Yoga and Mindfulness for children.
8 Family Yoga activities to help parents and children practice together
Staying calm for the outside world and staying calm when your guard is down at home and the stress is piling on top of you, is another thing all together. A huge reason I practice Yoga is to help me manage stress and anxiety. When I stay on top of my practices I just feel better. I am more able to manage stress, not just in the public eye but at home too.
This means less shouting at the kids, because they absolutely don't deserve that, which means less mum guilt and much more connection. It's tough though, those moments when you get so overstimulated and there is just so much noise. The thing is, to be a connected parent, we don't need to be perfect. We can do our best and we keep doing our best and that is enough. We all want the best for our children and those reading will have a keen interest in mental and emotional well-being. This is all going to help your child to thrive.
Helping your child to thrive
Helping your child to thrive sounds like something to take seriously.... but what if it could actually be quite playful? In this blog post I want to share with you 8 fun practices that you can do with your child that will help them to let go of stress, build self-awareness and build connection between you both.
Connection is what Amazing Me Yoga is all about. It can be so easy to get into our stress filled bubbles and avoid each other. Self-care is not something I've been naturally good at, it didn't come easy to find my flow with it. In fact what I considered self-care was usually ways to disconnect, which is nice sometimes but is it really self-care?
This is why I want to introduce the concept of together-care. Together care is a way that we can practice caring for our well-being - together. Now self-care is still essential, but by taking time to practice together as well will mean your child will be able to learn these tools from a young age. The best way of learning for children (and actually for grown-ups too I'd say) is through play!
Time together playing yoga games and practicing mindful activities together, is time well spent. Check out the 8 fun practices for you and your child. Perfect for some one to one time or some sibling bonding.
1. Booger Breath
Imagine you have a big booger in your nose and you need to get it out with out using your hands so you try and blow it out. Now imagine you have hundreds of boogers up there! Let’s practice the same thing but this time we want to blow loads of them out one at a time. We are going to do this by taking one long breath in through our nose and then lots of short little blows out of the nose to try get rid of those boogers! Keep going for as long as you can, until you need to take another breath, then we can try again!
2. Pack a Space Picnic
This game is a lot of fun and is also good for developing memory function. You could use yoga poses and movements for each thing said or play without.
The first person starts by saying “i went to space and I bought with me a ________________”. They say what they bought to space with them for their space picnic. It could be asteroid bites, a jam sandwich or a blanket.
Anything they can think to bring. For this example let’s say a blanket.
The second person then says “I went to space and I bought with me a blanket and a (New thing added here).”
This can work with just the two of you playing going back and forth or in a very large group! Each time the person who’s turn it is repeats everything said so far and then adds their new thing at the end. You can play this for as long as you can remember everything or as long as it is fun for!
3. Magical Creatures
This is a game where you can use visual props such as yoga cards or stuffed animals or even pictures from a book. You could even just use your imagination. The idea is that you both think of an animal pose (such as downward facing dog, cat pose or just one that’s completely made up). You show the other person your pose and say what animal it is. Then you create a magical creature inspired by both of those poses to create a very unique pose. This could be done on your own or it becomes a partner pose (could also work with a three). You could come up with a dragon dog pose, or a cow horse pose. Have fun and create something new together.
4. Turbulent Massage
Start on all fours with your hands on the mat, shoulder-width apart and your knees directly under your hips. Your child can then lie on top of you, facing up towards the ceiling, with their lower back resting on your low back/bottom and their head nestled between your shoulder blades. Take a deep breath in and feel the connection between you and your child. They let their arms relax and surrender into your support. It can be helpful to have a third person helping them into position if possible. Then start moving between cat and cow pose gently to create the turbulent massage.
5. Roll The Yoga Dice
For this game you will need to decide on six poses you would like to practice. Assign one pose for each number off the dice. Everyone takes turns in rolling the dice. Whichever number it lands on, you see which pose is assigned to that number and then everyone practices it together.
6. Love it or Leave it
Your child starts in a star pose, (standing in a wide legged stance with arms open wide). You call out different objects/ animals/ foods etc. If the child loves what you have called out, they wrap their arms around themselves to give themselves a big hug. If they don’t like it, they can come down into a forward fold. If they are undecided or are in between they can come into a chair pose.
You can always change the poses around to practice different poses if preferred too, decide together at the start of the game. Some examples of words you can call out are: Sunshine, swimming in the sea, making sandcastles, sand in your shoes, jellyfish, crabs, ice-cream, chips, chocolate, broccoli, wet socks etc. The possibilities are endless.
7. Heart Filled With Love
Sit comfortably facing each other with eyes closed or making eye contact.
8. Yoga Jenga
This is a favourite of my children and of my students. I took a Jenga set (or similar stacking wooden blocks game) and I wrote poses and breathing practices on the blocks, leaving a few of them blank. We take turns removing a block and placing it on the top of the tower, like the usual rules of the game except if the block has writing on it then we follow that instruction all together after it gets placed on the tower. For example "Take 5 breaths" we all take 5 breaths, or "Cobra pose" we all practice Cobra pose. The game keeps going until the tower tumbles, and then sometimes we'll even play again. Once we have finished we usually have a moment just building our own creations with the blocks. This is a great mindful activity that helps children to be calm and present, and can help if you want to transition into a relaxation to finish your yoga time together.
Which game will you be playing?
There you have it! 8 games you can practice with your child at home (or even your students if any teachers are reading). The most important thing is to have fun with it, be present and focus on that connection. Comment below and let me know which game you will be playing!
