“When they want to lash out, they remember they have another option.”
Not only do Yellowknife’s teenage boys enjoy yoga, but it’s helping to keep them out of trouble.
That’s according to yoga therapist Krystal Thompson, who has been introducing the teenagers to yoga – with the help of Yoda.
“I was nervous, especially to work with the teen boys. I can remember what high school was like for me, and was not that excited about going back into a high school environment,” Thompson told Moose FM with a laugh.
“I never was a teen boy – I wasn’t sure how they would receive it or how I would introduce them to yoga. So I went to my brothers and talked to them about how I can introduce it to the boys.
“For the very first class, I tried to introduce it through something I thought they would relate to and think was cool… which was Star Wars.
“This is kind-of like using the Force.”
In N’Dilo, K’alemi Dene School students are in the middle of a series of yoga classes with Thompson.
“The kids seem to enjoy it so far,” said teacher Justin Kavanaugh. “You can see a difference afterwards in their relaxation.
“It was a surprise, but they all seem to enjoy it. It’s been a positive all around.”
Thompson, a 38-year-old former environmental scientist, began last year by teaching basic techniques like breathing exercises at École St Joseph School.
Those classes help with ‘self-regulation’, an education philosophy which asks students to look after their own behaviour and wellbeing while at school.
“You monitor what’s happening with your body, in your mind, and with your breath, as indicators for how you’re feeling,” explains Thompson.
“If there’s something that you want to change – something’s hurting, your mind is racing or your breath is shallow and you’re not feeling calm – then we can use yoga tools to help bring about that change.”
This year, she has moved on to more comprehensive, physical yoga practices, beginning with a class of 14 K’alemi Dene School boys.
“Last week was my first time offering a physical yoga practice to teen high school boys. It was amazing, and I think it was amazing for them,” says Thompson.
More information: Krystal Thompson’s website
“They stayed very open-minded, they tried everything, and I got feedback like, ‘My back hurt before class and didn’t hurt after class.’ They asked for more at the end.
“For me, it was just amazing to see these boys trying something new, moving their bodies in probably a new way.
“Some of it might be a bit familiar for them, like holding plank or a push-up – but the concept of connecting it back to your breath and doing it with a lot more mindful awareness might be a little bit newer. It filled my heart with so much joy to see them experiencing that.”
Thompson says students have since used her yoga breathing techniques to calm themselves in stressful situations.
“For the most part, what I see in them is, ‘You’re here to offer me help and give me a tool I don’t have.’
“And they’re just so grateful for you to be there offering them a choice, a difference, a tool you can use.”