During adolescence there is an increase in the activity of the neural
circuits using dopamine, a neurotransmitter key in creating the drive for
reward. This enhanced dopamine release causes adolescents to gravitate
toward thrilling experiences and exhilarating sensations. And teenage
behaviors exhibited can be impulsivity, susceptibility to addiction, and
hyper-rationality. All the above builds an even stronger case for
incorporating a “pause” in the daily life of an adolescent with a practice
of self awareness, reflection, and exercises to “prune” the circuitry of the
According to the World Health Organization 50 percent of all mental
diseases in adults originated at around age fourteen.
9 In studying the root
causes of these diseases most researchers will conclude that many of
these cases could have been prevented if the individuals had a stronger
set of life-skills; this paper contends that yoga is a pathway for the
development of these life-skills. Yoga also enhances the pruning and the
fine-tuning of the neuro-connections.
10 The refinement of circuitry and
the development of a healthy adolescent brain requires awareness,
practice, and reflection—it requires yoga. In laymen’s terms: Yoga turns
the “right” genes on.
Meditation is beneficial to all ages but especially important during
adolescence with fast growing synapses and restructuring going on. A
study entitled Mindful Meditation Improves Connections in the Brain
found increases in the grey matter density of areas involved in memory,
self-awareness, compassion and decreases in the amygdala region
associated with fear and stress among meditation practitioners.
Harvard study reinforces these findings and states that physical
education that included yoga classes had positive psychological effects
for high school students. It stated that yoga may serve as a preventative
role in adolescent mental health. Not surprisingly, the study showed that
physical education without yoga resulted in a higher rate of negative
emotions or more fluctuations of emotions. Clearly “negative emotions
and fluctuations of emotions” will have a detrimental impact on decision-making and on the pruning of the neural circuits.