Check out this video next!
11/5/2023 0 Comments
Do you know those mornings?
I know when you are tired, play is probably the last thing on your mind. You may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated yourself during their high energy moments and I want you to know that how you are feeling is okay. Please be gentle with yourself. Just as their nervous system is out of balance, yours may be too. These practices may just help you both come back into a balance.
The nervous system is in a state of overstimulation
Play is crucial for a child's nervous system development, especially for hyperactive children like those with ADHD. When a child is hyperactive, their nervous system is often in a state of overstimulation, making it challenging for them to focus and regulate their emotions. Yoga and mindfulness offer valuable tools to help these children.
Playful yoga can help balance this energy
In hyperactive children, their bodies are flooded with excess energy, making it difficult for them to channel it appropriately, and when you haven't got much energy yourself, this can feel intense.
Engaging in playful yoga poses can help them release or balance this energy and develop body awareness. Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or simple meditation, can teach them to manage their impulses and stay present in the moment.
Saying "Calm Down" just doesn't work
Instead of just asking them to calm down, parents can playfully incorporate yoga and mindfulness techniques into games. Here are 5 of my favourite games and practices I do with my children when they are feeling hyperactive...
1. Pizza restaurant
This is one we played before even leaving the bed this morning. Sometimes our pizza massages (where you pretend to make a pizza on your child's back, kneading the dough, spreading the sauce etc) are a really calm practice but because he had so much energy it involved some playful wrestling to prepare the pizza. Pizza restaurant usually involves some run away dough that you catch and start to try turn them into pizza. I use massage and hugs and sometimes when my child wants some tickling (because he loves tickles.) With any game we use positive touch, it's always child led. Consent is always asked for before we start the game and they can say no or stop anytime they have had enough. My children love these types of games and for my eldest, it is fun because they are not a hugger so having this playful way to connect with positive touch is really great.
Physical contact and proprioceptive input can have a calming effect on the nervous system
When engaged in this game, children experience physical contact and proprioceptive input, which can have a calming effect on their nervous system. Proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles, and connective tissues) helps them become more aware of their body's movements and positions, promoting a sense of body awareness and control.
For hyperactive children, who often struggle with sensory processing, positive touch provides a grounding sensation. It allows them to release pent-up energy in a controlled and safe environment, preventing them from feeling overwhelmed.
2. Mr McGregors Garden
This game has evolved so much over the years! It used to be sneaky trees, then it was grumpy neighbour and now we call it Mr McGregor's garden (from Peter Rabbit) because the grumpy neighbour reminded one of my students of Mr McGregor (Thank you Josh for the brilliant idea!).
This game takes having some space, the length of a room, or get outside if possible (getting outside will have added benefits that will help in calming hyper children!). It can even be played in the kitchen while the kettle is boiling. This is a favourite in both my classes and at home.
How to play
You stand at one end of the room (or a chosen point outside) and your child or children stand at the other end, leaving a decent amount of space between you. The idea here is that you are Mr McGregor and you do not want bunnies in your garden! When you are not watching they must hop like bunnies to get to the other side and tap you on the shoulder (or get to the wall). When you are looking , they must stand still in tree pose. This will help with balance and focus. You can then switch around so they can be Mr McGregor.
I like to make this game super dramatic. Be as grumpy as you can, tune into that character who really does not want bunnies in his garden! I usually say "I only want to see trees in my garden."
I take a walk around inspecting the trees too, this encourages children to hold the pose a little longer. Encourage them to change sides each side (change the standing leg).
Decide with the children what the rules should be if they get caught moving. Do they have to go back to the start, go back a few steps or stay still from that moment? We want to keep this fun and if their is confusion about the rules, especially when playing with multiple children, it can take-away from the fun! When one child is arguing that another player has to go back to the start but that player thinks they should stay where they are - it can bring frustration, so I recommend making it clear.
3. Stop and Go
There are a few ways I play this with my children. I have used it when my 4 year old (at the time) was feeling too hyper to stand still and brush his teeth, I have used it to balance energy before bed and I have used it just for fun during our Family Yoga practices. The idea here is that we are balancing energy by using opposites.
For example, when I was brushing my little ones teeth and he was feeling hyper, I told him to run down the corridor and back again, then he'd have to stand statue still. I'd do a few brushes and then tell him to run again. The balance of high energy and stillness. I didn't need to struggle to brush his teeth, I met his energy, helped him to find stillness - even just for a moment and it was fun!
We also do this with dance parties in the kitchen. This can be like a musical statues approach where the music plays and then you pause it and everyone freezes (this could even be in a yoga pose, I like to use yoga cards and hold up a different yoga card every time the music stops). You could also use songs that use contrasts - my favourites are:
All I wanna do is dance - Kira Willey
The Goldfish - The Laurie Berkner Band
Party Freeze Dance - The Kilboomers
Yoga Clock (Tick Tock) - Karma Kids Yoga
4. Balloon Breath
When we engage in deep breathing or pranayama practices, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us feel calm and centered. This is especially important for hyper children, who may spend too much time in a state of sympathetic activation.
By teaching our children to focus on their breath and practice calming techniques, we can help them regulate their nervous systems and find a sense of balance.
One simple breathing exercise that children can practice is called "balloon breath." To do this exercise, have your child sit comfortably and take a deep breath in. As they inhale, encourage them to imagine that they're filling up a balloon in their belly. Then, as they exhale, have them imagine that they're slowly letting the air out of the balloon. Repeat this exercise for several breaths, encouraging your child to focus on the sensation of their breath moving in and out of their body. This can also be practiced laying down.
