Ever wish you had a physical activity that could help children de-stress, calm down, return to balance, find center, and get grounded? Most of the time when children are beyond their own capacity to contain and control themselves, it’s because we have let them get too tired, too dehydrated, too over-stimulated.
Self-regulation takes energy and if there’s none left, the nervous system literally goes into overload with all the accompanying distress behavior.
A few basic kids yoga poses, practiced regularly with children, along with the breathing techniques from the last blog, offer simple, effective actions that enable children to build self-regulation.
The five kids yoga poses on this list are not only for those times when it’s clear, from the emotional state your child(ren) are in, that no amount of yelling, cajoling, or threatening is going to help, but also for everyday slowing, settling, supporting, and resetting of your child’s mind-body state/nervous system. Yoga poses help children head-off the out-of-control, melt-downs before they takes over by giving them physical tools they can use to self-care.
1.Child’s Pose – renamed for kids either Rock or Mouse
Sit on shins. Fold torso over thighs. Rest forehead on the floor or on stacked hands – palms down.
Rocks are still. Mice are quiet and small.
Once children are in this forward bended, inner focused pose, invite them to let the ground hold them so they can feel their belly expand against their thighs as they breath, slow their inner speed, and exhale into the earth all their wiggles, craziness, frustration, exhaustion, etc.
2. Cat Pose
From hands and knees, arch and round back several times slowly. Let it feel good. Like a cat, enjoy stretching extend one leg back at a time like extending a tail. Then, focus on a point in front of you on the floor.
Lift right leg… and then left arm. Breathe and reach in opposite directions while pulling belly up and keeping other arm straight. Come back to hands and knees. Rest and re-focus. Then extend left leg back and right arm forward.
3. Dog Pose
From hands and knees, keeping arms straight, curl toes under, lift hips up and straighten legs. Reach heels toward the floor. Make sure feet and hands are far enough apart that your heels don’t reach the floor. Stretch your back and legs just like a dog.
This a tension reliever and stress buster – great for any time kids need a break, to re-group, to blow off steam, or just get present and grounded.
4. Tree Pose
Press your hands together in front of your chest. Focus on a point at eye level, breathe, and send your energy down into the earth like you had roots. Shift your weight to one foot and press the other into your calf or inner thigh.
You can use your hands to get it there. Lift arms to the sky like branches, keeping hands clasped (harder) or opening them into a V (easier). Hold for 3 – 5 breaths and come out gracefully. Anytime you have to balance on one foot, you have to concentrate, coordinate, and calm yourself.
5. Boat Pose
Sit, lean back, bend knees, lift feet, lift hands – balance on your sit bones. This takes core strength and may be too challenging at first. Build up to full Boat Pose by keeping hands on floor behind you for support and just lifting legs. Then try keeping feet down and just leaning back with no hands. Then do opposite arm and leg until you can lift both.
At all levels of challenge, this pose is grounding and calming because it requires strength, coordination, and balance.
Practice at circle time, transition times, waiting times so kids know the poses and can utilize them as self-regulation tools for emotional charged, stressed, or conflict times.
There are many terrific yoga cards for kids. I wrote the Yoga Pretzel and Yoga Planet Decks for Barefoot Books – great for older kids; and the Yoga Kit for Kids for Imaginazium – recommended for younger ones.