What is considered “cool” for tweens and teens these days? Too often it’s related to the latest phone or social media event. Other times it’s cool to have a special talent or know how, or to be a good athlete.
On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to bond with some teens who told me that they often did yoga, and like many teens, felt the need to give time to their schools or community. This was refreshing and reminded me of my yoga teens at home, who get excited about volunteering and participating in their community.
As adult role models and yoga teachers we can positively influence teens, helping them understand the cool that exists in service to others – what better way than to encourage “Seva”?
‘Seva” is the sanskrit word meaning selfless service. It is service performed without the need for reward or payment. In ancient India, Seva was associated with one’s spiritual growth through contributing to the improvement of one’s community.
Research shows that teens who are active in community service are more responsible and have higher self-esteem and resilience. Volunteering helps teens to become better leaders and communicators. They are more dependable, and more adept at time management and decision-making. Teens who volunteer also perform better at school, in the community, and have stronger college and related scholarship applications.
How as yoga teachers do we inspire teens to give? ChildLight Yoga recommends the following strategies to instill curiosity and compassion in teens and spur action that make a difference in communities:
- Talk with your teen yoga students about what excites them about giving back and have them suggest ideas to each other;
- Ask them to prepare journals about what Seva means to them and how they can act on ideas;
- Help them identify causes that align with their interests and research and report to the class on what they have learned;
- Share with them your own interests – brainstorm with your teens for ideas you can use;
- Have your class identify a cause they work together to support.
Teenagers are often vocal about their thoughts and have great ideas. We can help them bring actions to Seva in their lives by proactively listening and giving positive feedback. They likely cannot act on all their ideas; yet through our engagement they will likely move to do smething and fulfill the idea of selfless service. In turn, they feel valued and in turn, it’s fulfilling for us, as their yoga teachers, too.
Teenagers, like us, are busy, maybe even busier. But by helping them carve out even a little time from their schedules, we can help them regularly provide community service from a heartfelt place. It’s not always easy and takes commitment on our part, but as teachers and mentors, it helps us fulfill our own Seva too.
Ann Biese, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, RCYT, MBSR-T, YACEP, is an international Yoga Instructor and Teacher Trainer for ChildLight Yoga. She is also a Mindfulness and Meditation Specialist in pediatric settings, including Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in Boston, and has taught MBSR and yoga to various youth groups and teen athletes across the country. She has been a featured speaker on meditation and mindfulness in hospitals. Ann is also the author of the award-winning children’s book Worry Bee and Mindful Moon. She enjoys volunteering as an instructor for Go Give Yoga and was featured in North Shore Magazine for her volunteer work in Massachusetts. In her time off the mat, Ann enjoys her family and pets, as well as volunteering at an equine rescue farm. View Ann’s video bio here.