If your child struggles to visualise the balloon, place a teddy on their belly and encourage them to lift the teddy on an inhale and lower the teddy on the exhale.
If you'd like to work with the breath more you may be interested in this Free Pranayama Guide.
5. Downward Facing Dog Pose
This pose helps children release excess energy and tension while building strength in their arms and legs. To do the downward dog, come onto all fours with your child. Then lift your hips up and back, keeping a bend in the knees and finding length in the spine (this means not rounding the back or putting too much pressure on the wrists). From here you can find any movement that feels good, like bending one knee and then the other.
If your child has a lot of energy, you could even take turns being the dog and the owner. The owner takes the dog for a walk around the room. Children love the silliness of being a dog but being the owner makes for an interesting role reversal where the child gets to be the one in charge. This can be really good especially for children who often feel powerless (think younger siblings who might get 'bossed around').
The 'dog' can be encouraged to sit and stay as well as walk - this plays back into the 'Stop and Go' I shared earlier. When your child is still either in a sitting position, laying down or holding dog pose, encourage slow breaths - you could even practice panting like a dog! With one big inhale and then lots of little exhales.
The struggle is real
Let me start by saying, I see you. I see you running after your hyper child, trying to get them to calm down so you can finally sit and have that much-needed coffee. I know it's not easy. But supporting their nervous system and managing their stress through playful yoga games and mindfulness will make such a difference.
As a parent myself, I understand the struggle. I used to tell my hyper child to calm down, just like many of you probably do, actually I'm pretty sure I still catch myself saying it! But then I discovered the power of play and mindfulness. I started engaging in these practices with my child, and the change was palpable. My child became more in tune with their body and emotions, and I became more connected with them.
So, fellow parents, caregivers and teachers, I invite you to join me in this journey of supporting our children's emotional and mental well-being. Let's be playful with our children, let's engage in yoga games together, let's practice mindfulness and meditation with them. Let's not just tell our children to calm down, let's show them how to calm down (and have some fun along the way!).
Remember you are your child's best teacher. Take notice of what helps them and what maybe making them more hyper!
Together, we can create a world where our children thrive emotionally and mentally.
Doors are open and I'd love to welcome you into our community!
Family Yoga Game Night is a place where we make looking after children's well-being fun and accessible!
In today's world, with so much going on, it is more important than ever to prioritize our children's well-being. As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children grow up with the tools they need to not just survive, but to thrive!
My mission is to help create a comforting and supportive environment where children can thrive and manage stress. I believe in mindful and conscious parenting techniques and love communicating with children through play. I use this as inspiration for how to teach children the amazing practice that is Yoga.
Join me today and let's work together to support children's nervous systems and promote their overall well-being.
Other Posts Of Interest
What games and practices will you be trying? Does anything else work for your child when they are hyper? Comment below!
The Nervous System
When we think of the nervous system we often think of it as 2 parts. It's like having scales that are sometimes perfectly balanced, but other times one side is heavier than the other. These two systems are called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
When we feel hyper or anxious, our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear and makes us feel like we need to fight, flee, or freeze. It's like being in superhero mode, ready to act quickly. But when we're relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over and helps us digest and absorb nutrients. It's like being in rest mode, ready to chill out.
Understanding these two systems can help us support our children better. When they're feeling anxious or stressed, we can help them activate their parasympathetic system by doing things like deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, or practicing yoga. This can help them feel better and manage their stress. When your little one is feeling stressed, remember that their nervous system is like a balance scale, and you can help them find their balance again.
The Four Stress Responses
There are four different stress responses - Fight, Flight, Freeze (mentioned above) and one I discovered recently from The Reconnected - The Golden Child. Stress can look different in children than it does in adults. Children’s nervous systems are not fully developed and they are still learning so much. They also quite often (except for the golden child) don’t let other peoples judgements and feelings determine how they express their emotions, they will just let them authentically come out exactly how they are feeling them in that moment.
Freeze is something we sometimes experience in the morning. I’m asking the kids to put their shoes on and they are stuck. They don’t have any get up and go, they are quite ‘dreamy’. This is like us when we need to go and make the dinner but we literally can’t face getting up and making it. You ever get that feeling? Like not just tiredness, but really like you can’t take any more, you just feel stuck. Children are often held at higher standards than us adults, but they experience stress too, so really it is understandable that they get these moments when we think about it. When they say “I don't know” when we are asking them for the fifth time where their shoes are, it’s because at that moment, they actually don’t know.
The fight response is the explosive child. I definitely had moments like this when I was younger especially when it came to my siblings. I would see red! This is something I see in my youngest. The explosive child can be quite assertive. Sometimes it can feel like you’re walking on eggshells to avoid a major meltdown or tantrum. It is the response that most parents seek help with because it can be quite intense.
Flight response can look like running away, hyperactivity, being avoidant and basically not wanting to be present with what is going on. They may avoid eye contact or be quite fidgety and restless.
The Golden Child
The golden child is one I can also relate to and it is one I try to pay mindful attention to with my own children and children in my classes because these children often get missed. Even when stressed, they are more concerned about what is going on around them. They are wanting everyone else to be okay, even at their own expense. Someone will take their toy, and they’ll say that it is okay to just keep the peace. They may push down how they are feeling or they may fret about wanting everything to be perfect. They may get frustrated when things aren’t good enough and may have high expectations of themselves. They may apologize a lot or seek outside validation.
