Yoga and Mindfulness for children and Teens.
Meditation has a range of scientifically proven benefits but it is not going to help your teen on it's own and here is why....
In my classes, I will often share with my pre-teens and teens about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I have 10 years old's who I am sure could teach a little about it at this point. They love to learn about it because it makes sense to them why we do the things we do and how it helps. Let's look at these in a bit more detail to better understand why meditation alone is not going to help.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
You may have heard of the fight or flight response. This is a response that is triggered by a stressful event (or even the thought of a stressful event). The response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system. It gives us the energy and focus required to escape danger. So while this state is often labeled as 'bad' or that we want to be in our 'rest and digest' state, it has a vital role to play. Just like with our emotions, it all has it's place - it is all valid.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
This system triggers the 'rest and digest' response
Okay, so what does this have to do with meditation?
The purpose of meditation according to mayoclinic.org is to give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that both benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health. Meditation is a practice that originated in India several thousand years ago. When most people think of Yoga, they just think of the movement (asana) practice but actually there are 8 limbs of yoga.
You can read more about the 8 limbs of Yoga in more detail in this great artical from Chopa. I bring this up because I want to talk about Dhyana. This is one of the limbs of Yoga - it is when we are completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation.
Yoga Asana was a tool to help prepare the body for this state. Getting the wiggles out if you will but that is not the only reason why yoga is such a great practice before meditating.
If we are in our fight or flight response and we sit down to meditate, we may feel irritated, restless and even unsafe. If you feel unsafe, you're not going to easily activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Let's look at this a different way. If an antelope is running from a lion and they escape unharmed, they are not going to sit down and rest straight away. They are going to be cautious, scanning the area, making sure that they are safe. Animals also literally shake the trauma off. This is the same for us, no we aren't getting chased by a lion (probably), but the danger still feels very real - even if that danger is a math test!
If our sympathetic nervous system is activated we need to find a way, like Taylor Swift, to shake it off.
Yoga is my favourite way to prepare for mediation even if it is with a few gentle poses, but on days when I feel especially agitated or anxiety is high, I like to practice Hatha yoga, Vinyasa or just dance it out to my favourite song. The main thing is that I move my body before trying to sit with my breath.
Having the Sympathetic Nervous System constantly activated
If we don't take the time to relax on a regular basis, we can stay in this 'fight or flight' response. This can lead to a range of problems including fatigue, low energy, decreased immunity, depression, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, irritability, difficulty relaxing, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, muscle pain and even chronic headaches.
Do I need to move every time before my meditation practice?
Meditation comes in so many forms, including moving meditations! So it really is about checking in with yourself (same goes for your teens) and noticing how you feel. How are your energy levels? Is your mind racing? Do you want to be still or move? Do you feel safe? Do you feel agitated? Is your brain on high alert?
What kind of mediation are you going to practice? How would it feel to move your body first?
Mediation alone may not be enough to help when anxiety is high but if you or your teen was to include something that helps to prepare the body and mind such as Yoga, Dance or Shaking it off, meditation could be a great help.
Does your teen have a practice that helps them to activate that parasympathetic nervous system and help them to manage anxiety and stress? Is this an area they struggle with?
Is it effecting their sleep or making them irritable during the day? You may like to check out my new course - Evening Rituals.
What is your biggest take-away from this post, I would love to hear if you got anything from it. Comment below or feel free to send me a message.
You may also like to check out these previous posts:
Stream of thoughts - meditation for teens
22 mindful practices for stressed out mums
Thought hunter - teens practice
In our Children's Yoga and Mindfulness classes we have soo much to share, but often the students will list the games as their favourite part! Here is a list of 9 games that you may like to add into your Lesson plans that your classes will want to play over and over! Haven't got time to lesson plan? Why not check out my done for you lesson plans here.
X's and O's
Otherwise known as noughts and crosses. Make a large grid using yoga straps (or similar). There should be 9 spaces available. So two lines down, and 2 lines across, creating a box in the middle. This game needs at least eight students and yourself. That's two teams of four (and then you can join in if any of the teams need you at the end). One team is the O's and one is the X's. The idea is much like the classic but instead of drawing the X's and O's, students will use their body to play. So X's can lay down in an X shape, and O's can come into child's pose. Each team takes turns to take a space on the grid. The team to get three in a row first wins. We don't like to include competition in our yoga classes, so we don't really focus on the win, instead focus on the teamwork and playfulness. Play a few times so that everyone can get a turn, and each team has a go at being first. I would recommend this game for ages 8 up to teens.
