Engaging Children Through Movement & Mindfulness

It’s a pretty typical question when you meet someone new for them to ask what you do for work. Sometimes my answer varies. “I work with children” is a pretty straight-forward answer I used to give fairly often to avoid the look from people when I’d tell them, “I teach yoga and mindfulness to children.” Sure, some people would be really interested… but there were many individuals that would ask: “How do you do that?” or “Are there really that many people who want their children to learn yoga and mindfulness for you to run a successful business?”

Fortunately, the yoga and mindfulness movement is beginning to pick up momentum. It has already been well-received in many other countries around the world. It’s not so foreign to people anymore. And what’s really awesome is how schools are beginning to use yoga, movement and mindfulness to break up the school day for children. It’s really a win-win for everyone. Children get breaks that allow them to move and be silly for a few minutes, and teachers see positive results- leading to more peaceful and harmonious classroom environments, not to mention better test scores with their students.

I grew up with a large influence of mindfulness and meditation in my home as a child. While it took me until my college years to finally appreciate the benefits of meditation, I am so grateful for all those “seeds” that were planted when I was a child. I attended a weekend family summer camp each summer, at a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center in Vermont with my family. There were lots of other kids, and we learned about compassion, and ways to show kindness to others (even animals) through all sorts of craft projects and games.

So… fast forward years and years later… and I find myself being drawn to teaching these same principles to children and families. Being a mother myself, I understand the challenges that other families face, and the hectic schedules everyone keeps. It’s A LOT of work! I honestly believe parent’s need as much self-care as they give to their children because a family will thrive when the adults are feeling stable, happy and healthy, both mentally and physically.

My best advice for self-care is to mix things up! Parents, get out of that daily routine for 20 minutes and get silly with your kiddos! Play some upbeat music, and dance around. Pull out the bubbles and make a foot soak for you and your little ones to enjoy. Try some yoga together. Create a peace space in the house with a comfy pillow, special rock or flower in a vase, and a blanket. Be proactive in your need to feel well, and your children will learn from your example over time. Is this always easy? Definitely not. But I’d say it is necessary.

I’ll always be grateful to my son for showing me HOW TO BE PRESENT… he is always in the moment. And if I’m not, well, he will show me that I need to be in order to keep up with him. One of our go-to ways for non-stop laughter is partner yoga… which basically means he climbs on me and tries to balance in bizarre ways while I hold him up. Yoga? Maybe not. Fun? Yes!

So, I want to de-bunk any myths about Children’s Yoga for you… and the best way I can think of to do this is to provide you with a few of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received & to answer them!

Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me about yoga and mindfulness for your child or family. I teach weekly yoga classes for children, as well as host workshops for adults and children. I also lead summer camps focused on yoga, mindfulness and nature; teach yoga and mindfulness 1-on-1 to children; and offer a Personal Peace Plan (a cohesive family mindfulness and yoga plan to help with behavioral challenges with children, and to incorporate social-emotional learning to children and families).

 

 

  1. What are the benefits to young children doing yoga?

- Increases concentration and focus

- Increases confidence and self-esteem

- Improves balance and coordination

- Increases strength and flexibility

- Improves sleeping patterns

- Creates a healthy and safe social and emotional outlet with peers

- Lowers levels of stress, anxiety and nervousness

- Promotes positive feelings towards self and others

 

Engaging the brain through movement is central to learning. Kinesthetic movement engages the cerebellum, the part of the brain that affects movement and timing. And movement activities have an impact on more than just physical learning. Because each development domain-physical, social, emotional, cognitive- is closely related to the others, physical development affects other kinds of learning. Young children have a limited attention span and need more time to connect new information with prior learning. Movement experiences throughout the day give children time to better process what they are learning.” (NAEYC: Young Children, May 2008, Transformers: Movement Experiences for Early Childhood Classrooms, Julia Coleman Vagovic)

 

  1. How can families incorporate yoga and mindfulness into “home-life”?

Be simple. I am the first to admit that coming up with ideas and actually carrying them out are two totally different things. If you are looking to make a change, then start with something that is doable and enjoyable. If you want to make time for yourself, then think about your daily life and see if there are just 5 minutes you can take for yourself. Then maybe invite you child or spouse to join you for a family yoga pose, or focusing on the breath for 2 minutes before bedtime.  Starting small will lead to consistency, which is the basis for creating a new habit.

 

  1. My child has too much energy for a yoga class. Will he/she get anything out of it?

Yes! Every child is capable of having loads of energy, almost all the time. I always tell families not to worry if their child seems like they’re not getting much out of a yoga class. You’d be surprised how many of those families with active children go home and witness their child practicing a pose or breathing game we did in class. Every child is equally as capable of tuning-in, slowing down and finding peace within themselves. Classes always include a mix of both energizing poses and games, as well as calming and more focused activities. While there are many learning techniques interwoven throughout each children’ yoga class, these classes are meant to be engaging, silly and playful! All of these yoga classes are also non-religious.