The Yoga Sutras
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text written over 5,000 years ago, actually has a lot to say about the breath and how it can affect our minds. When our minds are feeling all over the place, our breath can be a great tool in helping us understand why we're feeling this way.
Patanjali also believed that by focusing on our breath, we could bring our minds into a state of tranquillity. Helping children to understand that by paying attention to their breath, they can help calm their minds and feel more peaceful is an important lesson. It's amazing how something as simple as breathing can have such a powerful impact on our well-being! It is fascinating that 5,000 years ago, yogis knew the power of the breath for regulating.
Here's How Playful Yoga Can Help
One effective technique to help regulate your child's nervous system is through playful yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to help children connect with their bodies and calm their minds. By using poses that focus on deep breathing and gentle movement, yoga can help release tension and bring a sense of calm to your child's body and mind.
We can use both up-regulating and down-regulating techniques. Up-regulating techniques, such as dancing around and playing, can help release excess energy and tension. Down-regulating techniques, such as cuddling, massage and quiet time, can help soothe your child's nervous system and bring them into a more relaxed state. These are elements you'll often see in my classes (and in my home practice). We'll be very energetic and play fun games, we'll be practicing energetic and focused yoga sequences, and we'll practice calm games, quiet activities and restorative poses.
Remember the image of the scales, and bringing this back into balance? That is exactly what we are aiming for with these techniques. I meet the energy of the children in front of me and I work to bring to balance, while having fun together along the way.
Conscious Parenting Techniques
In addition to yoga, conscious parenting techniques can also be helpful in managing your child's stress levels. By being present with your child, actively listening and validating their feelings, you can help them feel seen and heard. This can go a long way in helping them feel more secure and less stressed.
As a mother, I have found these techniques to be incredibly helpful in supporting my children's emotional and mental well-being (as well as keeping up my own Yoga practices for my own well-being). By taking a mindful and conscious approach to caring for children, we can help our children manage stress and thrive in today's world.
Free 5 Day Challenge!
A 5 Day Challenge to help children with their emotional well-being in just 15 minutes a day.
Plus bonus breathwork guide including pranayama practices you can do with your children for better well-being!
Emotion Explorers: Conscious Calming Techniques for Kids
Other Posts of interest:
5 Minute restorative Yoga for young children - calm your little yogis nervous system with this simple pose
There goes a parent doing the famous walk out of a playcentre holding their child who is kicking and punching their arms everywhere while screaming their head off. I think it's a walk we've all done at some point.
Our logical brain tells us, why are they doing this? We just brought them to a fun place for a few hours and we really didn't have to. We may think they just don't want the fun to end, and while that is a part of it, that's not all that is going on here.
While they are engrossed in play, there is a lot more going on. There is so much noise, so many colours, so many people and so much to do! It's exciting!
This excitement is great and there are so many benefits to this time but it can be a lot for little minds to process, and then the idea of leaving…. I imagine it's a similar feeling to if someone just walked over and took my coffee right now haha.
I actually come to expect how dysregulated my 5 year old will be after being in places like this. While I may not have to carry him out like an angry crocodile that just took up boxing anymore (for the most part, fingers crossed) I do know that the time after is important. We take this time to regulate again. This could be with a few breaths, getting out in nature or a short yoga practice - just moving the body can be a great help,
It is so important to take time to help your child to regulate their nervous systems. In this post I will share with you:
What is self-regulation?
Does Regulation mean being calm all the time?
Being calm all the time is not a realistic goal. Not for us as adults and certainly not for our children. Regulation refers to our ability to ground ourselves after being dysregulated. Dysregulation happens, that's life and it's important to our survival* but can we tap into the present moment and bring back some balance? Of course, and sometimes it's more challenging than other times. I know for me it came as a great relief that it's okay to not be calm all the time.
*The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body's "fight, flight, freeze" response. When we perceive a threat, this system kicks in, releasing hormones that increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This prepares us to either fight the threat, run away from it or become avoidant of the situation. This response is critical in situations where we need to protect ourselves from danger.
On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body's "rest and digest" response. This system helps us return to a state of calm after a stressful event. It slows down our heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, allowing us to relax and recover.
Both of these systems are important for our survival. However, dysregulation can make it difficult for us to shift between these two states. This can lead to chronic stress and other negative health outcomes. By helping children learn how to regulate their emotions and behaviours', we can support their nervous systems and help them manage stress more effectively.
Why is self-regulation important?
Co-regulation is when we help our child come into a balanced state. We help them to feel safe and secure. This is important in helping them learn self-regulation. They need our help to do this because their nervous system is still developing. We have a fully developed nervous system as an adult so children actually borrow what's going on with our neuro biology to help themselves to regulate.
When we practice self-awareness we start to notice how we are feeling, where we are feeling it and if anything feels ‘off’. We can start to be really intune with ourselves which helps us to understand our triggers and behaviours.
Stress can really throw a spanner in the works. We may know how to behave and respond but if we are stressed it is much harder to regulate. The stress can build up and build up within our body unless we can mindful of it and practice ways of releasing pent up stress.
By practicing Yoga we are helping our body and mind to manage stress in a healthy way. This will help us to regulate and respond to stressful situations in a way that is going to be less harmful to ourselves and relationships with others.