Holding hands in a circle, pass squeezes by gently closing your hand around the person next to you. An 'electric current' you receive in one hand must come out the other. If you feel a squeeze, pass it on through to the other side. These can be passes in multiples and from both sides. If you get one from both sides at the same time it electrocutes you - so the more dramatic here, the better. Try selecting different students to start this game each time.
Fish, Stop, Go
Everyone walks around in a circle together. If one person stops, everyone stops. If one person starts walking, everyone starts walking. There is no leader so anyone can start and stop at any time. This means children must really focus and connect without words.
Follow the Leader
This can be played as a group or by having everyone partner up. Decide who the leader is (in the group, or in the partnership). The leader creates a sequence or flows freely and everyone else copies. You can give them time to create a sequence or just let them improvise on the spot. Yoga cards can be given to help, music can be played and props may be used. Give them a minute or two and then change leader. If working in partners simply switch, if in a group, be sure that everyone gets a turn at being the leader.
Who is the leader?
We love playing follow the leader, but what happen's when you don't know who the leader is? This game is played in our circle. One person leaves the room while we assign the role of the leader. The leader will be guiding the group through a sequence (made up or one you've been working on with a few improv moments). Everyone must copy the leader, without making it obvious who they are copying. Once the leader has been assigned, the person can come back into the room (we sometimes call them the Yoga detective). The leader starts and everyone copies. The Yoga detective tries to work out who is leading. If they guess wrong, the accused person comes to lay down on their mat.
This one can be very funny. For this game you will need one colorful scarf (the sensory/juggling type). Everyone sits in a circle as you (or a volunteer) stands in the middle with the scarf. You throw it up into the air, when it is in the air - everyone must laugh. This will start of as fake laughing but then very often becomes real. As soon as the scarf hits the floor, everyone must be silent. Can it be done? We are looking to improve our focus and reaction time here while reaping the benefits of laughing. Take it in turns as to who is in the middle.
What's Your Name?
This can be a fun game to play when I have a new class and I am learning peoples names. I also use this game for groups I know very well, we do this by adding in an extra challenge which I will explain in a moment. Everyone starts by standing in a circle except for one person who goes in the middle. The person in the middle has to say the name of someone else three times. If they manage this, then they get to swap places with that person. If that person, however, says the person in the middle's name - just once - then they do not move and have to try again. This is a little too easy when everyone is very well acquainted, so we add in a little extra challenge by changing our names. It can be ANYTHING! We will often go with a theme such as food, weather, planets etc.
The Sun and Shield Game
This is currently a favourite in one of my groups, they would honestly be happy to play it every week! Everyone chooses someone to be their sun, and someone to be their shield - without letting anyone know who they have chosen! You must stay as far away from your sun as possible and have your shield blocking the sun by trying to have them come between you and the sun. Sounds easy except for the fact that THEY do not know if they are a sun or a shield and they are focused on their own sun and shield (plus maybe you are their sun or shield too!). Once everyone has the hang of this, pause and ask them to pick a new sun and/or shield. Keep changing it up. This is a very high energy game so best followed up by a calmer one before ending your session with relaxation or quiet time.
Don't Wake The Dragon
One person lays in the middle of the room with a bell beside them, this is the Dragon. The Dragon is guarding the bell but is very tired. Everyone else gathers in a circle at the edges of the room. As the Dragon 'sleeps', the children must sneak up to get the bell. If the dragon hears any noise, they can wake up and scare everyone back (or they all freeze in a dragon pose/ low lunge). The games ends when some body gets the bell. They can then be the next dragon. To be sure everyone gets a turn, if they have already had a turn they may choose someone else to be the dragon.
There it is, 9 fun games you can play in your classes! I would love to know which of these you can't wait to try or perhaps you already play a similar version and have some alternate ways that you would like to share! Comment below!
Feel free to share this with other Children's Yoga teachers. If you haven't already signed up for my email, you may be interested to know that anyone who currently signs up will receive a FREE 8 week lesson plan! Check it out here. I also have many class plans and done for you courses over on my Etsy shop - here.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy!
How do you start your morning?
When you're a parent sometimes you don't get to choose when or how you wake up. You may start the day at full impact, a kid jumping on you and putting their bum in your face or a cry from the next room that makes you leap out of bed to check they are okay. This instant adrenaline rush or feeling of frustration or just plain feeling exhausted is a real rough way to start the day. It doesn't have to be like this though, there are ways you can start the day calmer, even with kids!
The number one way to start your day...
There is one way that I see recommended to start your day constantly - CONSTANTLY!
