“Our children can handle quiet time if we cultivate the proper conditions for them to thrive at creating inner peace and quiet.” - Tejal Patel
Being a children’s yoga teacher, parents find it hard to believe that I can get their children to focus and sit still in class to meditate and stay quiet during relaxation time. I can attest; children absolutely can be still, it’s just a matter of how you introduce the content to them that’s important.
Children are more spiritually connected than adults because they haven’t accumulated the years of layering, limiting beliefs and ego domination like adults. With continued practice and repetition, it’s easier for children to shut down their ego and get into the meditation zone since they are still so connected to their inner voice.
Here’s my biggest secret: in order for kids to slow down physically, we have to first focus on consciously slowing down the breath. The mind and ego slow down to follow the breath and the body follows the mind. If you teach kids the tools of deep breathing, you are imprinting the skills of allowing them to create space in their mind, body and soul for inner peace and calmness.
Here are some of the ways I teach children, between the ages 3-12, how to meditate, learn deep breathing, and enter into deep relaxation.
For Children Ages 3-7
1. Connecting To The Breath and Feelings - Lotus Breath
It’s no mystery that conscious breathing can be a bore for children. What I do to make it exciting is to use certain yoga hand positions (mudras), songs, and other fun activities. At the start of every class, we create our lotus mudra by touching our pinkies and thumbs together to create a lotus flower.
We take a deep breath of our flower and imagine the flower’s scent and how we feel after smelling it. I’ll ask questions about how they feel, what color they feel like, and what their favorite thing is that happened that day to get an idea of their energy level and how they’re feeling at the moment.
It’s important to have children start the dialogue of their emotions and feelings so they can connect to their pain, anger and happiness. Sometimes children won’t even know how they feel, and that’s okay. Though their vocabulary may be limited, it’s through our ability to be fully present that we can truly understand how they are feeling based on the energy they are exuding.
2. Meditation- Peaceful Piggy Meditation
Children at this age love stories. My go-to book for teaching children how to meditate is The Peaceful Piggy Meditation. During class, I will read this story before we head off to Savasana. After Savasana, we try to sit up and meditate like the little piggies in the book. This book is great for understanding emotions and how meditation will help us calm down. After reading the book, we spend between 45 seconds and 2 minutes in quiet, upright meditation before we end the class.
Children Ages 8 And Up
3. Connecting to Breath and Feelings: Bear Breath
It’s imperative at this age to teach children the correct way to breathe. For older children, I explain that when we’re breathing correctly, inhaling through our nose, our belly expands like a balloon. And when we exhale through our nose, our belly gets pulled back to the spine and our balloon deflates. Once they have a grasp of this, I move onto the bear breath.
This breath entails breathing in through the nose for 4 counts, holding the breath for 4 counts and slowly releasing the breath for 4 counts through the nose.
This is a fabulous breathing technique to help children focus when they are doing homework, before sleeping and when they just need a break when they’re stressed, angry, or sad. Slowing down the breath allows for more oxygen to go to the brain, and in essence, creates more mental clarity.
4. Meditation: Calming Guided Visualizations
For this age range, during Savasana, I either speak aloud or play a guided visualization. One of my favorite guided meditations is the “Light Bath” to help infuse your entire body with positive, radiating energy, love and light.
I guide my students to lie down on their backs and breathe into any areas of their body that feels tense. I tell them to allow themselves to release that negative energy and allow inner peace to flow through their head in the form of a pink light. I guide that pink light through every spot in their body and invite them to breathe into each space, giving awareness to each major body part (eyes, ears, mouth, arms, heart, legs brain).
I have them breathe in love, and release love to all their friends and family, and then breathe in happiness and bless all their friends and family with happiness. Breathe in forgiveness and letting go, and breathe out this forgiveness to all those that have hurt them. We end by giving thanks for all their wonderful abilities that help us be happy, healthy and whole. I find that the children awaken feeling lighter and more at peace.
"I'm Happy, Healthy, And Whole"
At the end of the class, we say an affirmation together as they create a protective bubble around themselves. They say “From my head to my toes, I’m happy, healthy and whole.” I have them touch their head and feet as if they are creating a protective bubble around themselves.
In my yoga classes, I have found that the children who have the most success with becoming more calm and relaxed are those whose parents model their own personal mindfulness and meditation.
Children don’t learn by “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality; they observe our actions and follow suit based on how we engage ourselves. Children will emulate parents and incorporate these powerful tips at a younger age, if parents are also practicing meditation.
If you enjoyed these tips, share the wealth with your family and friends! As the caretakers of the future, we have an important responsibility to raise our consciousness and lay the foundation to create the conditions for our children to thrive.