Spooky Brew Halloween Yoga

I always begin my classes by having the kids lay face down on their mats in crocodile with their foreheads resting on their hands. Whenever your forehead touches something, it automatically sends a signal to your brain to calm down. I find that most children can benefit from a moment or two to be still (or at least to try to be still) at the end of the school day, before we begin class. I am a classroom teacher, so, I myself LOVE to join them in this pose! My body absolutely craves this pose while I am watching and waiting for them to get settled down. After racing around all day, it feels great to lay there and do nothing, even if it is only for 30 seconds.

Once everyone is lying quietly with their eyes closed, I put on a quick costume. We love costumes and accessories at my house (and in my classroom), so I have lots to choose from. If you need to start your own collection, thrift shops are a great place to pick up a few fun items! I keep my eyes open throughout the year for that special something that I simply can’t do without. And now with the fabulous Kidding Around Yoga song, the Yogi Shake, I have a great excuse to add to my stash.  I picked up a few new things at the half-price day at Goodwill over the weekend. You can’t beat that deal!

For my class earlier in the week, I had put on a black cape and purple witch’s hat, so today I will wear my silver cape and wizard hat. The children who were in class earlier in the week all think they know what I am doing when I ask them to be sure their eyes are closed. But even they are surprised when I say it’s time to sit up in criss-cross applesauce, and I am wearing something new. I loved surprises when I was a kid, so I try to recreate that wonderful feeling of anticipation and excitement for my students.

I have a small cauldron filled with little Halloween trinkets that are hidden under several plastic grocery bags partly shredded into strips. Even though we use reusable bags for all of our shopping, we still end up with some plastic bags occasionally. I wanted the cauldron to have a bubbling, smoky feel, so repurposing some unwanted bags was the perfect answer! Some of Halloween creatures in the pot are from Party City, but some of the things I had around the house or I made them. The gate is from craft sticks hot-glued together and the eyeball is made out of a ping pong ball. You can buy the eyes at Party City, but I really didn’t need a whole dozen of them! I had a spare pong-pong ball, so it was free.

The first year I did this activity, I had to spend a little extra money to get the cauldron set up since all of the things from Party City came in a pack with 8-12 items. I put the extras in a plastic pumpkin. At the end of class, I had the child close their eyes and pick out one thing to take home – kids just love little things they can fiddle around with! After that first year, my cauldron is stocked up and ready to go year after year.

I have a small, rubbery, bendy skeleton that I came across a few years ago. He sits in Lotus while we do our poses. The kids get a big kick out of him! I play Monster Mash, the original version from way back, for a few minutes.

So now, on to the real fun . . . for this class, the children take turns reaching into the cauldron and pulling out something. We then do a pose to match the item. Some of the items lend themselves to be real yoga poses and for others we have to use our imaginations and get creative! The children are much better at that than I am, which is one of the reasons I love working with children so much! They never cease to amaze me!

You might come up with different things, but here is what I have in my cauldron:

  • OWL – reach across body to grab the back of shoulder, look at shoulder. Pranayama: Inhale through nose and exhale to make hooting sounds (Do the other shoulder)
  • Halloween Cat – hiss, arch back, meow and snarl loudly!
  • Ghost – wavy, floating arms – Pranayama: inhale through nose, exhale ghost sounds! Repeat several times.
  • Mummy – walk stiff legged like a mummy all wrapped up
  • Pumpkin – Squat and point their face toward the ground, putting their hands in Namaste/prayer on the back of their head to be the stem – If they are quiet enough to hear me, I ask them if they know what the stem is for? I want to make sure they understand that pumpkins grow in a field on a giant crawling vine AND can be made into pumpkin pie, helping them to understand where food comes from
  • Frankenstein – walk stiff legged with arms extended out 
  • Tree Pose – Pretend it’s a windy night and make some creaking noises,
  • Witch Finger – How do witches sound? Pranayama: Inhale through nose and exhale a cackle! Repeat several times. Triangle Pose for the witch’s hat
  • Gate Pose & Reverse Gate – with lots of Squeaks & Creaks
  • Bat- because I have less children on Thursdays, we are able to do “legs up the wall” to pretend we are bats hanging/sleeping upside down – they love it!
  • Spider – Partner Pose (back to back, move arms & legs)
  • Shark’s Tooth – Shark Pose – on belly with hands clasped behind back
  • Snake – Cobra Pose
  • Frog – Squat at the back of the mat and hop to the other end, do several times
  • Vampire Teeth – let them decide what to do for this
  • Dracula – Let them decide what to do for this
  • Skeleton – Let them decide what to do for this
  • Fly/Bug – Dead Bug (Happy Baby)
  • Eyeball – Eyes Around the Clock – rub hands together to create friction and heat, hold them over your eyes, then move your eyes up and down, down and up, left to right, right to left and diagonally. I have heard different things regarding eye exercises for kids, so I contacted Dr. Sorkin, OD, FAAO, FCOVD Board Certified in Visual Therapy and Child Development. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and is located in St. Petersburg, Florida. I asked him about eye movements for children and he assured me, it is fine for children to do these movements.

