'' Providing children with the necessary tools and guiding them in a loving, understanding and compassionate way through yoga and mindfulness is the key for the next generation ''
In today’s very busy life we tend to rush from one task, place or situation to another, forgetting to pay attention to what we just did! We take things for granted and fail to count our blessings. Unfortunately as parents, teachers and childminders we pass on this to the next generation. It is critical to stop, take a breath and enjoy each moment of action or just being, in order to savor the beauty of our lives. How great would that be if we could teach our children or students to enjoy such wonderful, present moments by simply guiding them and giving them a few appropriate tools?! Yoga has shown to have several benefits for children!
Apart from enhancing physical ability, strength and flexibility, it helps develop focus and concentration, it boosts self-confidence and esteem, whilst strengthening their mind-body connection. Moreover, mindfulness allows children to foster a sense of self-awareness, self-compassion and curiosity of their physical and psychological experience of the world and their existence. Therefore, here are a few ways of how to incorporate yoga and mindfulness in a child’s life;
1. Start each day with a mindful gathering
Mornings are a great way to get started on a positive note! As most do at school they gather for their morning circle time or discussion. This can be incorporated in our homes too. As a child wakes up or walks into the classroom first thing in the morning, ask them ‘How was your night? Did you sleep well?’ Let them freely express themselves, as you listen and bond with them first thing in the morning. This not only gives them the freedom to express but teaches them to listen to others, respect and care for one another. After doing so, gather in a circle (either in the classroom or home with the rest of the class or family members) and welcome the morning with a positive affirmation such as ‘Today I am grateful for my breath. I am calm, positive and forever appreciative of the beauty in me and the beauty that surrounds my life!’ Let them repeat it a couple of times, as hearing themselves aloud or even in their heart allows this belief to grow, and thus then live it! Note that this is made simpler or more complex according to age and developmental ability.
2. Incorporate yoga poses in your lives to facilitate learning
Spend at least once a week doing yoga with your kids at home or in the classroom. This is a great way to get them moving, working on stamina, strength and flexibility, while allowing you to bond with one another, having fun, exploring, expressing and learning! You can make it super fun by incorporating different props and tools such as yoga cards, books and songs, or even making up your own yoga games! Pick a theme each week and focus on that using corresponding yoga poses, for example; An Adventure in the Savannah, Under the Sea, Let’s Visit a Country, Learning our ABCs, Our Solar System, etc. Use this opportunity to bring the themes you are using in your classrooms each week or a topic you wish to emphasize on at home, together with yoga to facilitate learning. For instance you can use yoga ABCs cards to work on spelling. This will allow children not only to learn the appropriate spelling but associate it with a pose and thus allow them to grasp it and remember it better. In addition, if your child is having trouble following a rule, why not use related yoga poses as a tool to help them remember that rule? With some imagination everything can be transformed into a more fun and memorable way of learning!
3. Do some breathing techniques together
Teaching children breathing techniques gives them the opportunity to utilise such tools when in crisis or under stress. In addition, breathing techniques also promote better blood flow and sleep, reduces blood pressure, whilst strengthening abdominal and intestinal muscles as well as the respiratory system. Sit down with them on a chair, carpet or mat, and demonstrate some basic breathing techniques, then ask them to repeat them. For example do the rainbow breath to teach children about gratitude and showing appreciation; sit up tall cross-legged; place your hands palms down over your knees; take a deep breath in; push down on your knees and look up towards the ceiling; opening your heart to the imaginary rainbow above you, then bring your chin in to your chest; curl in like a ball; push your spine back and bow down to the rainbow saying ‘Thank you for your beautiful, radiant colors’. Some additional breathing techniques include; the lion breath to help release anger and tension; the ocean breath to increase energy, concentration and motivation; the snake breath to cool down and calm the nervous system; and the bumble-bee breath to help relieve anxiety.
4. Create a zen zone
Rather than condoning them, or making them feel guilty or shameful for feeling or behaving a certain way, creating a calming area allows children to find the appropriate space, time and tools to help them overcome difficult situations, clear their heads and release tension or heavy feelings. Find a spot in your classroom or home where you have enough space to lay a little mat or carpet, a couple of small pillows and a basket with some useful props such as a calm down jar; chimes, bells, singing bowls, rain sticks or other similar calming instruments; stress balls; paper and colours for mindful colouring to help express emotions; some calming music; books on presence, calming down, feelings or behaviour management; and small roll-on bottles with essential oils that they can roll over their wrists or behind their ears/neck to help with calming down. Once children learn to utilise their zen zone area when angry, frustrated or losing control of their behaviour, they will inevitably learn to not only become aware of those feelings and that situation, but more importantly how to regulate and manage their feelings and behaviour.
5. Utilize nature for mindfulness
There are numerous ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation for children. Nature is a great way to help with teaching about savouring the present moment. For example, you can go on a mindful nature walk playing the silent game and ask the children to use their five senses and to be mindful of every moment on their walk. You can gather a few twigs, leaves, flowers, rocks or anything that seams special to you and that represents nature. Then when you gather back again, take turns placing each object on the ground, one at a time. At the end note what image you created together like an art piece, and talk about how you used the five senses on your mindful nature walk! If you’d like to add more to this beautiful moment, you can gather around in a circle and do a human mandala around your art piece. The leader could go first adding one pose each time, and then everyone, taking turns mimics the move the leader would have done, forming a wonderful, fluid flow to your human mandala dance.
Of course, there are several additional ways to incorporate yoga and mindfulness in a child’s life but this is a good starting point! Providing children with the necessary tools and guiding them in a loving, understanding and compassionate way through yoga and mindfulness is the key for the next generation. The main objective here is to be persistent, practice and have fun with it, then everything else will follow!
As a YOGA . AERIAL . DANCE & GYMNASTICS Teacher, as well as a mother of two, my joy is to pass on my knowledge & passion in health, fitness and the arts. Enjoy reading tips, reviews, suggestions & some relevant research that might be of benefit to you and your family!