It is one that i don't like and I will not be doing, even though it makes perfect sense. It is to wake up half hour before the children..... It's a pass from me. Okay, so it make sense. You get to have some time for yourself and ground before the children wake up, you get to enjoy the peace and quiet and ease in to your day, you can workout, practice yoga, meditate, sit out in the garden, read a book, cook a wonderful breakfast, have a peaceful shower - anything you choose. The problem I have with this, is my little dude has an inbuilt sensor. He knows when I am not in bed and he comes looking for me, even if its 2 or 3 hours before he is due to be awake, he knows! This means not only does my time alone get gate crashed but it means I'm going to have a stroppy child by noon. Maybe this works for some, and maybe it will work for me again one day but for now it's a hard pass SO how can we start the day more grounded apart from this way, because every minute of sleep is valuable.
5 ways to start your day feeling grounded...
My little dude is always in my bed by morning even if he slept well in his own bed for the most part. So when we wake up we usually start the day with a "good morning.", smiling at each other and give each other a big hug. Then we take a few breaths together. Sometimes we will do this hugging or we will practice tracing hand breath (where you trace your left hand with your right pointing finger, breathing in to come up and breathing out to come down). My daughter is still sleeping soundly at this point so if you have two children that are sleeping soundly this can be done alone, with a partner or with the dog! The important part of this is to just take a moment to breathe, to smile and to say "good morning."
Place your feet on the ground
When sitting up, place your feet on the ground and just pause here. Take a moment just to feel the ground beneath you and come back to the breath. Take three breaths here before carrying on with your morning.
Wash your face
So I'm not talking hygiene here, I'm sure you have that covered but just splashing cold water on your face can help you to feel grounded, and signal to your body that it is time to wake up. This may also be a great time to set an intention for your day.
Whether you take a good morning stretch, a 15 minute yoga practice, a work out, or put your favourite song on and move for two minutes, it can really help wake up the body. This can be very gentle, or more energetic. It can be 2 minutes or 20 minutes, alone or as a family - It is whatever works for you and that particular morning. This helps you to just be in the moment. At that time, there is no to do lists, it is just you, moving in a way that feels good. The key is to bring an awareness to your body and pay attention to any sensations in the body as you move.
I love to start my day off with a cup of coffee but this could be any drink that you like to start your day off with. I have mine in a red cup to symbolise the root chakra, the chakra that is related to grounding and stability. Bring an awareness to this simple act of having a drink. How does it feel holding the cup in your hands? Is it hot or cold? Breathe it in, does it smell of anything? Take a few slow, intentional breaths here. You may also like to visualize a red ball of energy at the base of your spine. With each sip, see it getting brighter and more vibrant. See how it illuminates downward as it grounds you. Sit with this for a few minutes.
My journaling practice is in the evenings so when I journal in the morning, I usually keep it quite short. It feels so nice to put pen to paper and just write for five minutes. Here are some of the things I will journal about in the morning.
1. Any dreams I had last night. If I remember anything, it can be nice to write about it. It also trains our brains to remember.
2. I pull an Oracle Card and write about that. I write about what it means to me or anything that comes up.
3. Gratitude. Usually this is in my evening practice but it can be a really lovely way to start your day. If I have practiced a guided mediation around gratitude that morning, that does inspire me to write out gratitude earlier than the norm.
4. My daily intention - I make this when washing my face as previously mentioned but here I write it down too.
5. Affirmations. I will often choose an affirmation for the day or for the week such as
'Today, I choose patience' or 'I am calm and grounded.'
6. My to do lists. If i feel like I'm going to forget something so everything is buzzing around me head it can be very helpful to write it all down and decide what's important, what would be nice to get done and what can wait. It also helps to see if I am being realistic with my expectations of myself.
So there are just a few of the ways that help me to feel grounded in the morning. Those mornings you jump right out into a chaotic rush around, where the kids start arguing and the cereal falls on the floor are exhausting!! You can choose not to do that any more! Take this time to ground. You can do this, and the more the children see you practicing this, the more they'll join in with the practices or feel inspired to create their own calming rituals.
What is your biggest take away from this blog post? I would love to hear! How do you ground yourself OR how will you be grounding yourself from now on?
Some other posts you may like are:
22 Mindful Practices for Stressed out Mums
How to Practice Quiet Time Activities with Children
Three games you can play with your children while laying down
Healing Affirmations for your Root Chakra
Hey there mamma,
Are you feeling like you're not getting enough time to yourself? Is it making you stressed, irritable and less patient with your children?
I know this can be a challenge so I'm here to help.