Make sure you have enough to be sure there are at least two things still in the cauldron when the last person takes his/her turn. Depending on the size of your class, you might have time to have the kids help you rearrange the items they pulled out into an order that would make a good “flow.” Explain to them that a flow is one that does all the standing poses first and then all of the poses of the floor or all of the floor poses first, followed by the standing poses. Then have the group test their order by redoing the poses to see if they really do “flow.”

If you have more time, here’s a fun game to play. Have everyone sit in criss-cross applesauce and scoot closer together, so they are just about knee-to-knee.  I have several soft-sculpture, stuffed Halloween decorations (like stuffed animals): a witch, a ghost, and a pumpkin. They’re either still around from my kids or from a thrift shop. We all lean back on our hands and lift our legs similar to your legs in boat pose. Then, I start the game by passing one of the stuffed toys to my neighbor using my feet. They have to take it using only their feet, no hands allowed. Depending on the size of the group, you can start passing another toy. At some point, you can say “reverse” and they have to change the direction of the passing. You can discuss the meaning of clockwise and counter-clockwise. I always tell the kids clockwise is the direction a clock usually moves and that the only time a clock might go the other way (counter- clockwise) is if it is a haunted clock at Halloween. The kids have to pay close attention to pass the items without dropping them, while also being ready to receive another toy from their other neighbor.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Yoga

Halloween is often a very exciting time of year for children . Between the spooky decorations, the piles of candy, and the pressure of choosing the perfect costume, kids 21304223858_45452b009d_zcan get pretty wound up. These Yoga activities don’t just settle the excess energy, but also add to the Halloween celebration.

I like to start my kids’ Yoga classes with a story, and this one is about Trick-or-Treating. (As you use it, change the children’s names to those in your class and add in any costumes you’d like to include):

One of my favorite things to do at Halloween is to carve Jack-o-Lanterns, and the bigger the better! First I pick out a bright orange pumpkin from the pumpkin patch (pumpkin roll, roll like a ball). Then I scrape out the pumpkin, really digging out the sides (Mula Bandha rolls: cross-legged and circle the rib cage in big circles left and right). Finally, I carve a face – sometimes scary and sometimes funny. What kind of face do you like on your pumpkin (show face)? Then I get to put a candle (shoulderstand) in it and display it on my front porch.
Once my pumpkin is ready, it’s time to go trick-or-treating! This year I’m dressing up as a witch with a point hat (triangle pose). Plus I’m riding a broom (chair pose, leaning left and right like you are riding through the sky)! Wouldn’t it be funny if the broom were very fat (goddess pose)?

I get to walk through the neighborhood with my friends this year, and you’ll never guess what their costumes are! Ben is dressing up as a troll, you know th9238518689_1b5e862f1c_ze little creature that lives under the bridge (bridge pose). Whitney is going to be a spider (spider pose). I wonder if she can spin a web? Ethan and Aly are dressing up as werewolves (up dog and down dog). Abby and Avery are both going as cats (cat pose). Cierra is a bat (eagle pose) and Loga is dressed as a lion (lion pose)…add more costumese/names…

It’s time to go! Remember, we are just going to keep a few pieces of candy, like the Tootsie Rolls (lie across the mat and roll it up around you). The rest we are going to give to the homeless shelter and send to the troops overseas. That way, everyone can share in the Halloween fun!
There are two different breaths I like to teach in a Halloween class. First is pumpkin breath. Inhale to fill your chest and round out the belly. Exhale and imagine that you are pulling out seeds from deep inside. These seeds are for things you don’t want to grow, like anger and sadness. The second breath is ghost breath. It’s a normal inhale through the nose, and then make a “Booooooo” sound on the exhale. You can be quiet ghosts, silly ghosts, opera ghosts, any kind you’d like.

