October 4, 2015
“Kids + Yoga: 4 Tips for Calming your Little Yogi”
by Aimee Yamamori
As you may have already discovered, in yoga, what’s good for the grown-up is also good for the kid. Numerous studies have shown the profound and positive impact yoga can have on a young life. Studies have also shown that a yoga practice can help develop a more calm and mindful child. To learn more about kids and yoga, we’ve done some research and asked a few amazing children’s yoga instructors for their favorite tips and tricks to help calm the kid mind: very useful for the ‘spirited’ child, when a child is upset, or simply for the kids who need some time to wind down before bed.
Here are 4 ways to help calm your kiddo. Try these with your favorite little yogi, and let us know what you think!
1. Help Your Child Relax with a Singing Bowl
Lesley Carney, a certified Rainbow Kids instructor and teacher trainer, gave us this tip.
- A simple and fun relaxation exercise can be done with a singing bowl, also called a Tibetan bowl.
- First, while the child is relaxing, just place the bowl on their stomach and ring softly.
- Ask them to listen for the sounds of the bowl and feel the vibration as it rings.
This activity works well because the kids listen intently for the bowl to stop making a sound, which helps focus their attention. The kids often want to do it over and over and after a few times, they can do it with their eyes closed which is even more relaxing. As their mind becomes focused on the simple task of listening for the sound, it will become increasingly calm and relaxed.
In addition to the calming and soothing effects of the singing bowl exercise, the kids also have to wait patiently and quietly for their turn. Singing bowls are relatively inexpensive and easy to find online, such as this one here.
2. Teach Your Little Yogi Ujjayi Breathing
Shana Meyerson, founder of mini yogis® yoga for kids gave us this idea.
The simple act of Ujjayi breathing that adult yogis might know from yoga class also works nicely for relaxing child yogis. Here is Shana Meyerson’s step-by-step method for teaching Ujjayi breathing to kids:
- First, it helps to sit in a comfortable cross-legged seat.
- Start by sighing in and out through the mouth. This is a natural calming mechanism and the simple act of sighing will start things off on the right foot.
- Ask your child how the sigh makes them feel, and then have them focus on the spot at the top of the throat that feels sort of cold on the inhale. That is the spot that we are going to try to breathe from when we close our mouths.
- Then, tell the child to close their mouth. Ask them to see if they can breathe long, slow breaths – like a sigh – with the mouth closed. Ideally, their breathing will be audible, and should sound like ocean waves – or Darth Vader.
The sound of Ujjayi is reminiscent of the ocean flowing (which is why this form of Pranayama breathing is often referred to as “Ocean Breath.” The inhale and exhale should make the same sound. As a part of meditation, a child can practice Ujjayi in a seated position for about 2-5 minutes, depending on age and focus.
Ujjayi breathing does not require sitting or closing the eyes. It can be done to calm down or when the child is feeling angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed. The more a child practices Ujjayi, the more they learn to use it as a go-to technique anytime they need a little help calming down. What an amazing gift to give your child early in life!
3. “Take 5” Finger Breathing
This one works well for my child – I know from personal experience! It’s so easy and well worth a try if you have a ‘spirited’ kiddo like I do, who might at times struggle to settle down at the end of the day. I’ve even spotted her doing it on her own as she gets ready for bed at night.
“Take 5” Finger Breathing:
- Ask your child to hold up their hand and trace their fingers from the thumb to the pinky (or in reverse) with the other hand.
- As they trace up the finger, tell them to inhale deeply.
- Then, as they trace down the finger tell them exhale slowly.
Often, by the time the child reaches the last finger, they’re noticeably calmer and more relaxed. So simple, yet so effective!
4. Sun Salutation for Kids
Or, if you have a child that’s not in the mood to sit or breathe slowly, try leading them through a simple sun salutation. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the easy movements of stretching and bending can help calm the mind, too. If they are still distracted, ask them to help you name the poses as you move through each one. The methodic act of going through the same series of poses (especially saying the name of each pose as they go) helps your child focus, feel more centered, and a result, calm overall. Feel free to repeat this several times through, or until your little yogi begins to calm down.
As yogis, we are already aware of the immense relaxing and calming benefits of yoga. What an amazing opportunity to share this special gift with your child. You might find that building one or two of the suggested practices into the day around bed time, or perhaps after school to decompress, makes transitioning to the next part of the day smoother and more relaxing for everyone. Give these tips a try with your little ones and let us know what you think. Or, post a tip that works for you – we love to hear from you!