Teen Mind, Teen Body

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Teen Mind, Teen Body: Using Yoga to Empower Teenage Girls

Robbin Schneider has been in the Indianapolis yoga scene longer than yoga has been popular. She has been practicing and teaching yoga since 2000, when she studied under Beverly Sikes at The Yoga Studio, which is now closed. Since January 2015, teaching yoga has been her full-time profession. She believes that the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga saved her from a family history of mental illness and depression. Now she’s on a mission to offer those benefits to a population prone to those issues: teenage girls.

One of Schneider’s children battled with severe depression during high school. Despite medical intervention, Schneider spent almost two years fearing that she might come home to a child dead by suicide. “At one point [there were] eight different medications, most of them to combat side effects from the other ones,” she says, “And it wasn’t enough.” According to Schneider, the depression only began to lift when medication was combined with therapy and a sense of “responsibility” about emotions and mental illness. “The meds needed to be the support, rather than the only fix,” says Schneider.

While her child, whom Schneider prefers not to identify, survived those traumatic years and went on to a successful career, some don’t. In late 2014, six Indianapolis-area teenagers committed suicide. Around that time, Schneider realized she was hearing “anxiety,” “depression,” and “stress” coupled with young people. “At that age, I don’t think I even knew what those words meant.” She wanted to help, so in Spring 2014, she created Joiful Life, a program that seeks to empower young women with mindfulness, stress management tools, and self-confidence.

Schneider held a two-hour workshop for girls aged 12-18 at The Hub in Carmel, Indiana, on December 30, 2014. Six attended, most in sixth or seventh grade in Carmel schools. Wearing grey leggings, a black tunic, an orange scarf, and beaded bracelets, Schneider looked every bit the hip, 58-year-old mom she is. Sitting on a yoga mat with crossed legs, she leaned in to the circle of girls, hanging on every word, validating their statements, readily flashing a big grin under her white-blonde cap of hair.

Schneider led what was closer to group therapy than the common conception of a yoga class. Less than fifteen minutes were devoted to yoga postures. Schneider opened with self-inquiry exercises about admirable personal traits. Then the girls made snow globes out of glitter and mason jars, and meditated to the sight of falling sparkles. They created vision boards out of stickers, markers, and foam, and constructed Peace Pads out of colored paper, writing methods for mindfulness in tough situations. As they worked, they talked about those tough situations.

Schneider asked, “What makes the popular kids popular?”

The girls all giggled and looked down. They didn’t know, or weren’t saying. A sixth-grader piped up, “I tried to sit at their table once, but it was like a swarm of bees.”

Later, Schneider asked them to, “Think about things in your life that are challenging.”

They brought up frustration with school and sports, stress about grades, and family pressure to succeed. Schneider didn’t mention bullying directly, but the girls did.
Two came to the conclusion that “Bullies are just people who are bored with their own lives, so they pick on yours.”

Outside of therapy, there aren’t many forums for young women to talk about these subjects with an adult. Schneider is quick to say that she is not a therapist or social worker. She doesn’t have a degree in psychology or education. She teaches “from life experience.” She is providing a safe space to talk about the tough stuff as an objective third party, not a parent, teacher, or coach.

The attendees at The Hub, who paid $35 per person for the 2-hour session, didn’t make up the typical picture of the at-risk girls who may need programs like this the most. They were from high-performing school districts with involved parents, but that demographic may change as the program grows. Schneider believes Joiful Life can benefit all people, “…no matter their income level.” She’s meeting with a school for children with autism spectrum disorder, and is open to bringing her program to inner-city areas.

She sums up her work with, “I’m planting seeds…if you pass it to one person and they’re nicer and kinder to the people in their lives, then it spreads. It’s the seed that grows.”

Robbin Schneider currently lives in Carmel, Indiana. Joiful Life is offered in multi-week or one-day sessions, with regular classes soon to start at Blooming Life Yoga in Zionsville. The cost of classes can range from $10 to $125 per person, depending on the location, length of session, and number of participants. For more information, visit www.joifullife.com.

Emma Hudelson

Indy Star

3/12/15

 

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Comments
  • Mary Jo Wark

    Please tell me more about any mindfulness courses available for boys age 10 to 12….tweens. Thanks!

    Mary Jo

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