Other activities for your Halloween themed class:
• Get a big bag of pompoms and “Bob for Apples”, but this time using your toes to pick up the pompoms and put them into an empty bucket (like one used for trick-or-treating). Kidding Around Yoga calls this game Toe-Ga and even has a song for it!

• Turn the lights off and practice candle gazing (tratak)
• Play Freeze Float – turn on some spooky music (like Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter) and float around the room, just as a ghost would float. When the music stops, you freeze and try to balance in whatever position you’re in. Then the music starts again and you go back to floating.
• Play The Ghosts All Fly – This game is also called, “The Big Wind Blows”. Everyone stands on a mat in a big circle, the farther away the better. The leader takes away her mat and stands in the center. She announces a command like, “The ghosts all fly if they like candy corn” or “The ghosts all fly if they eat pumpkin seeds”. Then anyone who does the activity the leader described runs to a new mat and holds a Yoga pose (can be their choice or one they’ve been instructed to do), but not the one on either side of them. On19790307691_0400ddac58_ze person is always left without a mat. The person without a mat becomes the leader. Get really silly with the commands!

Happy haunting!

Kids’ Yoga Halloween Party

Hey you, with the pumpkin latte! Looking for some new ideas for your kids’ Yoga class?
With a few props and lots of imagination, you can turn your everyday class into a Scary (But Mostly Fun and Silly) Halloween Adventure. Grab a witch’s hat and some black and orange striped socks, and let’s g21973796745_3c6b0a926c_zo!

If you like, start with some ambiance – use a black light, or maybe some pumpkin or orange colored string lights, and have some spooky music playing low in the background. Put your mats in a circle, get out your caldron (they have plastic ones at most craft stores, but you certainly don’t need an actual caldron when you’ve got a perfectly good imagination!) and make up a batch of Yucky Witch’s Brew.

Recipe for Witch’s Brew: bat wings, toad warts, goblin hair, snake skin, etc. – ask the kids what icky things they’re putting in their brew. While sitting in Easy pose, reach up high for the witch toenails, grab the spider eggs from the top of the shelf, dump it all in, mix it all around, and then mix it some more the other way. Pour it into a goblet, and enjoy!

Below are some more ways to Halloween-ize your class:

Meditation: In our everyday class, we talk about calming our Monkey Minds or Koo Koo Head. In Halloween Yoga class, we talk about the creepy bugs and spiders crawling around in our heads (eeew!!!) and how we’ll get them to be still with meditation.

Focus/concentration: Have the kids gaze at a pumpkin placed in the middle of the circle, or give each child a tiny pumpkin to hold in his/her hands. Ask them to think about the shape, the color, and the way the pumpkin feels as they breathe slowly in and out.

Asanas Time to get creative! There are some “real” Yoga poses that are Halloween themed, like Owl, Cat, and Spider. The rest you can have fun making up as you go! There’s no right or wrong way to do Pumpkin, Ghost, Mummy, or Monster pose. Depending on the age of the students, this would be a good time to teach Crow pose! (I have a bendy toy skeleton I use to illustrate some of the poses. He becom12047210_10204958093140021_892168366_nes my “assistant” for the class)

Fill a plastic Jack-o-lantern with pictures of different Halloween characters — I just used Halloween stickers on small pieces of paper — and have the kids come up one by one to pick (Trick-or-Treat!). They can show the class what they picked and then lead everyone in the pose, or they can do the pose and everyone else has to guess what they are.

