Mindfulness is a technique and tool we hear much about. Though I cannot say I’ve mastered it (or even come close!), I know that the benefits of mindfulness in helping ease anxiety and calm our minds are compelling.
Our favorite yoga for kids instructor, Krista Fox, has graciously provided below a mindfulness exercise that we can share with our children (and use ourselves). If you’re new to this, like me, feel free to just start with closing your eyes and breathing deeply through your nose alone before you get your kids involved. If you feel more comfortable, your children will, too. Thank you, Krista.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” -Thigh Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk.
These simple words make a beautiful, strong statement about mindfulness– one that I consciously try to remember on a daily basis. Thankfully, we don’t need to be a famous Zen monk to teach our children about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment, aware of your actions, thoughts and feelings. It is a way of living that expresses kindness and respect for all. Kids are naturally mindful, but often forget things simply because they are not paying attention. Research shows that mindfulness increases attention skills, reduces anxiety, and improves emotional regulation. Mindfulness IS the goal of a yoga kids practice or any yoga practice.
Here is a mindfulness exercise to help you connect with your children and help them feel a connection to the rest of the world. Give it a try!
Setting up the exercise: Explain to your children that mindfulness is an education of the heart. Just like going to school and learning academic skills, mindfulness exercises will help them learn inner values: love, compassion, and forgiveness.
Exercise 1: Mindful 5-4-3-2-1 *Helps to reduce anxiety.
Sit quietly, ask your child to close his/her eyes and take a few breaths in and out through the nose. When ready, walk through the following (silently, or out loud if there is just one child):
Try to recall 5 colors that you just saw (the color of the walls, your shirt, your yoga mat)
4 things you feel at this present moment (maybe your foot hurts, you’re hot or cold)
3 things that you hear (brother yelling, clock ticking, the wind coming through the window)
2 things you like the aroma of (lavender bushes, fresh baked cookies)
1 thing you like the taste of (cold water, strawberries)
Closing out the exercise: Breathe in and say “I am” and breathe out and say “relaxed.” Repeat. Alternatively, you can ask your child to take relaxing inhales and exhales as you say “May you be safe, may you be happy, and may you be connected (or peaceful) today”.
Krista Fox, YKA, is a yoga for kids instructor in the western suburbs of Chicago.