MAKING YOGA EASILY ACCESSIBILE FOR TEACHERS, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS AND TEENS AGES 7 – 16
Coming to DVD and Digital Download Platforms on November 8, 2011
LOS ANGELES, CA (October 17, 2011) – In the recent National Poll on Children’s Health conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, startling new health concerns are facing America’s youth. Drug abuse is now tied with childhood obesity as their #1 concern followed by: smoking and tobacco use, teen pregnancy, bullying, internet safety and stress. Bullying, in particular, has become a national concern following some recent youth suicides. Abby Wills, MA, with the help of young teens, has developed a transformational new yoga program, SHANTI GENERATION, created to help tweens and teens develop confidence and strength while cultivating inner peace and mindfulness. The first DVD in the series, ‘YOGA SKILLS FOR YOUTH PEACEMAKERS,’ offers invaluable tools for children ages 7-16 and will be available November 8, 2011 on DVD at major retail outlets as well as its five digital “pathways” available on VOD platforms later in the month.
Yoga, practiced by nearly 14 million American adults, has developmental benefits for young people that can help develop self-confidence, combat obesity, and support academic achievement. Yoga has helped children with ADHD, Autism and chronic disease to stay physically healthy and mentally focused. Wills is a Southern California yoga instructor, who holds and MA in Education and has 15 years of hands-on experience working in schools. Her unique insights enable her to understand the specific needs of the educator and the day-to-day classroom experience as well as developing tools for a teacher without a yoga background, to attend to the students’ physical education requirements. She has developed an innovative yoga program created in tandem with seven Los Angeles teenagers and set to soothing music by Aaron Wills (aka P-Nut), the bassist of the rock band, 311. The result, SHANTI GENERATION, is making it easier to introduce the lifelong benefits of yoga into schools by making it classroom friendly.
“Shanti,” means peace in Sanskrit. In fact, says Wills, “We plan to build a movement by teaching young people peacemaking skills, to build a world that respects and celebrates differences in effort to create a culture of peace and unity. The yoga program we developed cultivates social and emotional learning, or SEL, through mindfulness practices including movement, breathing and meditation. Each practice is offered in a context directly relevant to the developmental needs of adolescent youth, unlike yoga DVDs created for adults or young kids. In particular, the program is designed to empower teens to cope with real life challenges, including bullying.”
SHANTI GENERATION: YOGA SKILLS FOR YOUTH PEACEMAKERS is a unique program for young people that:
· Speaks to Real Teens: The program was developed with the direct input of seven boys and girls who have worked with Wills creating a program that talks to and not at their peers. Unlike most yoga videos, boys as well as girls demonstrate the exercises in YOGA SKILL FOR PEACEMAKERS, rather than an instructor, while the teens’ multi-racial makeup is more reflective of modern America.
· Offers wide variety: Over 30 unique combinations can be accessed by “Choosing Your Path,” to combine poses, breathing exercises and meditations;
· Top quality production: Produced by Los Angeles production company WSR Creative, the video features an engaging set, high end production values, tightly edited program and a hip sound track that are guaranteed to capture the attention of young people as well as their parents;
· Serious SEL: Wills holds an MA in Education and has woven in SEL, social and emotional learning practices, into the program. SEL is a process for helping children (and adults) develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.
· Classroom Ready: Wills’ expertise as an educator allowed her to engineer thirty minute classroom-friendly segments. The program is designed for “non-yoga” people to utilize while incorporating simple language and avoiding confusion with Sanskrit terms.
· Global: Available with Spanish or Japanese narration.
SHANTI GENERATION: YOGA SKILLS FOR YOUTH PEACEMAKERS merges yoga exercises and mindfulness techniques for youth ages 7 to 16. Developed by renowned youth yoga expert, Abby Wills, MA, and created in collaboration with teens, the program integrates a series of movements, breathing techniques and practices that facilitate inner calm, positive attitude and a strong, healthy body. Practicing just two times per week cultivates body awareness, flexibility, concentration, stress reduction and self-expression. Exercises are demonstrated by Abby’s students and set to positive grooves created by 311 bassist, Aaron Wills (aka P-Nut).
