Yoga and Mindfulness for children and Teens.
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.