By Desi Bartlett MS CPT E-RYT
The term back to school took on a new meaning this year, as so many of the world’s children went back to in person learning after a year of virtual learning. While some kids are still in hybrid and at home schooling, a large number of kids are back to in person learning with their friends and teachers. While reconnecting in person can be a joy, after a whole year away from in person contact, some little ones are feeling a little bit of stress and social anxiety. Little ones might not yet have the language for the experience of stress surrounding the pandemic, vaccinations, and social distancing, but that doesn’t mean that they feel it any less than the adults. If anything, they might feel it even deeper as a large percentage of their young lives have now been lived in a new reality.
Yoga can be a tremendous help for children to manage big feelings. Having a safe space to move, wiggle, cry, and giggle allows children to feel and express a full spectrum of emotions, uncensored. While they are required to sit for long periods of time, stand in line for recess, and raise their hands before speaking, yoga allows them a place to experience freedom. The freedom of movement, of vocalizing, and allowing emotions to flow is a gift to our world’s children.
The following are a few ideas for ways that you can incorporate yoga into your child’s routine:
Every morning you and your child can take 1-3 minutes to sit together and close your eyes. Slow your breath down and hold your child’s hand. Let the steadiness of your nervous system be reflected by your slow, deep breathing as it becomes a model for your child’s breathing, and an anchor of safety. An easy meditation technique is to simply choose one word together and let that word roll over and over through the wheels of your mind. A few words or mantras that can get you started (one day at a time), include: peace, love, light, and Om. Let your child choose a word or mantra for the day that you can practice together. Enjoy these sweet silent moments of connection.
After dinner and bath-time, a relaxing winding down yoga practice can be a sweet opportunity for you and your child to let go of the events of the day before bed. In the same way that adults have full days with an incredible amount of images and data being taken in daily, so do our children. Our new world of wearing masks has taken away some of the visual feedback that they have with their friends. Smiles are now perceived in the eyes, and speaking now usually needs to be a little louder for clarity through masks. All of these factors provide new and different challenges for our children to process. Taking a few minutes before bed, in the safety of your home, with no mask, can provide a time for soft voices and easy smiles. Enjoy a kid’s yoga video for sleep, below.
Weekends are the perfect time to enjoy an active practice with your kids. Try an age appropriate practice that helps them to move, stretch, and play. For younger kids, try an animal Vinyasa practice in which you make all of the sounds of the animal shapes. You can meow and moo in cat and cow poses, bark and woof in down dog and up dog, and hiss like a snake in cobra pose. You can also try a few partner or acro yoga poses that feel safe to you.
For pods of children that are together daily, a yoga party can be a lot of fun! Whether you suggest it to your school (they might be able to facilitate and accommodate during PE time), or host a party of your own, kids love to move together. Kid sized Yoga mats, and an outdoor space are the perfect setting for children to connect. You or their teacher can teach them about Yoga through stories. Warrior poses are a great time to share stories of strength and heroes in your life, or learn the stories behind the names of poses like Hanumanasana (the splits) which is all about a monkey that took a great leap of faith to save a Queen. No matter what, remember to have fun!