Over the next three weeks I will be sharing tips with you to make staying calm so much easier. Make sure you follow along to catch them all.
Here is the first tip.
Take a mindful moment each day. Multiple times if you can! There are so many ways we can a moment, without adding on to our already busy schedules. Some mindful moments we can take while doing things that we were already going to do - just with more intention and more awareness.
Being mindful is not too difficult once you get into the regular practice of it and it will take you from feeling stressed out, to feeling present and calm.
As it is 2s day (22/02/2022) I thought it only right to share with you 22 of my favourite ways to tale a mindful moment.
Ignore that first sentence because you already made it here! Yay!
I posted this on my Instagram but I wanted to share it here with a little more to it, because saying brush your teeth without explaining how it can be mindful just doesn't feel right, of course you brush your teeth and you're still stressed, like wtf!!
Take a walk
Taking a walk mindfully means staying present. So often we take a walk to get to the place we need to be and it is spent rushing there without any regard to our surroundings. Take some time to slow down, breathe deeply, pay attention to your senses. Any smells, what you can hear, what you can see - maybe something you missed before, what can you touch? One way I heard someone practice mindful walking before is to imagine their is an alien in the sky and he wants to know about what your experience is like in this moment. He has not been to Earth so he needs everything explained in real detail, set the scene, describe the moment.
Take a Yoga Class
Yoga is a great way to get present and be in the moment and it doesn't have to take too long. If you have time it may be nice to get to a local class but if not there are so many wonderful practices online (and not just my own ;) ). Even if you take as little as five to ten minutes, it can really help. You can find free videos on my Youtube channel or Check out my online classes here.
I love journaling, it really helps me to work through whatever is going on, gain focus, let go and it is also a chance to get creative if you bullet journal. I wrote out some great journaling prompts for the new year, last year, but I am sure they will be as relevant now as ever. You can check that out here.
Otherwise just start writing about your day and see what comes up.
Brush your teeth mindfully
Brushing our teeth is (probably) something we do at least twice a day so why not make that more mindful? Instead of rushing through it, why not try taking your time. Bringing attention to how it feels, tastes, the movements you are making with the brush, the smell of the toothpaste. It might sound ridiculous or unnecessary but it can be a great way to get present, ground your energy and pause a moment. When we just rush through our day, that's when the stress builds and builds.
One of the most simple ways to de-stress is with the breath. When we pause to take some slow, intentional breaths we can move from that fight or flight mode into our parasympathetic nervous system - our rest and digest state. The place we can feel calm and ease. Try it now, taking a breath in through the nose, filling up the belly. Pause. Exhale it all out through the nose or mouth. Try taking a few more, relaxing the shoulders down and unclenching the jaw.
This is a great practice for morning or night. Just say three things that you are grateful for, like really grateful for. You can journal these, have an accountability partner you text these too or share this practice with your children (my person favourite). We do this before bed or at dinner time. I love a good gratitude practice, you can find a fun gratitude scavenger hunt for the children here. Or read more about the benefits of gratitude here.
Do you ever eat on the go, shove something into your mouth while you're making the kids pack lunches, or maybe skip meals? This week, try and eat at least one meal mindfully. We love to all have our dinner at the dinner table and sit together to practice this, not to say we never eat in front of the TV, but for the most part we like to keep our meals together mindful. If doing this on your own and in peace, make sure it's something you really enjoy and savour every moment.
Be aware of your thoughts
Bringing awareness to your thoughts makes it so much easier when negative thoughts come up . This way you can question them, redirect them or stop them in their tracks. I love a practice I often do with the children for this (it works for adults too) and it is called Pom Pom for your thoughts.
Cherish the next hug with your child
The importance of hugs and positive touch is amazing and also a great opportunity for a mindful moment. Really take notice of this hug, cherish it and save it in the memory bank, it is so precious.
Take a shower or a bath
Just like the brushing off the teeth. Something we do anyway, so how can we turn this into a mindful moment? We can remove distractions and be present. Taking time to wash each part of our body with love and gratitude for it. Taking your time. Bringing awareness to the sensations of the temperature, wash cloth, soap etc. Maybe have some nice smells from a candle or the bubble bath, and breathe, savour, enjoy.
Connect with Nature
You could pair this with the mindful walk or find another way. Maybe out in the garden, planting your onw herbs, feeding the birds, putting bare feet on the Earth outside, swimming in the sea (safely with a friend) or paddling in a stream. There are so many ways you can connect with nature.
