Community: Kids Yoga
by Adam Avin, a teenage founder of the Wuf Shanti Program
As a 14-year-old, I’m striving to live my life to the fullest. But it’s hard when the TV is turned on and all I see are things that scare me. It seems that around every corner, there is danger. The tragic event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, should never have happened. I get emotional just talking about it, so I can’t even imagine what was going through those students’ and teachers’ heads during that massacre. It is like a horror movie that comes to life.
The statistics of teens, and even younger kids, who are feeling depression, anxiety, and anger has been rising. I think there are many things we can do to help them so that they do not express themselves by shooting up schools or movie theaters and killing people or themselves. Suicide is a real threat for kids as early as middle school.
Like most kids, I have a phone and I am on it a lot, yet we don’t talk to each other enough about how we are feeling. It’s important for people to communicate with each other so they can process their emotions in a healthy way. I definitely encourage kids, if they are feeling depressed, anxious, or angry to talk to a counselor, teacher, or an adult they trust.
What can we do? I think we can look at education. For example, what if schools offered a mandatory course in communications in which kids learn to talk to each other and share how they feel?
Curriculum for Coping with Stress
And we could implement a “Coping with Stress” curriculum. Kids can learn how to deal with their emotions in a better way. If they practice the tools they learn, and it becomes an automatic response to stress, then they will grow up to be happier and more mindful adults.
Wuf Shanti and Youth Yoga Education
Since I believe we are all part of the solution, I created a dog character, Wuf Shanti. Wuf Shanti travels the world teaching yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to kids in fun ways with music and games through books, videos, and a mobile app. Shanti means peace. I wanted to honor my great-grandpa when he passed away by paying forward his mantras of positive thinking, kindness, and gratitude to the next generation.
Wuf Shanti promotes health and wellness in kids, and encourages peace and positivity. The Wuf Shanti team visit schools and children’s hospitals (in costume for younger kids and not in the costume for older kids) to teach young people, parents, teachers, and doctors how to practice yoga, meditation, and positive thinking, and about the health benefits of a yogic-minded lifestyle.
Health Benefits of Yoga for Youth
Health benefits of these practices include reducing stress, depression and anxiety, helping manage anger and impulse control, increasing focus, concentration, self-confidence, respect for others, empathy, and boosting the immune system. Scientific research has shown that with a mind-body connection, our thoughts have the ability to help make us well or unwell. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can improve the healing process, help us handle stress, and have better interaction with others. That’s why I think a “Coping with Stress” curriculum is so important. It can help kids learn to be in better control of their emotions.
Many people believe that yoga is about doing physical poses. But there is also a mental component that is practiced off the mat to help us have inner peace. This includes breathing to relax, stay calm, and centered. It is about diversity, inclusion, kindness, and compassion. It is about self-love and love for others, no matter where they come from. Yoga is for everyone. This is the key to education and why encouraging youth to practice is important.
The Dalai Lama said, “If every child in the world is taught meditation, we would eliminate violence within one generation.” It seems clear to me, especially now with everything going on in this world, that we need to be teaching things like this in school to help our generation grow up to cope better.
Let’s Begin to Make a Positive Impact
We should be able to communicate without so much anger or violence. I don’t know why some people become violent or how to solve the gun issue, but I do know that there are things we could be doing in schools to help kids deal with emotions. People who are supposed to be our role models, like politicians, athletes, and celebrities are having a hard time listening to each other and becoming unified. There is too much negativity. And now we need to be trained to be positive and kind so that we can make a positive impact on the world.
We can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result, so let’s try something new. Gandhi said, “If you really want to reach peace, then begin by educating the children.” Let’s begin.