3 Yoga games to practice self-regulation
Yoga Freeze Dance
Dancing is such a great way to move our bodies. This game helps with self-regulating because the children go from moving around and using up lots of energy to having to freeze completely still! We are using up-regulating techniques to either help children with excess energy or give children with low energy a lift.
For this game I like to select some music that the kids enjoy, and we dance freely to the music. I then pause the music at random intervals, and everyone must freeze. I like to add some yoga into this game by having everyone freeze in a certain yoga pose or choose their own.
Poses that work well with this game are mountain pose and tree pose. You can also play around with different speeds - faster music and slower calmer music. This can help with regulating the speed of movements.
In this game we use Jenga blocks with names of poses on them. Jenga is a game where wooden blocks are stacked in layers. Children must take one block, read what pose is on that block, practice that pose for 3 to 5 breaths and then place the block on the top of the tower. The aim of the game is to make the tower as tall as possible without it knocking over. I don’t do competition in my yoga sessions so we usually work as a team here rather than the person who knocks it over being deemed a ‘loser’. We just set it back up and try again when it falls.
This game is great for self-regulating, because it requires patience, breathing in different yoga poses and slow and mindful movements. The game requires a small amount of stress (is the tower going to fall?!) that children are able to breathe through and pause from to practice their poses.
Okay so this is not a game but you can definitely have some fun with them! I will share another game you can practice using sun salutations in a moment but you can also practice them with fun songs, or just focusing on the breath. Honestly this is one of my favourite ways to self-regulate! I love practicing this sequence with my children and my groups. It is one that we visit often.
The repetition is so important. It really helps build muscle memory, we know what is coming next. Because we know what is coming next, this can be comforting for the body and help us really tune into our breathing as we move.
Songs I love to practice sun salutations to are
This is a fun game when learning how to practice Sun Salutations. Start by practicing the sequence as normal. Then let your child know that you are going to miss out on one of the poses. Ask them to instead of calling out the pose to show you which pose was missing at the end. This game is great for memory and focus as well as helping with self-regulation. Once they know the sequence quite well, switch and you can be the Yoga detective.
Yoga games are such a fun way to learn and practice yoga with your child and to help them ground their energy and support their nervous system. In this post we looked at what self-regulation is, why it is important, debunking the myth of regulation meaning being calm all the time, and we shared some fun ways that you can help your child learn and practice these skills through games.
If you want to keep the fun going be sure to sign up for my online membership Family Yoga Game Night!
Other posts of interest:
10/13/2023 0 Comments
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic
The nervous system is divided into two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system is responsible for the "fight or flight" response, which is triggered when we sense danger (real or perceived). This response can cause anxiety, stress, and other challenging emotions. The parasympathetic system is responsible for the "rest and digest" response, which helps us relax and feel calm.
Supporting your child
To support your children's nervous system health, it is important to engage the parasympathetic system through relaxation techniques. This can include simple exercises like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga.
These practices can help your children feel more grounded, centered, and focused.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that is made up of two words: prana and yama. Prana means life force or breath, while yama means to control. Together, pranayama means the extension or control of your breath.
Pranayama is an essential part of yoga practice, and it involves various breathing techniques that help calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. Practicing pranayama helps to regulate the breath and enhance the flow of prana throughout the body. This, in turn, can help to improve the functioning of various bodily systems, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
In children's yoga classes, we often incorporate simple pranayama exercises to help children relax and focus. We may use techniques such as deep breathing, belly breathing, or alternate nostril breathing to help children connect with their breath and find a sense of calm and balance. By practicing pranayama, children can learn to manage their emotions, increase their self-awareness, and develop healthy habits for body and mind.
So, how can pranayama help us shift into the parasympathetic response? It's all about that good ol' oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. When we take slow, deep breaths, we're increasing the amount of oxygen in our bodies and decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide. This triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us relax and de-stress.
But wait, there's more! Pranayama can also help regulate our heart rate and blood pressure, two things that are often elevated during times of stress. By practicing pranayama, we can train our bodies to respond in a calmer and more controlled way to stressful situations.
So, there you have it - pranayama isn't just about taking deep breaths and feeling relaxed (although that's certainly a perk!), it's also about training our bodies to respond in a healthy and balanced way to the ups and downs of life. So the next time you're feeling stressed or anxious, or need to help your child with big emotions, take a deep breath together and know that you're doing your nervous system a world of good.
Here is a simple breathing exercise to try with your children.
This practice can have multiple benefits for your mental and emotional well-being. Firstly, it can help you to relax and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. By focusing on the sensation of holding the dandelion and watching the seeds float away, you can take your mind off of any worries or concerns you may have, allowing you to feel more calm and centered.
Close your eyes if you would like to and imagine that you are holding a dandelion in your hands. It is white and fluffy. Notice its shape and how it feels in your hand. Take a big breath in through the nose and then slowly and gently blow the dandelion until each seed floats away with the wind. Take a few natural breaths here as you watch them float away into the distance. Open your eye if they were closed and notice how you feel. You may even choose to pick another imaginary dandelion to repeat this activity.
This is just one of the practices I have included in my latest Freebie - 5 Practices to calm
the body and mind.
By incorporating these simple exercises into your daily routine, you can help support your children's nervous system health and overall well-being. Remember, it takes time and practice to develop these skills, so be patient and consistent with your efforts. Your children will thank you for it!
Grab your free Pranayama Guidebook here > 5 Practices to calm the body and mind.
Blog Posts of Interest
9/30/2023 0 Comments
Children who have developed emotional intelligence are better able to communicate their feelings and needs, and they are more empathetic towards others. This leads to better friendships, less conflict, and a more positive outlook on life. They are better able to manage stress and challenges that come their way.