“Full Moon” Salutation:
Spider fingers up (raise arms to Extended Mountain)
Zombie forward fold (Ragdoll)
Jump back into Skeleton (Plank)
Witch’s hat (Downward Dog)
Slithery snake (Cobra)
Witch’s Hat
Jump forward
Zombie
Spider fingers up

Songs/Games:
Monster Freeze Tag – Play the Monster Mash (or another Halloween song) and have the kids walk around as the monster of their choice (Frankenstein, mummy, ghost, etc.). When the song is paused, they freeze in their favorite ghoulish pose.

Five Little Pumpkins – Act out this favorite Halloween poem using Gate pose and some creativity!

Pass the Pumpkin – Use a small orange ball and pass it around the circle using feet only. Or, pass it around like a game of Hot Potato – when the music stops, the person holding the “pumpkin” does a pose of their choosing.

Read a Halloween children’s book and act it out.

Pranayama:
Ghost breath – Breathe in through 13092755395_4fa3dca47b_zyour nose, breathe out, “Ooooooooooooooooo!”
Monster breath (like Lion breath) – breathe in through your nose, breath out with a scary roar!

And, of course, don’t forget Corpse Pose (Savasana) at the end!
Happy Halloween!

Breathe Like an Elephant…or a Train!

Take a big breath. Inhale, blow up your belly like a balloon. Exhale, pop your balloon. Breathe with your diaphragm…. Whether teaching adults or children, there is a big focus in every yoga class on the breath. So, what’s the big deal?

Pranayama is the word we use when teaching breathing techniques in yoga class. Pranayama is the control or regulation of the life force, or energy of the body-mind. There are many yogis that will rank pranayama as more important than asanas  (poses) in the practice of yoga. We know that breathing can deeply affect our emotions and state of mind.

As a school teacher for children with special needs, I often found myself reminding my students to take slow controlled breaths when they became agitated or frustrated. They would start breathing very fast, their little fists would clench tight, their faces would turn red and they would tell me, or yell or cry, that they couldn’t calm down. And they were right. In that state, they couldn’t. Their sympathetic nervous system was taking over and they were activating a flight-or-flight response. They were losing access to the part of their brain that allows us to think clearly and rationally. Sitting in front of them or next to them I would model taking slow even breaths. Eventually their breathing would start to mimic mine. It would slow down, their fists would unclench, and eventually they could start to verbalize what upset them.

In yoga classes for kids we try to make belly breathing fun. I like to introduce diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, with balloon breaths and with the use of a Hoberman Sphere to illustrate the belly expanding and contracting. Diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce stress, improve sleep, releases the feel-good hormone, serotonin, which can also reduce cravings for those sugary, carb-filled foods, improves focus and mental clarity, and more. There are many engaging ways to teach children diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing.

  • Balloon breaths: Sitting in easy pose, or lying down before Savasana, inhale through the nose slowly, pushing the belly out as if blowing up a balloon. Push your finger to your belly as if popping your balloon, while exhaling slowly through the mouth. The kids love making noises at this point, as if their balloon is deflating.
  • Swimming or flying stuffies: Have your child lie down in corpse pose, or Savasana, and place a small stuffed animal on the child’s belly. Instruct the child to breathe in slowly through their nose, pushing their belly up and making their stuffed animal rise. Slowly exhaling through the nose, their belly will go down as will the stuffed animal as if they are soaring up and down through the air or riding the waves in the ocean. I lucked out at a dollar store and found little love bugs for $1.00 each. I bought everyone they had. I use these love bugs for this breathing exercise. The kids beg for them, to make their love bugs fly!
  • Bumble Bee Breaths (Bhramari breath): Sitting in easy pose, belly breathe through the nose slowly. When exhaling through the nose, make the “mmm” sound. This will make a vibrational feeling. Repeat a few times. Then, instruct your child to plug their ears. They can use their thumbs with elbows pointing out, or plug with the index fingers with elbows down and arms in front of the chest, or arms along head and fingers wrapped around their head. Inhale through the nose slowly, then exhale through the nose while making the “mmmm” sound. This will increase the vibration. Repeat a few times. Do not practice this breath if the child has an ear infection or is bothered by the vibrational feeling.
  • Elephant breaths: This breath is good to energize and help wake up sleepy little yogis. Begin standing in mountain pose. Spread legs wide and stretch arms out in front like an elephant’s trunk, interlacing the fingers together. Tell your child to think of something good to fill their trunk with. I try to suggest feelings like love, kindness, peace, etc. but I always get trunks full of puppies or Legos, too. If it’s something that makes them happy and instills a peaceful and happy feeling, I go with it. We take a big belly breath in through the nose, raising our trunks overhead. Then, exhale through the mouth and swing down with our trunk between legs. Making an elephant noise on the way down always increases the fun! Repeat three more times. On the fourth time, raise arms up and arch back slightly to release all that goodness over ourselves.
  • Train breaths: Sitting in easy pose or on knees, with buttocks back against heels, inhale through nose. On exhale, make a short forceful sniffing sound through the nose like a steam train puffing down the track. Start slow, then increase the speed of the inhales and exhales, speeding up the train. Slow the inhales and exhales back down, to slow the train as approaching the station. This is a stimulating and cleansing breath, great for young kids.

