Here are five simple things you can do with your child to help him with the ups and downs of everyday life. Feeling frazzled, tense and can’t wind down? Try Bunny Breath or Swim, Buddy, Swim. Want help with focus and concentration? Practice Tree Pose with your child. Got a belly ache? Try Wind Reliever or Child’s Pose. It’s important to practice these often before you or your child has a major meltdown, so the practices become part of your go-to strategies for weathering life’s storms.
To self-soothe when upset or energize when feeling low:
Seated upright or even standing, wiggle your nose like a bunny. Then take 4 to 6 quick short breaths of air into your nose, and then with your mouth open let out a long sighing breath. Repeat cycle 4 to 6 times. If you practice this for fun, you’ll be able to use it with your kids when they’re having a meltdown.
For focus and concentration:
Stand tall like a tree. Bring hands together, pressing palm to palm. Bend one leg and bring the foot to the ankle, calf or thigh on the inside of the standing leg. Focus your eyes like a laser beam on a spot on the floor about 3 or 4 ft away. When you feel ready, stretch your arms up over head, reaching with your branches for the energy of the sun. If you start to sway or wobble, that’s fine, just bring your foot down, and try again. The trees that bend with the wind are the ones who best weather the storms of life. After a few breaths in and out, lower your foot, and try the other side.
To aid digestion and help with constipation and belly aches:
Stretch out long on your back on the floor or bed with your legs out long and arms beside your body. Bend one leg, grasp below the knee with both hands and bring in toward your belly and chest. Breathe for a few breath cycles and then repeat on the other side. This massages the belly and the intestines and promotes the release of gas. A seated version of this (maybe on the toilet) can really help when kids are having trouble with constipation.
To calm the nervous system:
Child’s Pose, Seed, Rock, Polar Bear
This pose in children’s yoga goes by many names. Begin on hands and knees. Bring the big toes together, and widen the space between the knees. Sit the hips back on the heels, and let the chest lower to the floor. Forehead rests on the floor. Arms rest alongside the body, shoulders relaxing. Breathe. You may also keep the knees together if you are looking for help with digestion or constipation.
For a fun variation, pretend you are a polar bear resting on the sea ice. Create a cup with your hands and rest your polar bear black nose between your big fluffy paws, breathing the warm air. You’re completely blended in with the white ice and nobody can see you! Breathe and relax.
A bedtime practice to relax and let go of the day:
Swim Buddy Swim
Does your child have a favorite beanie baby or stuffed animal? With your child stretched out on his back in bed, have him place his buddy on his belly. Encourage your child to close his eyes and imagine giving his buddy a ride on the wave of his breath. He doesn’t have to change the way he’s breathing, just breathe normally, letting his belly rise up and down, over and over again. This will help calm and soothe him, and help him get to sleep.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose that helps to calm or soothe your child?
Stephanie Sandy is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), certified YogaKids teacher and founder of YogaConnects. She has taught yoga to children and teens since 2004 in classrooms, after-school programs, day care centers, private homes—just about anywhere you’d find kids! She has also worked with children with special needs and the Girl Scouts. Stephanie trains adults in how to bring the benefits of yoga to children in school and therapeutic settings.