“Our children can handle quiet time if we cultivate the proper conditions for them to thrive at creating inner peace and quiet.” – Tejal Patel
Parents often find it hard to believe that their children can focus in class to meditate and stay quiet during relaxation time. As a children’s yoga teacher, I can attest that children absolutely can be still–the key is how you introduce the content to them. When I began teaching children’s yoga, one of the the things that most surprised me was that even the most active kids absolutely LOVE and look forward to the Savasana, or “deep relaxation, at the end of class. I’m not sure how much of it is the tender and loving head massage I give them or the quiet time, but both are powerful ways children love to relax.
Children are naturally more spiritually connected than adults because they don’t have the years of layering, limiting beliefs and ego domination that we do. With continued practice and repetition, it’s actually easier for children to shut down their ego and get into the meditation zone because they are still so connected to their inner voice.
So along with brain balancing yoga postures, in each one of my kids yoga classes, I teach key skills of deep conscious breathing, connecting to feelings and relaxation through guided meditations and quiet mindfulness meditation.
Here’s my biggest secret. In order for kids to slow down physically, we have to first focus on consciously slowing down breathing. The mind and ego slow down to follow the breath and the body follows the mind. If you teach kids the tools of deep breathing, you are imprinting the skills of allowing them to create space in their mind, body and soul for inner peace and calmness. This is an empowering tool they can use to help them handle the stress, anxiety and sadness they will face throughout their lives.
Here are some of the ways I teach children (between the ages 3-12) to meditate, learn deep breathing and enter into deep relaxation.
CHILDREN AGES 3-7
Connecting To Breath and Feelings: Lotus Breath
It’s no mystery that breathing can be a bore for children. I make it exciting by using certain yoga hand positions (mudras), songs and activities to make it fun. This is extremely helpful when teaching kids about their breath because it can be a difficult concept for them to grasp.
At the start of every class, we create our “lotus mudra” by touching our pinkies and thumbs together to create a lotus flower. We take a deep breath of our flower and imagine how we feel after we smell our flower. To get an idea of their energy level, I ask questions about how they feeling. For example, what color do you feel like? What’s your most favorite thing that happened today? It’s important to have children start the dialogue of the emotions they are feeling so that they can begin connecting to their pain, anger and happiness.
Sometimes children don’t know how they feel or their vocabulary may be limited, and that’s okay. It’s through our own ability to be fully present and tune into their essence that we can truly meet a child where they are and understand how they are feeling based on the energy they are exuding. Though I always have an idea of what my curriculum will look like for my class, I allow for flexibility based on the energy of my little yogi’s. This lotus breath helps me determine if they are energetic, tired or sensitive.
Meditation: Peaceful Piggy Meditation
Children at this age love stories. My go to book for teaching children how to meditate is The Peaceful Piggy Meditation. During class, I will read this story before we head off to Savasana. After Savasana, we try to sit up and meditate like the little piggies in the book. This book is great for understanding emotions and how meditation will help us calm down. In each class after I read this book, we will spend a few moments in quiet, upright meditation before we end the class.
CHILDREN AGES 8 & up
Connecting to Breath and Feelings: Bear Breath
Children at this age are being inundated with more stress, anxiety and frustration than ever before. This breathing technique can help children calm down after they have experienced a negative mood or emotion. It also helps when the mind and body needs to relax and slow down.
It’s imperative at this age to teach children the correct way to breathe. To breathe correctly, we inhale through our nose so that our belly expands like a balloon. Then, when we exhale through our nose, our belly gets pulled back to the spine. Once they grasp this, I move onto the bear breath. This breath entails breathing in through the nose for 4 counts, holding the breath for four counts and slowly releasing the breath for 4 counts through the nose.
This is a fabulous breathing technique to help children focus when they are doing homework, before sleeping or when they just need a “chill out” break because they are stressed, angry or sad. Slowing the breath down allows for more oxygen to go to the brain, and in essence, creates more mental clarity. Encourage your children to use this deep breathing technique when they are stressed out. The key is practicing this with them when they are in a peaceful state of mind so that they can turn to this breath without resistance when they really need to use it.
Meditation: Calming Guided Visualizations
For this age range, I either speak aloud or play a guided visualization during Savasana. One of my favorite guided meditations is the “Light Bath” to help infuse your entire body with positive, radiating energy, love and light.
I guide my students to scan their entire body and breathe into any areas of their body that is tense or holding on to anger or anxiety. I tell them to give themselves permission to release that negative energy and allow inner peace to flow through their head in the form of a pink light. I guide that pink light through every spot in their body and invite them to breath into each space and give awareness to each major body part (eyes, ears, mouth, arms, heart, legs brain). We end by giving thanks for all of our wonderful abilities that help us be happy, healthy and whole. I find that the children awaken feeling lighter and more at peace.
After learning the foundation of mindfulness and deep breathing in my yoga classes, I have found that the children who have the most success with becoming more calm and relaxed are the ones whose the parents are a role model of mindfulness and meditation. Children will emulate parents and incorporate these powerful tips at a younger age if parents are also practicing meditation. Children don’t learn by a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. They observe our actions and follow suit based on how we engage ourselves.
If you enjoyed these tips, certainly share the wealth with your family and friends. As the caretakers of the future, we have an important responsibility to raise our consciousness and lay the foundation to create the conditions for our children to thrive. Become the model for mindfulness by finding your inner peace and relaxation so you can become a conscious parent.
Originally Posted On DoYouYoga.Com
Thanks to Yoga Birdies for this article