Practicing Yoga and Mindfulness
One of the most effective ways to help children develop emotional intelligence is through practicing yoga and mindfulness. Yoga and mindfulness help children become more aware of their thoughts and feelings while teaching them how to regulate their emotions in a healthy way. By learning to focus on the present moment, children can learn to manage their emotions and reduce stress and anxiety.
Playful Games and Activities
Incorporating yoga and mindfulness into your child's daily routine can be a fun activity that you can do together. Here are a few examples of playful ways that can help develop emotional intelligence in children:
1. Yoga Poses
Yoga poses can help children develop body awareness, balance, and concentration. You can encourage your child to try different poses such as the tree pose, downward facing dog, and moving between cat and cow pose using the breath. You can use yoga cards or play games such as Yogi says (much like Simon says! but instead 'Yogi' gives the instruction) to make this even more playful. You get more game ideas here.
2. Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is a simple yet effective way to help children regulate their emotions. Encourage your child to take slow breaths in and out, and to focus on the sensation of the air moving in and out of their body.
3. Emotion Charades
Emotion charades is a game where children act out different emotions such as happy, sad, angry, and scared. This game can help children recognize and understand different emotions. Use your whole body or just facial expressions. I like to use a coloured sensory scarf to drape over our faces so full attention is on each other, blocking everything else out. I also like to play mirror my face using this same concept, where the other person tries to mirror what the other person is expressing.
4. Gratitude Journaling
Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal where they write down or draw things they are thankful for each day. This activity can help children develop a positive outlook on life and increase their emotional resilience. It is amazing how many things skip us by when we don't think about it. Things we really were grateful for in that moment, skip us by because of our busy lives or we were on to the next thing. By taking time to slow down and think about those things again, not only do we get to remember everything we are thankful for but we get to experience and tap into that feeling of gratitude once again.
By teaching your child to be more mindful and aware of their emotions, you'll be setting them up for a happier and more fulfilling life. Incorporating playful games and activities into your child's daily routine can make learning emotional intelligence fun and engaging. So, start practicing yoga and mindfulness with your child today and watch them grow into emotionally intelligent individuals.
The intention of this challenge is to really help your child learn how to check in with how they are feeling, identify different emotions and start to practice ways to calm themselves down.
This challenge aims to help families develop emotional intelligence through awareness, support and expression. The practices selected for each day are intended to promote physical and emotional well-being.
Other blog posts of interest
9/24/2023 0 Comments
Today we are going to talk about a very important style of yoga that is often overlooked when it comes to practicing with children - restorative yoga. As a children's yoga teacher, I understand that some people might think it's impossible for young children to sit still and be calm. I often share about how children do not need to sit still and be calm to practice yoga! I have two wild ones myself and I know if I tell them to sit still and be calm.....it’s not going to happen easily. You know those moment where you’re sat in a nice restaurant and the food is taking a bit too long and your little one is starting to get restless and they start climbing on the seat and you tell them to sit down but you can see their hold body is desperate to move around - Yes, I get it. Staying still can be challenging.
The Nervous System
First, let's talk about the nervous system. Children's nervous systems are still developing, and they can easily become overstimulated by the world around them. When this happens, they might become hyperactive or irritable. Restorative yoga can help to calm the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and relaxation.
So, what does restorative yoga look like for young children? It doesn't have to be a long practice - even just a few minutes of stillness and deep breathing can make a big difference. I like to call restorative yoga, cosey yoga with my little ones. We make it as cosey as we can by using props such as bolsters, cushions and blankets.
The Sleeping Butterfly
One of my favourite restorative poses for young children is the "sleeping butterfly." Have your child lie on their back with the soles of their feet together and their knees out to the sides. Place a small pillow or blanket under their head and play some soothing music. Encourage them to take slow breaths in and out. If they would like to they can close their eyes or use an eye pillow! (Comment below if you'd like to see a tutorial for how to make your own with the children at home!)
Variations: Bring more support into this pose by placing yoga blocks or cushions under the child's knees and even their hands.
You can also practice this pose using a bolster.
To practice sleeping butterfly pose with a bolster, start by placing a bolster or rolled up blanket behind your child, so they are sitting against the bottom of it. Then have them bring the soles of their feet together and their knees out to the sides, like the wings of a butterfly.
Next, gently encourage your child to recline back onto the bolster, supporting their head and shoulders against it, allowing them to relax and deepen the stretch in their hips. Once they are comfortable, encourage your child to breathe deeply and relax into the pose. You can also guide them in imagining that they are a butterfly, flapping their wings and flying through the air.
See how to practice ‘The Sleeping Butterfly Pose’ by watching this tutorial >>
By incorporating restorative yoga into your family's yoga practice, you are not only helping your child to calm their nervous system, but you are also setting a good example for them. Rest is just as important as movement, and by prioritizing both in your family's yoga practice, you are helping your child to develop a well-rounded yoga practice that will serve them for years to come.
So, let's all take a deep breath together and remember - rest is just as important as movement. Happy resting, yogi family!
Other Blog Posts of interest
How to meditate without staying still
9/17/2023 0 Comments
Drive Your Way to Mindful Play
Joining their world of play
I sat down and I started to play with the cars with my son (on our yoga mat). After playing his way, I asked him if he could make a tunnel by doing a downward facing dog and I would see if I could get the cars through with a big push. He was excited to try this out! We did a few like this, taking it in turns and then I wanted to add the breath too. I asked if he could try blow the cars down as they drove - this was quite funny because some of the cars did coincidently roll over because of the way I had pushed them but it looked like he was flipping them over with his breath.
