Yoga for Kids: Mindfulness Exercise

IMGP5332Mindfulness 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.

Yoga for Kids: Mindfulness Exercise

Yoga for Kids: Pinwheel breathing

My daughter has been in yoga for kids for over a year with a wonderful instructor. I always get the most excited reactions when I tell people this. Oh, my kids could use yoga! What a good idea! I should be in yoga myself!

A lot of us feel we would benefit from some sort of yoga (if we can find the time!); however, our kids can benefit from these practices also. So I thought it might be helpful to share a few yoga techniques here on the blog for readers who want to try them their kids. Krista, the wonderful teacher I mentioned above, graciously offered to author this post. I know you will enjoy this! IMGP5205 ”Pinwheel, pinwheel, spinning around. Look at my Pinwheel and see what I’ve found.  Pinwheel, pinwheel, where have you been? Hello, how are you, and may I come in? Pinwheel, pinwheel, spinning around. Look at my Pinwheel and see what I’ve found. Pinwheel, pinwheel, breezy and bright. Spin me good morning and spin me goodnight.”

Those lyrics are actually the theme song from a TV show, Pinwheel, that aired in the late 70’s and early 80’s on the Nickelodeon channel. I was a carefree tween back then with no worries and very few distractions in life. It was days …or should I say years (gasp!) before computers, cell phones and video games. With the fast paced world of today, kids probably relate more to the movement of a pinwheel ‘spinning from morning to night’ instead of the breezy and bright pinwheel that we would like them to be. IMGP5210 Yoga is a great tool for parents to use to help their child calm the mind and any anxiety in the body. Breath focus is a fundamental exercise in a yoga practice and all classes begin and end with the breath. The top picture shows the start of my yoga kids class as we use a pinwheel for a breathing prop. We inhaled slowly and deeply through our nose and then gently exhaled through our mouth to make the pinwheel spin around.

After repeating seven times, you could definitely see the effect of the breath oxygenating the organs and muscles, as well as soothing the central nervous system. The kids were ready to continue on to the warm up poses. They were more focused and quiet than when they came into class. IMGP5211 However, you don’t have to be in a yoga studio or even taking yoga to breathe and enjoy the effects. Breath work can be done anywhere – home, car, airplane or even standing in a store’s check-out lane.

Here’s a fun trick. Next time you are in a store with your child and go to check-out – look at the lane number and have your child take that many slow and gentle inhales/ exhales. In yoga, we want to make children aware of the power of their breath without boring them. Have fun and explore opportunities to use breath work with your kids and maybe they will blow you away with their peace, love and happiness!  

Krista Fox, YKA, is a yoga for kids instructor in the western suburbs of Chicago.  

Yoga for Kids: Pinwheel breathing