School is approaching and in some places in the country it has actually begun. Although there is still a bit of August left the impending first day brings with it a subtle change in energy of both kids and adults. Caregivers are trying to fill the school supply lists and dress requirements, considering and adjusting schedules and stressing over how to juggle all that is ahead. Kids are picking up on this energy as well as feeling their own excitement or anxiety about summer ending and the new academic year beginning. Thankfully there are some wonderful tools out there to help your kids get both their brains and bodies ready for school and helping to keep them calm and focused. Here are 3 great yoga practices to support this transition and carry kids through their school year.
The breath is often an indicator of one’s anxiety level. Mouth breathing is often a sign that our sympathetic nervous system is activated, that we are in a “fight , flight or freeze” mode interfering with executive functioning and our ability to make clear choices, focus and all the other actions required for school (and life). http://www.elementalhealthandnutrition.com.au/mouth-breathing-nervous-system-activation/ Learning to breathe deeply through the nose filling the diaphragm with air activates the parasympathetic nervous system allowing us to find calm, make decisions, pay attention and allows the body to perform its normal functions. Teach kids to connect to their breath by simply sitting in a comfortable position placing one hand on the belly taking deep inhales through the nose and then noticing the breath as it fills the belly. This not only creates a better physiological state but also helps to calm a child as he has a place to put his attention in a time of stress that is not the stressful event itself. This kind of breathing helps strengthen the “focus muscle” and the ability to self regulate. Imagine all the situations in school that require calm, focus and pause. Practicing this breathing before school starts will give your child an easy and effective tool to cope with emotions and situations that arise in school and life.
Yoga poses reflect life. When school is in session children are continually doing a balancing act. Trying to juggle schedules, homework, friendships, sports and more keeping steady while learning and expanding is a challenge to say the least. To help kids practice finding balance in life try some balancing poses in yoga. Tree pose is always a favorite. Start standing on 2 feet find equal balance. Then finding the balance on one leg slowly bend the knee of the other leg brining the foot up to the inner thigh of the standing leg or low by the ankle. Place hands together by the heart and find a focal point that is not moving. When you feel secure in your pose reach your hands to the sky and grow holding for a few inhales through the nose. Practice on the other side. Tree is a beautiful way to feel grounded while reaching for the stars and achieving your goals. This pose requires focus, a connection to the body and balance while allowing freedom in the upper body to sway, move and expand. Tree is empowering and confidence building and helps to recognize that balance is achievable and so is growth and expansion.
When kids are caught up in heavy emotions about the change of seasons and all the navigating the unknowns and anxiety of a new school year brings sometimes a change of perspective is all they need to see that what seems like a big deal isn’t or seeing another side of a situation can make all the difference. Again practicing poses that literally turn things upside down can translate to a myriad of real-life experiences. Having a child stand on her head may not be accessible or safe but doing inversion poses like downward dog reverse the blood flow providing the brain with more oxygen and greater mental function and focus as well as a renewed point of view. Practicing being upside down can help your child feel refreshed, centered and able to look at a situation in a new way.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming to get your kids ready for all that a new school year can bring. Practicing yoga with your kids can be a playful reminder that we ALL have the tools within us to navigate all the hills and valleys in our lives we just need to tap in.
Susan Verde is currently living in East Hampton, New York with her twin boys Joshua and Gabriel and her daughter Sophia where she writes children’s books and teaches kid’s yoga and mindfulness. Her children, her practice and the ocean at her doorstep keep her constantly connected and inspired. She is the author of the picture books The Museum, You and Me, I Am Yoga, The Water Princess, and the forthcoming book, “My Kicks,” (due for release in April of 2017