We tried a few different poses to see which ones would make good tunnels (and which ones wouldn’t!). Then he had an idea, what if we made our body into a ramp! We explored which poses would make good ramps! Driving the cars up and down each pose was lots of fun and sound effects were definitely a welcome part of this practice. Next, we sat opposite each other and basically played pass the car, taking turns to push it to each other. But, because we wanted to make this part of our yoga practice, we incorporated our breath. We breathed in as I pushed the car to him, and breathed out as he pushed the car to me.
This is one of my favourite practices to do near the end of a family yoga session - the steam roller! For this I get my bolster as my child lays on their stomach and I roll it over them like a steam roller. This can also be done with a cushion, smooshing each part of their body down (in fact we do this with a cushion every night right now too as part of his bedtime routine). The gentle pressure is really calming and grounding (just make sure you’re checking in with them that it feels good, and asking if they want more, less or to stop). Then switch around! Only smoosh gently and not on the face of course! Just lightly on the body, arms and legs.
Bonus way to practice this is by getting them to be the steam roller! I share this practice in this video >>
Now there was some peaking, but that’s okay, he stayed there while I encouraged him to breathe slowly and I put the toy cars on him. I put them on his legs, arms, belly and chest. When he opened his eyes and we were done, I said okay let’s see if we got them all and I started to take the cars off slowly as I counted them - this gave him a little extra time in his resting pose. Remember you are not looking for this to be a certain way, it doesn't even have to be a super calm and quiet moment. The main goal here is to be present and focus on connection.
Then he wanted me to have a go at laying in savasana, which I very reluctantly did. Joke, I was delighted. I laid down and closed my eyes very happily. He even got a picture of the cars balanced on me after.
Now that I am writing this, I wonder if we could have done more than 12 cars?! Can you do more than 12? Try this car practice with your child and let me know how many cars you can balance on your child or they can balance on you while lying in savasana (resting pose).
I will give a special prize to anyone who can send me a video or picture on Instagram tagging me @amazing_me_yoga ;)
Mia from Playful Heart Parenting kindly shared some games to add to this blog post for the car enthusiasts here! I love her playful approach to parenting and she shares such imaginative ideas! Here is what she shared:
Toy cars just have that timeless appeal when it comes to lighting up a child’s world with wonder and joy. But, let’s be honest — the thought of getting down on the floor and just rolling the car back and forth might feel more like a chore than a chance to connect with your kid. Here are a few out-of-the-box, creative ways to have fun with your kids with toy cars that will spark creativity and connection:
Mia has so much to share about play! I absolutely love the gems she shares! Go and have a look at her other posts at playfulheartparenting.com and connect with her over on Instagram at @playfulheartparenting
Other posts of interest:
Three games you can play at home to beat rainy day boredom
Here are some ways that parents and teachers can encourage play and help children develop to their fullest potential.
1. Encourage imaginative play
Children have amazing imaginations, and by giving them the space and materials to play, you are helping them to think creatively and develop problem-solving skills. Whether it's building a fort out of blankets or creating a story with action figures, imaginative play allows children to explore their own ideas and develop their own solutions.
2. Make time for outdoor play
Not only does outdoor play help children develop their gross motor skills and improve their physical health, but it also encourages them to engage with nature. Whether it's climbing trees, playing tag, or simply exploring the world around them, children can learn so much from being outside and experiencing the world first hand.
3. Play with your child
It's also important to play with your child. Playing together not only helps to build a strong bond, but it also helps to develop their social skills and emotional intelligence. Whether it's playing a game of catch, practicing partner poses, or doing a puzzle together, taking the time to play with your child can have a big impact on their development.
4. Use play as a teaching tool
Play can also be used as a teaching tool. By using play to teach new concepts and skills, you can make learning fun and engaging for your child. Whether it's playing a game to learn math or using puppets to teach language skills, incorporating play into learning can help your child develop a love of learning that will last a lifetime.
This is also why children's yoga has so many playful elements involved. Yoga can help children develop mindfulness, self-awareness, and relaxation skills, which are all important for managing stress and anxiety. By incorporating playful elements like animal poses, songs, and games, children's yoga becomes a fun and engaging way for children to learn these skills.
5. Make time for play
It's important to make play a priority in your child's life. With busy schedules and endless distractions, it can be easy to forget the importance of play. But by making play a priority, you are helping your child to develop into a well-rounded, happy individual.
As a tired and busy parent myself, I know how hard it can be to tap into our own playful sides. But by taking the time to play with our children and encouraging their imaginative play, we are helping them to develop to their fullest potential. So why not take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and go and play? Your child (and your inner child) will thank you!
Need some inspiration?
Those who know me would be able to tell you that I am passionate about teaching children how to care for their well-being. I do this through playful games and fun activities. In my membership Family Yoga Game Night I include imaginative play, connecting with nature, playing with each other, playing as a teaching tool and I help even the busiest of families make time for play!
Incorporating imaginative play into your yoga sessions is a fantastic way to engage children's minds and keep them interested in what they're doing. By encouraging them to use their imaginations, you're also helping them to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills, which will serve them well throughout their lives.
You'll never be short of playful ideas, as each month you'll get access to a collection of games, mindful practices and yoga sequences. Perfect for your home practices or for teachers to use in their lesson plans.
