It's that time of year again! Summer days are coming to a close and children are heading back to school. Starting up school again can weigh heavy on the anxious child. Here are some yoga inspired ways to help keep your child grounded, comforted and confident in this transition.
Breathing. Controlled breathing can help slow your child down and give them something to focus on. Even if your child isn't breathing quickly, or heavily, this practice can give them the feel of control and calm. Depending on age, there are three simple techniques to use.
For the toddler, teaching breathing techniques may be a slow process as they are learning to control their bodies. A great way to start is by blowing bubbles. Have them blow bubbles on their own at first, and then suggest that the next time they are ready to blow a bubble take a deep breath through their nose and out though their mouth and see if they can make a really big bubble. Once they have accomplished this, you can then move onto teaching them breathing in slowly through their nose and slowly out through their mouths.
For children who are able to breath in slowly through their nose and out through their mouth, the next step is to count the length of the breaths. Try counting up to 4 while breathing in through the nose, holding the breath for 1-2 counts at the top, and releasing through the nose or mouth for 4 counts. Repeat this exercise a few times. Try at first with their eyes open, then closed. Which way do they like better? Sitting up, lying down? Work with your child to find their favorite way.
For older children and teens who are able to count their breaths well, you can move onto belly breathing. Start this practice lying down. Breath in through the nose for 4 counts while inflating the belly up like a balloon. Hold the balloon full for 2 counts, and deflate through the nose or mouth for 4 counts. Repeat a few times. To lighten the experience up at first, the child can "pop the balloon" by poking their belly button before exhaling.
If the child responds well to these breathing techniques, work up to 10 reps of the technique. Figure out what time of day your child appears most anxious. Is it before they head off to school? After school? Before bed? Sunday nights? Include some breathing exercises at that time of day to release their anxiety and center them again.
Yoga Poses. Yoga poses are another useful tool to help your child deal with their anxiety in a physically inspiring way. The postures each elicit different feelings from the yogi, which can be an excellent tool in changing how they feel in a moment. I will focus on three poses to bring forth comfort, grounding, and confidence.
Comfort. Child's Pose allows the yogi to slow down their breathing, connect their forehead to the earth for focus, massage their bellies from discomfort, and feel safe. Curling up into a ball, similar to the fetal position, is a normal reaction for many when they feel unsafe or discomfort. Child's pose is a natural extension of this human behavior.
Grounding. Mountain Pose is a great way to reconnect to your body and the physical earth, and a way to get out of the head. Feeling all 4 corners of each foot connecting to the ground, and then the strength building in your body through the legs, stomach, shoulders, arms, neck and head brings us back into our bodies, feeling centered and balanced.
Confidence. Warrior II is such a strong pose eliciting strength and confidence. While holding strong through your legs with one straight and one bent, and reaching your arms pushing in opposite directions, gazing ahead, embracing your inner warrior, the child will be reminded of their inner-strength and self-confidence, and learn to embrace it.
These poses can be done on their own depending on what they child needs, or can be combined together to prompt a whole body experience. Try having your child practice these poses and end with a breathing technique mentioned above for a simple yoga practice.
There are many more facets of yoga that are beneficial to the anxious child, or even bringing focus to any child going back to school. My kids yoga classes embrace the many techniques that come from the 8 limbs of yoga to bring awareness, relaxation, mindfulness, meditation, postures, and breathing techniques into the lives of children. Let me know if you would like to learn more about how a yoga class may benefit your child by commenting below or sending me a message.
yoga, food, family, and travel. these are what drive my life! as a stay at home mom of 2 little girls with an active yoga practice. i longed to find the perfect yoga class for my own children. i felt a calling to a kids yoga teacher training in early November, 2017 and answered the call. in 2018, i felt called towards a greater mission. teaching teens & adults. today, i am living my dream.