Count your steps
This is a great one if you are feeling stressed and maybe a bit angry. Much like when you get a child to count to ten before they react, this is a practice of pausing before reacting. Take ten slow steps, maybe even backwards. Breathe with each step.
It can feel soo good to go and get a massage. Time and budget doesn't always allow for this unfortunately. Here is a great practice I recorded the other week that includes some Yoga and self-massage.
Three Senses Exercise
What are three things you can see?
What are three things you can hear?
What are three things you can touch?
Light a candle and place it on your kitchen table. Sit up tall on one of your chairs and just take two minutes to watch the candles flame. Breathe, relax the shoulders down and try to let go of any tension. This is a great way to meditate for those who find it hard to close their eyes and go within or for people who are more visual.
You can find some great info about chocolate meditations here
Body Scan meditation
A body scan meditation is basically where you lay down (or sit up tall) and bring awareness to each part of your body individually in turn. You can do this on your own or find a guided meditation for guidance. The app Insight timer if full of these types of meditations and all for free!
Write yourself a letter
Every year I write a letter to future me. I include my hopes for the year but also what I have accomplished (because it is easy to forget and take these things for granted). I tell myself what I am proud of me for and anything else I feel like including. I seal it in an envelope and then I put a date on it to open in one years time.
It can also be very therapeutic to write a letter to yourself in the past, what would you like that you to know. Sit down and take your time with this one.
I love taking a mindful moment with my tea or coffee. It is quite often my go to. Feeling the heat of the cup in my hands, closing my eyes and holding the cup up to my nose and taking a big breath in and out, savouring that first sip. I love it so much I included it in one of my practices on youtube - Yoga for Menstruation with affirmations.
Stroke a pet
How cute are they honestly?! I love animals. We currently have two cats and two guinea pigs. Having a mindful moment cuddles with one of them is the best. Have you got any pets? Next best thing is cuddling a cushion, not quite the same but grounding all the same and it wont scratch you if you do it wrong! Haha
Pull Tarot or Oracle Cards
You do not have to be an expert to do this. You are very much guided by your intuition (and possibly the help of a guide book if needed). It can be a great way to pause, ask questions, see what's going on for you, how you are feeling etc. You could even just start with some nice affirmation cards. I have a great deck for anxiety. Sometimes I will sit, breathe while I'm shuffling the deck and then pull one from the pack. It is always what I need to hear in that moment.
Draw or Colour
There is a reason all those mindful colouring books for adults and for children are becoming so popular. It can be soo calming. Did you ever colour as a child? Or did you love to draw? How about in adulthood? Do you express your creativity? It can be a great way to get into a flow state. A place where you are present with what you are doing and stress just melts away.
There we have it! 22 Mindful activities you can start from today!
Please let me know your favourites, maybe you do a few of these already or have some other ones you would like to share? Comment below!
And if you really want to achieve more calm and less stress as a mum then you can check out my latest course - Yoga for Mum Stress. Trust me When I say - your future self will thank you.
Children are not mini adults and so a children's yoga class is not going to look the same as an adults class.
\nThere are alot of things that are different, here are a few things we need to consider when teaching yoga to children that isn't about what activities to include.
\n- Children's skeletal systems. An infant can have over 300 bones while an adult has 206. Children's bones are also softer and smaller and proportions are different.
\n- Strength. As they are still developing there is alot to consider around strength, bone mass, muscles and ligaments. Strength training in a natural way is important, for infants this is simply falling over and standing back up, for children it can be yoga, dancing or another movement practice.
\n- Children's brains are still developing. They learn with more ease if the lesson is fun and engaging. Learning and processing through play is important for children of all ages.
\n- Growth spurts. Around ten years old is when growth hormones can really take over (it can happen younger or later). These hormone changes can effect the muscles, behaviour, centre of gravity/balance, sleep patterns, energy and motor skills.
\n- The nervous system is still developing so taking time to breathe can be very important in helping a child's development. Breath awareness and proper diaphragm breathing is hugely beneficial.
\n- Sweat glands. We don't develop sweat glands until puberty so children can be prone to overheating and dehydration. Encouraging water breaks, having the room at a comfortable temperature and taking rests during energetic times can all be very important factors in a class.
\n- Exploring emotions, social skills, self-awareness and connection is a big part of class. In adults classes we may explore different themes but we are usually on our own mat for the most part doing our own thing. In children's classes there is much more emphasis on connection, interaction and creativity. In a children's yoga class everyone gets to know everyone, and everyone is seen and heard. We always teach in a circle, including the teacher to emphasise that we are all there together, and we are all important.
\nSo there is alot to the games we play😂
Let me know if you found that helpful by commenting below or send me a message!
