Yoga for routine after school holidays

During Summer time children’s routines tend to take on a mind of its own and ebb and flow into sleeping late, staying up late and traveling through the night. It is important to ease the children back into a routine that they become used to and can use throughout the school year.

A few bad habits which can be minimalised before bedtime include screen time and sugar. By decreasing both of these stimulants you will ensure the child can become calm and quiet before bed. If possible, try not to allow any screen time for at least two hours before bed. This will ensure that the childs minds are not overstimulated with sight and sound. Sugar intake, including fruit should not be eaten at least two hours before bed. This will ensure that they don’t wake up in the middle of the night with nasty dreams and beating hearts. By just eliminating these two elements before bed you will support your child in having a good night’s sleep so that they are ready in mind and body for what their school day has in store.

By introducing the following techniques, you will help bring calmness and quiet into the mind of the child before bedtime.

1)      Just before putting them to bed start off with a breathing exercise that will help them to slow down their hearts and circulation. An example of this would be: start off sitting with legs crossed in easy pose/lotus pose pretending to zip their mouths closed, locking the zip and then throwing the key out of the window to ensure that they keep their mouths closed. They will then take 5 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. When they breath in get them to lift their hands over their head and as they breath out they can bring their hands back to the floor or their laps.

2)      Just before settling into bed make up a story that incorporates these yoga poses for sleep:

a)       Happy baby pose: lying on their backs with their feet in the air, holding onto the bottoms of their feet rolling around. Could be a hippo or piggy rolling in mud, get them to mimic the sound of the animal. By rolling around they are massaging their backs and loosening up connective tissue which will allow for comfort when they sleep as well as aid in relaxation.

b)      Childs pose: on their knees, get them to put their head on the floor so that they are curled over their knees, could be a mouse or a sleeping rock. This will start bringing the children into their bodies and loosening them up so that they become comfortable to sleep.

c)       Legs up on wall whilst they are lying on their bed. This pose will slow down heart circulation and start to calm their bodies and minds.

 

3)      Once the child is in bed and calm, tell them to close their eyes. You will then start to speak through a visualisation to them. This will help to bring their attention into their bodies and turn off their minds to the constant external stimulations they have throughout the day. A great visualisation that I find works really well is going through all of their five senses.

For example: you would start off by asking them to focus on sound, ask them what it is that they are hearing, can they hear noises far and close etc. Then move onto feeling, taste, smell and finally ask them what they are seeing behind their closed eyes, ask them to focus on the shapes and colours forming behind their eyes. This should be done slowly by using a calming and slow voice. The entire visualisation should take about 5 minutes so leave spaces of silence in-between talking, allowing time for the child to really get into the visualisation. You can then leave them with a kiss and cuddle and perhaps play a soothing song or Yoga Nidra for sleep as you leave them to drift into dreamland.

The following is a Yoga Nidra which I have taken from the Amrit Yoga Institute. “Yoga Nidra has been shown to help mitigate the effects of learning disabilities and hyperactivity disorders. It is best to do this laying down in a quiet and dark room. Your kids don't have to do anything.”  Amrit Yoga Institute.

Why I want to teach yoga to teens

I can vaguely remember being a teenager. It was a pretty tumultuous time. Between dealing with my hormones and those of all the other teenagers I was surrounded by it felt like I was continuously at war with myself, my peers, my teachers and my parents. I threw myself into sports and although I was quite talented, the competitive aspect of the sports I played drove me to quitting what I loved because it was no longer fun and it no longer served its purpose.

I was searching for something to give me answers. Answers to questions such as: what am I, why am I here, what do I like, what am I going to do with my life, why do I feel so tired and depressed, why can I not find common ground with the majority of the people in my class. I turned to sports, love, partying and blaming everyone else for my misfortunes and misunderstandings. 

I needed to realise that all I had to do was look within. I went on a journey of self-discovery which only in my late twenties lead to yoga and mindfulness. I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s where social media was only a tiny blink on the radar and combined with fast paced daily lives, the need for immediate gratification and extremely stressful expectations I can only imagine the daily struggles our children are having to face today.

I am a believer in prevention rather than cure. I have faith that yoga is the tool that will teach the world to look within for all the answers they may need. And for our teens, they need this tool more than ever. By teaching our children yoga they will learn how to self-regulate their emotions. They will also learn the internal physical benefits - yoga as medicine! We will teach them how to love themselves unconditionally and therefor love each other. They will learn calmness and mindfulness. They will learn how to stretch and strengthen their bodies in a non-competitive environment and they will learn unity, which is all that yoga embodies. 

Most importantly they will learn to love themselves unconditionally and thus pass this love and compassion on to all beings.

I am so blessed to already be teaching children yoga for the last year. I have witnessed the outcomes of my classes and the changing mind-sets that only a month of teaching can bestow. This is the most rewarding job (if you can call it that) that I could imagine. Seeing little tears during *Savasana whilst 30 children lie dead still listening to Ra Ma Da SA (Snatam Kaur) is a life changing experience.

Below is a guide on how to do a Savasana for teens. This is an excellent way to get children to sleep at night who are suffering from anxiety and who are battling to fall asleep or stay asleep. My students love this song and even request it at the end of class:

  • Start off by getting the teen to lie on their back and completely relax their entire body. You can bring their attention to each part of their body by mentioning a body part as you make your way up the body, ensure your voice is light and soothing. For example: “Relax your foot, your foot is completely relaxed. Relax your leg, your leg is completely relaxed.” Etc.
  • You then start to play the song and allow them to melt into the floor or the bed as they take their final Savasana.

*Savasana is perhaps the most important part of yoga practice. Lying on the back, the arms and legs are spread at about 45 degrees, the eyes are closed and the breath deep, using deerkha (long) pranayama (breath).