· Over 30 unique options for beginner and experienced yogis:
o 5 unique half-hour practice sequences: Creating Happiness, Energy Amplified, Choosing Peace, Being Sound and Voice Choice Possibility
o Library of Poses: 18 mini sequences for Focus, Energy and Calm
o Breathing Room: 5 sequences featuring stress management and self-regulation.
o Self-Connection Room: two mindful awareness practices.
· Interviews with the seven teen yoga students.
· Optional narration in Spanish and Japanese.
DIGITAL PATHWAYS AVAILABLE ON VOD:
Five segments, each between twenty to thirty minutes, will be available to purchase download or rent online on portals such as Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon as of mid-November. These pathways include:
- Creating Happiness: Looking for happiness? Get flexible! Breathe and move your way into happiness with forward bends for flexibility. True happiness comes through shining health.
- Energy Amplified: Balancing and core strengthening postures give you what no energy drink ever can: sustainable body energy to power your life. Get strong, be healthy.
- Choosing Peace: Peace is a behavior you can choose at any moment, no matter what. Get your mind on board with your breath for a peaceful journey through standing poses, backbends and forward bends designed to empower you to find your own peace inside.
- Being Sound: Twist, bend and relax your way to deep peace. To be sound is to be free and secure at the same time. Be vibrant and radiate peace.
- Voice Choice Possibility: Take a moment to remember what you really want and fuel up on positive energy to make your dreams come true. Breathe, visualize and move the way you want to feel.
I started in the Library of Poses which were more like mini sessions, each about 2 minutes in length. I went through all three sections Focus, Energy and Calm and two things struck me most; none of the teens practicing looked happy, and it wasn’t just a passive look of concentration either they appeared to be missing the joy of yoga and also missing were any teens that weren’t thin. This is a disappointment to me as an educator, fitness professional and yoga teacher. The truth is we are at an all time high for childhood obesity, and although it is great to provide healthy role models it is also important to provide diversity beyond just race and ethnicity in a video.
I then went to Choose Your Path where it appears the Library of Poses segments have been put together in sequences so you wind up with a bit of disjoint at the student changes every pose or two. There are several Paths to choose from which provides enough novelty and selection to make this video endure over time.
The Breathing Room provided basic breath work or pranayama and from what I gathered the Self Connection Room was similar to yoga nidra or guided relaxation.
All segments had that youthful MtV style editing with scratched film effects, color changing, etc. this was distracting to me as an adult along with the constantly moving camera angles – but appealing to youth generations raised on news from The Red Eye and small sound bytes. Having watched the full video I also found classical asana names omitted as well as yoga philosophy – all valuable tools to teach future generations respect for other cultures’ traditions, the history of yoga and philosophies that can truly help teens.
The quality of production was top notch from the sets to the sound and video. Something I haven’t seen a great deal in teen and child yoga DVDs especially those not by big name yoga-lebrities with even bigger production companies helping them. I was extremely pleased that the sound was crisp, the lighting good and video clear so that the whole experience was polished.
I most enjoyed the Meet the Peacemakers – finally you get a glimpse of smiling and joy. You get the feeling from the clips provided that the teens enjoyed the process of making a yoga DVD.
The DVD does a decent job of instructing teens through safe poses that vary from relaxing to challenging, although it doesn’t directly integrate yoga philosophy by teaching it Abby does a good job of not dumbing down the practice by making up cutesy names for poses – something I have found to be unbelievable and unviable in the many trainings I have taken and classes I have taught to this age group. I was not hit by what the press release calls “a transformational new yoga program” though. I guess I was expecting something very far out and new, the DVD does have merit and value but the average instructor will not find anything groundbreaking. Please note though this is the first DVD in a series so it is possible that the sum of the parts is greater as a whole in being a transformational system of yoga for teens.
Sadly I think this video won’t appeal to all teens. If more of the individuality of each student – the skateboarder, the asthmatic athlete,etc. were allowed to shine through I think it would have a better chance. Also with some physiological diversity, kids of different sizes it would have wider appeal – I speak as a former overweight teen,parent and educator in academic and fitness fields it is important to show ALL children they have worth and potential to make changes both for themselves and the future.