Yoga and Mindfulness for children.
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:
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