In this blog I want to share with you several ideas I use for some special Super Hero Yoga! You can use these ideas at home with your children or if you are a teacher you may like to use these in your yoga classes. Get creative, use little bits or use it all, change it up or keep it the same. Make it your own. Enjoy!
Super heroes need to focus. Bumblebee breath is a great practice for blocking everything else out and really focusing inward, it is great for when you are overstimulated, overwhelmed or just lacking focus.
To start sit up in a tall but comfortable position (use props to sit on, lean on a wall, sit in a chair or in a cross legged seat on the floor). Take a slow breath in through the nose and then hum or buzz it out, feeling the subtle vibration. Now try this again but closing the eye (or taking a soft gaze down) and putting the hands over the ears - this helps to block out outside stimulation. Then breathe in again and make the gentle hum/ buzz out. Keep this going for five rounds.
Create an obstacle course or story with props
You can use different props to create a whole super hero adventure. Blocks can become tall buildings, yoga straps can become tight ropes, pom poms can become magical, yoga mats can become charging stations. Yoga straps also make great laser lights which can be really fun to play with as a team. Two people can hold the laser/ stap (or more) and then someone else can try to get past without touching the laser. You can get very creative here, let your imagination go wild, you can also use sofa cushions, blankets, chairs or any other props you can think to use. Need a little more inspiration? Let the kids guide you!
The plank game. This works best for three or more people. Everyone comes into plank pose - knees up or down. The object of the game is to count to ten while holding the pose. But if only it was that easy, no, here is the twist! You must count as a group at random. If two people say a number at the same time, you must start again from one. Because no one knows who is going to count next, it makes it a game of intuition as well as strength. It is also a lot of fun.
Superman - Laying on your stomach, placing your hand down by your sides pressing into the mat, inhale lift the chest. Exhale down. This time try again but lifting the feet too. If this feels okay you may like to try extend the arms out in front, pretending to fly high.
Partner Superman - Help each other to fly by practicing Warrior 3 Pose together, supporting each others balance. Remember to practice both sides.
Wonder Woman - Goddess pose or Warrior 2
Spider Man - Mountain Climbers but slow and mindfully
Partner Spider Man - Like the slow mountain climbers but one person lays on their back and the other person goes on top almost mirroring the other person. The bottom partner holds the top persons legs, and the top person places there hands on the bottom partners knees. Try to move together. Stay safe and check in with each other.
Iron Man - Strong Mountain Pose with hands on hips
Hulk - Practicing our breathing to Calm down, Lions breath could be a fun one to play with too.
How do Super heroes like to relax?
A great opportunity to talk about relaxation and methods super heroes may use to relax. There can be some very serious suggestions like yoga and some not so serious suggestions like hanging upside down like a bat. Let it be an open space for talking on this subject and maybe ask them how they like to relax.
Take a moment of calm. This could be a typical savasana, a guided visualization meditation, story time, squeeze and release method or rolling up in the yoga mat or a blanket like a super sausage.
You could also do some mindful colouring - maybe design their own cape or costume. You could end with some journaling for older children - writing what they think makes them super or if they could have any power, what would it be? etc.
These are all just ideas that you could use if you wanted to put together a little yoga session for your child or if you are a yoga teacher, your class. They are all just ideas so you don't have to do them all or use them all in one session, you can choose parts you love, add your own ideas and let it suit you and your little ones. You could also just choose one thing a day and turn it into many sessions. The main thing is to have fun and enjoy!
Comment below with any ideas you have on this theme or tell me your favourite from this blog!
Other Posts you may like: Gratitude Scavenger hunt
Five activities to help children to concentrate
Valentines Day Game
In my Yoga classes we have a mix of energetic games and movement and some slowing down and quiet time. The children actually love the slow, relaxing activities and start to ask for them when practiced regularly. It takes starting small, making it accessible and making it enjoyable. In this blog I will share with you some of the methods I use to practice quiet and calm in my classes and at home.
It sounds so simple but there is so much fun that can be had with the breath with a huge range of benefits. When children are focused on their breath, they are taking time to be in stillness, to check in with themselves and to calm the nervous system, which is still developing in children. The breath can be used to help to relax the body and to increase oxygen supply. It is also a great tool for helping us to lift our mood, relieve anxiety and can help us in different yoga postures.
For younger children, practicing breathwork is going to be more focused around smelling, using fun props (see next section) and visuals where as with older children you can dive deeper into proper techniques. Here are a few examples:
Younger Children: Flower Breath
See Video: Here
Join your pinky fingers, thumbs and the base of your palms together to form a flower. Bring the flower up to your nose to take a big smell. What colour is your flower? Do you have a favourite flower? What does it smell like? Repeat a few times.
