, x-rays and more.

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services states yoga can reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate, relieve lower back pain and relieve anxiety and depression.

Buckner said many students react positive to the session.

“Many of them have heard of yoga, but never really knew what it was. They were surprised on how good they felt with one session,” she said.

Buckner said a few of her students enjoyed the session so much they participated in classes or did yoga at home.

Last year, Stinson visited the class as a yoga instructor.  

The session cleared up confusion about yoga. Even though it is offered at many fitness centers in the two Virginias, it is still misunderstood.

“You always hear comments that you are just sitting in a dark room chanting with incense burning. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the fitness center, we teach our classes in a yogafit style, which means that classes are designed as a cardio class ...,” she said.

You don’t have to be a teen to enjoy the benefits of yoga. Researchers at Boston University said a group of yoga novices — after three months of sessions — had a 240 percent higher mood score than those limited to a walking routine.

Interested in yoga? Stinston said there are three basic rules.

“No expectations. It’s a new experience. Unless your are a quick study, nothing is going to be perfect. No judgment. There is no need to beat yourself up about anything ... and finally, no competition. Your time in class is exactly that. Your time,” she said.

Children and teens are welcome in class.

“Over the years, I have had children of students take class on a somewhat regular basic. The truth is that parents can encourage teenagers to take a class by attending on themselves. Try a class, see the benefits for yourself and hopefully, your enthusiasm will encourage your child,” Stinson added.

To find a class, contact your local fitness center.

— Contact Jamie Parsell at