Yoga is not what most people think it is. It is not about mats and holding postures. Truly folks, when you take a deep breath before going into a business meeting, you are doing yoga. Yoga can be done anytime, anywhere—schools included. No mats needed.
Everyone knows that teaching children to self-calm, self-regulate, and self-love are some of the best things we can do for them. Yoga is a perfect match to those goals. Here are some on-the-spot yoga techniques you can use for transition times, when emotions or chaos is building, or simply to help children relax in school.
1. Balloon Breath: One thing we all do is breathe. Do you know our lungs are kind of like balloons? When we breathe in, we blow up our internal balloons, and when we breathe out, they empty. Let’s make a balloon with our arms, bringing them up the sides of the body as we inhale, forming a circle shape like a balloon. And hold…pause your breath….and exhale as the arms come back to your sides.
Try 2-3 for transition times, like moving from one activity to another, lining up to go out of the classroom, and anytime the energy starts getting loud and wild. Once they get the hang of it, you may see them initiating Balloon Breaths on their own and teaching their parents!
2. Desk Down-Dog: Stand facing your desk and put your hands on the desk, spreading your fingers. Bend forward with legs straight, but not locked. Let your head relax down. Feel like a dog stretching out his back in the morning. Hold for 3 breaths.
Teacher can count the breaths (inhale…one, exhale. inhale…two, exhale). Go for 3-5. Good remedy for excessive sitting as it stretches lower back, hips, and hamstrings.
3. Desk Up-Dog: Great to do along with Downdog. Same starting position. Lean into the desk, and lift the head and chest forward. Hold for 3 breaths.
Teacher counts the breaths. Make sure there is no slipping on the floor. Allows the back and shoulders to stretch and relax after slumping at the desk. If necessary, the child can hold onto the edge of the desk rather than have hands flat on the desk.
4. Crouching Tiger Squats: Stand with feet apart. Bring your arms out straight in front of you. As you exhale, crouch down as far as you can. You may have to adjust your feet to get close to the ground. As you inhale, come back up again. Try it with Dragon Breath! Inhale as before, then breath out through your mouth and make a sound like Darth Vader! Do 5-10.
Teacher can encourage them to breathe strongly in Dragon Breath to release pent-up energy. Alternatively, they can face a partner, take hands and squat together.
5. Affirm Your Greatness: Do you know that an acronym for yoga could be Your Own Greatness Affirmed? Y-O-G-A. What is an affirmation? When you tell yourself something really good about yourself and you can feel the truth of it. You might find that life also tells you something good about yourself in return!
A Radiant Child Yoga affirmation/song*:
I am happy, I am good, I am happy, I am good.
I am, I am, I am free! Happy, happy, happy to be me!
Teaching children to tell themselves how wonderful they are will capture their fancy, especially if it is sung, since singing helps to cement an idea into the brain. You will also find these simple words will begin to reverberate in their lives from that time forward.
*Can be spoken or sung. See Happy CD, and Yoga In Motion DVD for song and movements to this affirmation and many more.
So teachers and parents, feel free to comment here. Let us know how it goes. Your experience will inspire others to do Anywhere, Anytime Yoga with children!