“I can’t wait to do the relaxing part!” This is what I usually hear when I greet my 4th – 6th grade Yoga Club on Thursday afternoons, their faces beaming because they know for the next hour I will help them completely relax in a safe and supported space. Have I mentioned I have the best job in the world?
Yoga for kids, especially for this age group, is designed around a lot of discussion. We begin with our topic for the class and go right into a breathing practice and warm up for centering, then we talk. Our big topic for the series is always stress identification and management, with an emphasis on the mind-body connection, but topics range from bullying and community building to self care.
Here’s an example of how we discuss the mind-body connection as it relates to stress: On the way to school you realize you forgot to complete a homework assignment (stressor). The mind goes through all the different scenarios of what will happen when you walk into school without the assignment (mind). Before you know it your heart rate has increased and you now have a stomachache walking into school (body).
Often times children and even adults miss the “mind” step. In other words, we realize we are stressed about the missed assignment and notice that our body doesn’t feel well, but we never make the connection. In Yoga we learn to really tune in to the way our mind and bodies are reacting to the stress, instead of trying to ignore these big feelings. How can we manage the stress before it begins to manifest in our bodies?
Try this: On the way to school you realize you forgot to complete a homework assignment (stressor). Say to yourself, “I made a mistake and this is how I learn and grow. I am in control.” (self compassion/affirmation) Take 3 – 5 belly breaths, focusing on the inhalation as it expands the back and belly and following the air as it moves back out of the body (deep, slow breathing sends oxygen to the brain which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system the system that tells your body that you are safe and to come out of “flight or fight” mode). Go into school, calm, ready to approach your teacher, own your mistake and figure out how to make it right.
After our big discussions we move through bigger movements, play games, journal and end with a foot massage and guided visualization script read by me. When our time has ended I usually get responses like: “I feel like I’m floating on a cloud!” or “No! Not yet!” Rushed to and from school, usually an after school activity with homework sprinkled on top, kids don’t have a lot of time to tune in to their bodies and completely relax. Yoga gives them the opportunity to do that.
There are resources to help your child help relax at home such as: Books of guided visualizations for children and downloadable apps. The “Insight Timer App” and “Smiling Mind” app both offer guided visualizations designed for children.
Our next after school yoga club at FSMA begins on Thursday, December 1st. Email Courtney Loughney, owner of Le Petit Yogi with any questions: info@LePetitYogi.com.