Enrolment is now open!
What is Family Yoga Game Night?
Discover how to effortlessly manage stress and anxiety, create and maintain healthy family routines, and connect with other parents in a supportive community.
This is your opportunity to finally address the challenges of raising emotionally intelligent children in a meaningful way, with the guidance and accountability of experienced children's yoga teachers.
This is the only online course that offers age-appropriate activities and resources for children aged 4 to 12, while also empowering parents to develop emotional regulation skills and let go of societal expectations.
Join us and discover the transformative power of practicing yoga and mindfulness with your children.
Click here to see what is included in Family Yoga Game Night.
Becoming a master builder
Yesterday, I became the ultimate builder with my kids. We ventured into the trees, determined to build our own den. When we got there, we found a beautiful den that had already been built and I asked the kids "Do you want to play in this one, or will we still build our own?". The answer was of course "Build our own!".
We don't buy lego sets that are already made, because where's the fun in that?! Playing with the set is fun for a while, but most of the time it goes on a shelf for display or gets broken up and made into something else.
We wanted to create something unique and special, something that we had created together!
And you know what? It was a total success! Not one argument arose between my little builders. They supported each other, carried heavy branches together (we're talking almost a whole tree on some occasions), looked out for me when I got a little too close to the thorny brambles and really leaned into the teamwork required to make an awesome den! But the best part? My 10-year-old said to me - "all the anxiety disappears out here in nature. It's like none of that stuff matters. We need to do this every week!". They both really enjoyed it, as did I!
Sthira and Sukha
Parenting is a lot like building a den. It takes effort and patience to raise children, but when we create a safe and nurturing environment for them, we can find ease in our role as parents. And when we practice yoga together, we can tap into that same sense of ease and connection.
In my yoga classes I often talk about the concept of sthira and sukha.
"Sthira" refers to effort, while "Sukha" represents ease. Together, they form a balance that is essential to a successful yoga practice and can be applied off the mat as well. In parenting, effort refers to the energy and determination we put into our parenting, while ease refers to finding a sense of calm and relaxation in our interactions with our children.
On the mat, finding the balance between sthira and sukha means holding a pose with strength and stability, while also finding ease and calm within the pose. For example noticing where you are gripping in a pose, especially if it is a challenging pose and you're gripping or holding your breath. It's the balance between holding on and letting go.
Off the mat, it means finding a balance in life between effort and ease, working hard but also taking time to rest and recharge. This balance can help us to find a sense of peace and harmony in our daily lives.
By practicing effort and ease in our parenting, we can create a balanced and harmonious relationship with our children, one that is both loving and supportive.
Family Yoga and Sthira and Sukha
To create a family yoga practice, it's all about finding the right balance. Think of it like mixing a smoothie: you need a little bit of strength (sthira) and a little bit of ease (sukha) to get the perfect blend. This might mean doing some challenging or energetic poses and games as a family, but also taking time to breathe and relax.
And let's be real, it's not always easy to find time for yoga when you're a busy parent. but incorporating yoga into your day can make a huge difference. By doing this, you're not only teaching your kids healthy habits, but also creating a little bit of peace and harmony in the family.
Teaching Sthira and Sukha to Children
In children's yoga, sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) are important because they help kids find balance in their practice. By teaching kids to find strength and stability in their bodies, while also practicing with a sense of joy and relaxation, we can help them learn to regulate their emotions and focus their minds.
Here are three playful ways to practice sthira and sukha with children:
1. Tree Pose with a twist
Have kids stand in tree pose, with one foot pressing into the ground and the other resting against the inner thigh. Then, challenge them to slowly turn their heads from side to side, as if they are looking for a bird in the branches. This playful variation encourages kids to find both sthira (steadiness and effort) in their standing leg, and sukha (ease) in the soft movement of their head.
2. Resting pose with a story
End your class/ family yoga session with a final resting pose, like savasana, and invite kids to relax completely on their mats (or on a blanket or even their bed). Then, tell a calming story or guided visualization that encourages them to find both sthira in their bodies (finding stillness and grounding), and sukha (relaxation and calm) in their minds. For example, you might guide kids through a visualization of floating on a cloud, or taking a peaceful walk in the woods. This restful practice helps kids integrate the lessons of sthira and sukha into their bodies and minds.
3. Sthira and Sukha Exhales
Breathing practices can be a powerful tool in finding balance between sthira and sukha. By consciously controlling the breath, we can regulate the nervous system and calm the mind. Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress. This can lead to a more balanced state of being, allowing us to find both stability and comfort in our bodies and minds.
This practice can help balance the flow of energy in the body, promoting harmony and well-being. This practice is good to practice with older children (7+) or just for ourselves!
Parenting with Effort and Ease
Incorporating Family yoga into your parenting approach can bring about a sense of ease and effortlessness to your family life. As a mindful parent, you can cultivate a conscious approach to parenting that promotes balance and harmony.
In this post we have covered the concept of Sthira and Sukha, which refers to finding the balance between effort and ease. We have spoke about how to practice this concept both on and off the mat. I have shared ways to practice yoga with children in practice and in parenting. Embracing this approach can help you to find more balance in your life, your parenting, your teaching, and in the lives of your children.
Other posts of interest
All Breath Work Children's Yoga And Mindfulness Christmas Emotional Well Being Emotional Well-being Intuition Meditations Parents Play Pose Of The Week Print Outs Self Care Challenge Summer Teachers Teenagers