The Yoga Laboratory: Creating Space for Teens to Find Their Way Into Yoga
Teens love choices. And they enjoy getting to do things “on their own.” One of my students very favorite and most requested yoga activities is the Yoga Laboratory.
Mid-semester is a great time for the Yoga Lab. By then students have a basic understanding of alignment and safety. I would not recommend this activity for fresh beginners. Some yoga experience is required for success.
To set up the Yoga Lab, you’ll need an open space and yoga props for stations. This is a great way to introduce students to props even when you don’t have enough for every student. Here are some of the stations I like to create.
- Floating Lotus and Flying Crow Station- Set up two mats with two blocks on each. Place images of Tolasana (Scale Pose, I like to call it Floating Lotus) and Bakasana (Crow Pose) near each set of blocks. For Lotus, the blocks are used to “raise the floor” so lifting up is easier. The hands are placed on the blocks. For Crow, start standing perched on a block.
- Backbend Station- Place a large exercise ball on a mat to be used for supported backbends.
- Abdominal Strengthening Station- Place a medium exercise ball on a mat for abdominal exercises such as crunches or jack knife.
- Wheel of Poses- Set up a circle of 5 mats. On each mat place a yoga card with different poses. Basic poses like Downward Facing Dog, Triangle, Tree, Mountain and Cobra work well.
- Meditation Station- Create a serene setting using a soft blanket, pillows or meditation cushions, and a chime, singing bowl or bell. I like to place an opened decorative umbrella on the floor to create a sense of privacy for the scene.
- Relaxation Station- Place two bolsters on two mats for Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose or as we sometimes call it, Resting Butterfly).
- Handstand Wall- Clear a space on the wall for students to practice Half Handstands or Full Handstand Kick-Ups.
- Library Station- Place 5-10 great yoga books and resources on a blanket.
Have enough space between stations for students to be able to stay focused on their particular experiment. This activity works well when students are placed with a partner. Before allowing students to enter the Lab, go through each station as a class and demonstrate each activity. Show students how they can support each other.
Explain that just like in a science lab, we must respect each space and maintain a quiet, calm demeanor as not to distract other practitioners. Let students know that you will ring a bell or play music when it is time to transition to the next station and be sure they know which direction to proceed.
This activity allows the teacher the golden opportunity to assist particular students one on one during the Yoga Lab. Ideally, one or two assistants are also there to help. In some cases, experienced students can be enrolled in a Lab Assistant role.
After going through the Yoga Lab one time, I like to have students journal about their experience in each station on a handout listing the experiments we participated in that day.
The Yoga Lab is super popular with my middle schoolers, so they are willing to keep the room peaceful. I find this activity empowering to youth. It shows them that they can practice on their own or with a friend.