Breathe out the butterflies and ease those back to school jitters by having your child join you on the mat. Here’s where to start!
Gone are the long, lazy days of summer – as fall is ushered in, so are new routines, busy schedules, and increasing academic demands and peer-related pressures. It’s not easy being a kid these days.
Feeling those back-to-school butterflies can be a natural part of growing up, but children who practice yoga can learn to manage some of their fears through focused movement, breathing exercises, and visualization techniques. Yoga can also help with social situations, as it helps build confidence and self-esteem.
Although yoga has been around for thousands of years, the focus on the benefits for kids is only beginning to blossom. Yoga Alliance has even developed guidelines for teachers and schools so they can be credentialed in children’s yoga!
As recently quoted in Parents magazine, “Mind-body practices can be very helpful for a variety of conditions worsened by stress and anxiety, as well as stress or anxiety itself,” says Gurjeet Birdee, M.D., a pediatrician and assistant professor in internal medicine and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville.*
Start with Mindful Breathing
Let’s be honest – even as adults, the instruction to “pay attention to your breath” can be difficult to follow sometimes! When teaching mindful breathing practices to your kids, you’ll want to keep it simple.
Introduce Simple Belly Breathing to Kids:
- Start by having your child breathe normally. Ask them to pay attention to how their belly rises and falls with each breath, and the thoughts that pass by in their minds.
- Now, ask them to lie on their backs and place their hands on their bellies.
- With mouths closed, have them breathe in for four seconds and to hold in the air.
- Now, instruct them to slowly blow all the air out until it’s gone.
- Repeat until the body feels relaxed.
Younger kids? Try an Animal-Themed Breath
For a calming exercise, try the “Bumblebee Breath.” Have your child inhale through the nose, and then pursing the lips and humming as they breathe out. The mind becomes quiet by having the mind go to the sensation created in the mouth.
The “Lion Breath” is an energizing, confidence-boosting breath. Have your child breathe in through their mouth, and then loudly exhale all of their air, while sticking out their tongue – just like a growling lion. This helps the child deeply inhale and exhale, ridding the body of stale air and bringing energy within.
Try a “breathing buddy”, Ask kids to place their favourite stuffy on their tummies. As they breathe in and out, they’re instructed to focus on the rise and fall of their stuffy.
App Recommendation: One of our go-to guided meditation apps, Headspace, offers a kid-friendly version with some fantastic options sure to calm every member of the family!
Asanas for Kids
Tree/Flamingo Pose (Vrkasana)
This is a pose to quiet the mind and create stillness; offering children a sense of grounding and expansion. When kids can feel anxious and “out of their bodies”, Tree Pose helps reestablish their own presence in their bodies.Have your child stand steady on two feet hip-distance apart in Mountain Pose, then ask them to press one foot firmly into the mat while lifting their opposite heel. Once they feel balanced, they can bring the heel to the inner ankle – or even the upper thigh, if that is available to them. Press the standing thigh against the foot, bringing energy to the midline; extending arms into the air. Have them pretend they are a tree, or a majestic flamingo – make it FUN!
Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
An excellent hip-opener, this pose encourages erect posture and a calm mind – ideal for boosting confidence and easing those back-to-school jitters.
Ask your child to sit down on the floor and bend both the knees inwards in such a way that the soles of their feet touch each other.
Instruct them to hold their feet with both the hands and press it down, and also press down the thighs with the help of the elbows. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Wag your tail, bark, lift one leg (fire hydrant) – make this one fun! Kids can start on their hands and knees, with toes curled under. As you breathe out, instruct them to lift their hips into the air – straightening legs, pressing their heels into the floor. Palms press into the floor, with fingertips facing forward.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is not only fun for kids, but has great benefits; as an inversion, it offers a fresh perspective and is shown to have calming properties.
Playlists for Little Yogis
Chanting with Kids DJ Parmita Pushman
The practice of chanting has been shown to improve focus and concentration and has powerful effects on brain development. This playlist is light and whimsical, yet offering grounding qualities through the repetition of powerful mantras.
Kirtan Kids Jai Uttal
Kirtan, (a form of call-and-response chanting from India) helps kids calm down and find peace through musical meditations.
Share With Us
Do you have school-aged children, and do you share your practice with them? We’d love to know how you prepare them for the start of a new school year. Please share your comments and experiences below!