Older Children - Breath of Fire
See Video: Here
This is a fun way to get children practicing breath of fire otherwise known as Kapalabhati.
The inhale is just a natural breath in and the exhale is rapid and focuses on those abdominal muscles contracting.
The breath in matches the length of the breath out.
This breathing practice is great for exercising the respiratory muscles, improving focus, digestion, letting go of stress and strengthening abdominal muscles.
Props are a great way to get in some quiet time and to set the scene ready for some calm. It could be that you have a calm corner, a calm basket or a special blanket you use for relaxation. You can use props to help with breathwork such as a breathing ball, pom poms and paper straws.
You could use eye pillows, mindfulness cards, glitter jars, rain sticks, sound bowl, bell, rolling up in your yoga mat, magic stones or crystals etc. There are so many different ways you can utilize the use of props.
Here is one example:
Pom Pom obstacle course
Create a little obstacle course that the child can then use a paper straw to blow a pom pom or cotton ball from the start line to finish line. You can make this easy and get more challenging as you go. You can also play this by just doing this from one end of the yoga mat (or table) to the other.
Who says quiet time can't be fun? Here are a few of my favourite quiet games for groups.
Everyone sits in a line. Write down a sentence - this could be an affirmation, a quote or even a tongue twister. Then give this bit of paper to the person at the back OR just whisper it to them. They then lean forward and whisper it to the person in front of them. They can't repeat it so whatever the person in front thought they heard they pass on to the person in front of them. It keeps going and then the person at the front stands up and shares what they heard with the rest of the group. The person at the back can then let everyone know how much the original message changed (if it did at all). Everyone must be quiet in this game to allow for the message to be heard so it is a great way to practice patience, sitting in stillness and quiet.
Everyone sits in a circle, encourage them to sit up tall but comfortable. One soft toy is then passed to who ever is sitting the quietest. That child then takes a moment to hug the toy, take a few breaths and then must pass it to another child who is being nice and quiet. This game works really well for younger children. Be sure that everyone gets a turn, if someone is struggling to be quiet, don't punish them by not giving them a turn, help them instead.
Story time is a great opportunity for quiet and relaxation. This could be a short fable or a story book, you could even read a guided relaxation. So many options with this one. Story time is great before bedtime for a reason, it can really help a child to relax, calm and focus.
We have included all kinds of stories in my Yoga classes such as Fox makes Friends by Adam Relf, A child's version of The Wizard of Oz, Listening with my Heart by Gabi Garcia and so much more.
Maybe you're sick, maybe you're just tired but the kids don't get it, they want your attention, now! For those times when you want to play but haven't got the energy, here are three fun games you can play together!
You may also like this previous blog post full of fun ideas for Screen Free Family nights >> Here.
You lay on the sofa, face down on a comfy cushion, maybe you even have a nice blanket on you. The child/children then place one of their toys on your back. You then have to try and guess what toy it is. So simple and yet can be so fun. You can start giving out to the toys saying 'what are you doing on my back 'name', I'm trying to go to sleep'. Then when there is no toy on your back you can start to snore until they find another toy to wake you up.
This is where you get to be the very demanding patient. Asking the children for nonsense things to pass to you or real things like chocolate from the fridge. It is the children's job to make sure you are getting lots of rest and checking up on you.
Don't wake the Giant
This is where you get to hide under your blanket while the children build Lego or blocks around you or even stack cushions on you. They must do it really quietly as to not wake you - the giant. If they wake you, you give a big stretch knocking everything over and off of you, Put on a little bit of a show here before going back to sleep.
All these games require a little effort but not too much and you still get a bit of a lay down. You could also play different talking games like I-spy, read or make up stories or just throw on a movie and cuddle up. Parenting is challenging anyway but on days when you don't feel like doing anything or are feeling run down, it can be soo hard. These games are so handy for times when you are feeling like that.
Which one will you be playing? Have you any other ideas? Let's help each other out here ;P Comment below!
Winter is officially upon us. Today marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From here, the light will start to return to us. The days start to once again grow longer and longer until we reach the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. This is a great time to reflect and set intentions. You may like to start visualizing the year ahead. It can be a great time for planning but slow down on acting on that right now. Conserve your energy where you can, take rest and really nurture yourself - mind, body and soul.
Winter can bring with it the winter blues, the light is slowly returning but we still have long periods of darkness and cold. Here are some ways your can nourish your mental health in this time.
