Naturally any teaching must require certain modification and a selection of techniques that are most appropriate for the benefit of students of any age group and the practices of the traditional disciplines of Yoga are no exception.
For ease in teaching it is desirable for students to be grouped according to age as in other educational systems. This may be ideal but is not always possible and requires a certain number of students for this type of segregation. Separation of boys and girls in early years of say 3 years to 7 years is not usually necessary. Beyond this age is different.
Although general classes of children of various ages may be established, students will not be completely at ease unless with others of about the same age and it is worthwhile to consider a small nucleus class that will in time increase.
The teaching of Hatha Yoga is based upon the complementary character and interaction of electro-magnetic energies of nature that influence and maintain a balance in our physical and psychological health. The understanding of the pranas or positive and negative energies is fundamental in the philosophy and the practices related to the breath.
We all exist and function through the balancing of these natural forces and their natural expression through either male or female personalities, with the male to have the positive of Sun energies dominant and the female having the opposite Moon energies uppermost. In a subtle way these energies function by subconscious processes. In a more direct way, they are affected by our minds and state of consciousness.
It is as important for a boy to have an image of what he would wish to become in developing his manhood. Apart from his father as a role model, he needs to develop his own self image for the future – one based upon the warmth, strength, generosity and outgoing power that has the Sun as its symbol. Just as important it is that a girl follows the example of her mother as well as learning to develop the female virtues of gentleness, grace and sensitivity of an ideal woman symbolised by the Moon. This symbolism provides anchorage for establishing their values and influencing their behaviour.
The physical exercises in Hatha Yoga for boys are aimed at developing strength and will as those for girls concentrates upon flexibility and graceful movement. Both must learn the general exercises of traditional movements that develop full freedom of movement as well as muscular tone.
Teenagers , that is those from 13 – 17 years of age, have already been influenced by their home life, school life and the example of their peers to the extent that they often are so confident as to not be easily receptive to new ideas and will be more focussed upon the physical cultural aspects at commencement of their classes. However, by the wonderful benefits of relaxation practice they learn to release stress. By stillness of the mind and body in easy meditation they find the key to better concentration and discover a sense of their individual power to direct their lives and perhaps discover an increasing interest in philosophy.
Because of the importance of self discovery and self interest, it is relatively easy to introduce young students to the value of natural diet and consideration of avoiding killing of animals for food but it is not wise to emphasise the latter because of the necessity to respect their parents and the values in their home as not many homes have kitchens that are vegetarian.
There will be a natural inclination towards eating food that will build good health and a fine physique or a beautiful body and vanity helps sometimes to undertake what seems a difficult discipline or motivation toward changing habits.
These years however are of extreme importance in developing the intellectual powers and learning memory skills, exercising imagination and strengthening powers of concentration.
How to help these faculties is the demand made upon the yoga teacher who uses the time honoured techniques of classical Yoga.