For many years I had the pleasure of teaching kids yoga, and at the end of each and every class, I would have the kids finish it out in savasana, which basically is lying flat on the floor, arms by your side, palms up, eyes closed and no talking. Usually I would shut the lights off, and I would keep it going for as long as I possibly could, which sometimes stretched into five minutes. Yes, for five minutes I would have a classroom full of little kids (usually aged 8 and younger) lying in stillness with their eyes closed, totally silent (maybe a little giggle here and there). The parents would always ask me "How do you get them to do that?!" and I would always respond, "Because they need it".
Now, I had some help. I would lower the lights and sometimes put on a nightlight that would project stars onto the ceiling, I played gentle, soothing meditation music, and I would tiptoe around the room, placing a "jewel" sticker in between their eyebrows, and I would quietly explain what I was doing and that once they got their sticker they had to focus on it and see if they could guess what color their jewel was that day. They absolutely loved it, and even after the most rambunctious of classes we would all come together in quiet savasana.
Even after doing this for years I was amazed that I could pull it off each time, but I understood that in our children's lives there can sometimes be very little peace and quiet. The classroom is noisy and boisterous, my own kids tell me about the incredible loudness of the cafeteria at lunch, the school bus, the playground, it's part of their daily life but it definitely isn't quiet. Most of the time, the only quiet time kids get is at bedtime, and while that is important, is it enough? Furthermore, bedtime can sometimes be more of a battle and less of a relaxing drifting off to dreamland, so where is the peace?
Even if it's just a few minutes, learning how to make their own calm and peaceful space using meditation techniques can be so important to a child's well being. Studies show that meditation helps reduce stress, strengthens the immune system, can improve relationships at home and at school, it can help to decrease aggressiveness and anxieties, improves behavior and attitude, improves focus, memory and concentration and promotes inner peace. Who wouldn't want to teach those skills to their kids?!
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of my favorite meditation and yoga techniques just for kids, and I'm going to start with my kids favorite one: The Balloon. Don't overthink it, just find a quiet space, a few minutes, and give it a go. If it doesn't feel at all like a mediation, don't sweat it. Baby steps. Just taking the time to try it is a good thing.
This meditation can be done standing or seated. Just find a quiet space with little distraction.
Relax your body and begin to take deep inhales and slow exhales through the nose. Start to take a slow, deep breath to fill your belly up with air, as if you’re trying to blow up a big balloon. Expand your belly as much as you can. Have the kids stretch their arms open and overhead to represent expansion of their big balloon.
To get kids engaged in this, ask them to picture the balloon, to see what color it might be.
Slowly let the air out of the balloon (through the nose) as you release the breath from the belly.
Encourage your kids to feel their entire body relax each time they exhale, each time air is slowly being released from the balloon. The kids can even make a “hissing” noise to encourage them to slow down the exhale even more, like letting air out of the balloon.
Continue to breathe air into and out of the balloon for several minutes (aka as long as you can get them to sit still and take part). If it's just a few times at first, that's still good, just be patient and encourage them to keep going.
When their balloon is totally full, have the kids hold their breath at the top, and then you can “pop" the balloon for them with a gentle poke to their belly and they can lay down and "deflate" as they exhale. My suggestion? Wait till you are getting near the end of their attention span for this part, it's a great way to draw it out next time ("After a few more deep breaths we will pop our balloons!").
Stay tuned for more mindful meditation techniques, including a mama + kids meditation challenge...xoxo