Interview with Charlotta Chandrika Martinus from the Teen Yoga Foundation, a charity that promotes the well-being of young people from 11 – 18 years old through the practice of yoga, mindfulness and meditation in schools, youth clubs and elsewhere both in the UK and abroad.
How did the charity come about and what are the reasons behind its manifestation?
Having worked with young people all my life, I noticed a remarkable demise in their mental health over the years so started researching how yoga was impacting their health and got together with Educational Consultant Nick Kearney to start the Charity Teen Yoga Foundation, to measure the impact of yoga on young people. Very soon Leeds University got involved and we found some astounding and interesting results which we are now researching further. We also run an annual conference named Instill – yoga, wellbeing and education – an international conference inviting academics and politicians to discover the impact of mindfulness and yoga on young people in a school setting.
What’s the structure of these courses and who are they aimed at?
TeenYoga is a separate company that has ben running since 2004 and runs training courses that are accredited by Yoga Alliance in the Uk as well as the Independent Yoga Network. The course has been formulated by eminent neuroscientists, teachers, osteopaths and doctors over the last ten years. They are primarily aimed at yoga and school teachers but also social workers, psychologists, doctors and nurses. The structure of the course is simple – we give theory lectures in the morning and discover the practical implications of them in the afternoon.
What are some of the common issues that young people are struggling with?
Young people today struggle with a multitude of problems ranging from obesity, chronic fatigue, eating disorders to anxiety and stress. It is so important that we reach out and offer tools to this age group so that they do not self medicate with drugs and alcohol. If they come across yoga at this age – they can permanently encode their brains to cope better with stress and challenges throughout life.
What are some of the the health benefits for teens of yoga and mindfulness?
The health benefits of yoga for teens are huge, ranging from the ability to recognise pain and stress and mitigate them through various exercises to being able to sleep better and deeper.
Why is this age range such an important time in a persons development?
Teen years are a very important time in a persons life, the only other time the brain develops so rapidly and so permanently are in toddlerhood and in utero!
Alarmingly 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from a mental disorder – tell me about the research conducted by leeds university and the what the results have shown?
Leeds University have been instrumental in researching the impact of the courses on young people hand have found the results to be surprising, such as increased tolerance of others aswell as active pain control and adding to that, increased sense of joy.
How have these courses helped in changing a teenagers behaviour?
The impact of these courses have also been noted in the classroom, where kids are performing better, due to increased ability to focus and relax while learning.
Do you have any stories you can share about the transformation of the students that you have been teaching?
One boy who was in the rugby A team came to us with a relatively hostile and arrogant attitude and during the research reported feeling more in tune with his peers, including girls who had irritated and annoyed him previously. This is just one of many stories of transformation in interpersonal relationships due to yoga.
Tell me about the Yoga Girls Can project who offer free yoga to young women in the UK.
Yoga Girls Can is an innovation between the Teen Yoga Foundation and Sport England as well as This Girl Can project, offering free yoga for girls between 18-25 in the west of England. Around 1000 girls have had a go and around 750 have had 6 or more lessons and won a yoga mat and a USB with free lessons on it.