1. Practice Yoga and Meditation
You don't need much to start a Yoga or meditation practice from home. Nothing fancy at all in fact. A yoga mat can be very helpful and some comfortable clothing for moving in, and sign up for a class or follow along to some Youtube videos.
Here is a Gentle Yoga Practice that is focused around Self-love - Click here.
I have Live online Classes starting in January which can be found here.
For meditations I love the Insight timer App.
2. Get enough rest
Don't underestimate the power of getting enough sleep! For some reason I always feel the sleep I get before 12am is the most valuable, like it is worth twice as much. For this reason I make an effort to have an early night at least once or twice a week but I always aim to get 7 to 8 hours sleep. And if you can take a nap - amazing, do it! Winter is definitely a time to rest so have movie nights and cosy evenings when you can and don't be afraid to say No to things you don't actually want to do.
3. Go for a walk
When light is limited, it can be great to get outside while it is light but it can also be quite magical to take a walk later on when all the Christmas lights are on. Wrap up warm and get outside each day, it makes coming home and getting cosy that little bit more sweet.
4. Spend time with people you enjoy spending time with
It is okay to say No to spending time with people who drain you, or at least make an early escape plan right?! As I said Winter is all about conserving your energy, don't let energy vampires suck it all out of you. Take care of you, spend your time with people who light you up and make you feel good. Meet up for a cuppa or plan a Zoom chat if you have to! But keep those connections going. Winter can be very isolating even before 'all of this' so it is good to talk.
5. Enjoy a new hobby (or an old one you havent had time for)
Bonus points for not trying to turn it into work! Keep the hobby just for you, keep it fun and playful. Maybe its an activity, a sport, something arty, something creative, puzzles - anything. I love a hobby that gets me into a real flow state - like how yoga does, I get into a real flow state when I get stuck into a puzzle. Time seems to disappear and I'm completely lost in what I am doing. Do you have something like that already or something you have been wanting to try? Comment below!
What other ways can we look after our Mental health this Winter?
There are so many other ways that we can take care of ourselves this Winter. What would you add to the list? What helps you?
Create your own winter Olympics! You could create little stations on yoga mats around the room or move together through one activity to the next. You could have a bobsleigh challenge where you could come into a boat pose or a group pose. You could do a hula hoop pass where everyone in the group holds hands with one hula hoop resting on someone's joined hands, then each person must step through the hoop to get it all the way around the circle. You could create an obstacle course with different poses on each station, maybe some themed posed such as Alpine Skiing (chair pose), Figure skating (dancer pose), Ice hockey (pyramid), snowboarding (warrior 2). You can get really creative here so just have fun with it! You could even include the next game as part of this which is 'Ice Skating'.
You will need two paper plates each person! standing on the plates, skate to the other side of the room, you could even use cones to create obstacles here! Another fun way to play is to have everyone skate in a circle but they must keep distance between them, if one person stops - they must all stop. This is fun because you don't know who is going to stop or when so they really need to be focusing. For younger children especially, this may be very challenging. So another way to play could be in partners, with one person 'with skates' and the other just helping them to keep balanced.
Snow Ball Fight
For this game, I used balls from the kids Ball pit but you could get styrofoam balls. I then drew different poses on each ball. Place a yoga strap in the centre of the room to split it into two sides. Divide your group into two teams. Empty all the balls out (enough so that their would be two each easily in a small group or a one and half ratio for a large group) . Each team must stay on their own side. Everyone begins to throw snowballs at the other team. When you shout freeze, children must hold the pose that is on their snowball - if they are not holding one, they must pick up the one closest to them.
Snow Ball Balancing
Using a snowball from the previous game, practice balancing it on your head. Now try walking slowly while balancing it. Then work on different poses, balancing the snowball in different places. Tree pose with the snowball on your head, boat pose with snowball on knees or both hands at the side, downward facing dog with the ball on your tailbone.
Don't Wake Santa!
In this game you are all elves apart from one person in the middle who is Santa. Santa must pretend to be asleep with a bell next to him (you could use keys or anything that rattles). The elves must try and get this bell without waking Santa! If Santa hears anyone, he can wake up and send them back to the start (on their mat). How quiet can everyone be? Can they get the bell?
Check out my Winter Lesson Plans!
Feeling inspired by these games? Why not add them into these Yoga classes put together earlier.
Class one: Winter
Class two: Christmas and Gratitude
Class three: Christmas Adventure!
Thank you so much for reading! I have also just posted up on my group an outline of the lesson I have planned for today. You can see this free on my Facebook group here.