I hope you found a couple new breathing techniques to introduce to your children or kids’ yoga class, giving them tools to last a life time!

Mariann is a certified kids’ yoga teacher through Kidding Around Yoga in south Florida in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. She is also a private tutor for children with special needs and creates yoga sequences with a literacy connection on her Teachers Pay Teachers store, Spoonful of Love and Learning. You can find Mariann at https://m.facebook.com/spoonfulofspirit
https://m.facebook.com/kiddingaroundyogawithspoonfulofspirit and at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/store/spoonful-of-love-and-learning

Reflecting on What We Learned

How often have you asked a child what they did that day, only to hear the answer, “I don’t know”? This is something I have often come across in teaching kids. After class, they run to put their shoes on and line up for a stamp or sticker. When I say, “Before I give you a stamp, please tell me one thing you like/remember that we did in class today.” Sometimes it goes well, other times kids are already thinking about what comes after yoga class, or what happened earlier that day.

Even when they don’t seem focused, helping kids recall what they did in class is a very important way to reinforce what they’ve learned. This works best when you set them up for success: at the beginning of class, let them know that you will be asking them to reflect on what they did so that when they line up, they have something to share. Here are some ways to help jog their memories more easily when the end of class comes:

● After each song, game, or activity, go around and ask each kid to say the name of a pose or activity they remember doing.
● Allow a few volunteers (or each child, if the class is small) to lead everyone in a round of Sun Salutations – I’ve seen even kids as young as 4-years-old do this! Even if they mix it up, you can congratulate them on their creativity.
● Play a game with yoga cards. Pair up the kids. They take turns drawing from a deck of yoga cards. They describe it to their partner without showing the card and the one listening tries to guess the pose. Allow for at least a few rounds, then let the pairs share with the class, either verbally or by teaching their peers.
● Give the students options for which poses to practice that day; they are more likely to remember what they did if they helped choose the focus of the class.
● For seasoned classes, you can ask them to share what they remember doing the previous week. This provides a chance for kids to request certain postures that they want to practice more. It also give you a chance to build upon what they already know.

The above are just a few ideas for what to do during the class. Sometimes when I get to the reflection phase at the end of class, the first kid will mention what they remember and each subsequent child will repeat what the first one said. Encourage kids to try to remember a few things so that they can mention something different than the person who spoke just before them. If they absolutely can’t think of something *or is too shy or reserved to say much at all), you can let them pass or ask others to help them remember something by giving clues (for example, “we did a standing pose on one leg”). In this way, there’s no pressure and the kids get used to helping one another.

Another way you can spice up the recall process at the end of class is to pass around a prop such as a tingsha, talking stick, or Hoberman sphere to focus the sharing a bit more. These props give kids a tangible way to learn to speak only when it is their turn, and reminds the rest of the class to listen to the speaker.

Reflection pushes kids to pay closer attention to their practice and cultivates self-sufficient yogis. If kids practice recalling what they did in each activity or class, they can go home and tell their families about it. Even better, they can build upon it in following weeks and enjoy their practice at home with friends and family or on their own. In contrast to the solitary nature of yoga classes for adults, kids yoga is a full-on social affair full of opportunities for building self-esteem, cognitive skills, and community. As kids gain a sense of confidence participating in class and teaching one another, they also practice building up their memory and ability to talk about poses and activities. This naturally motivates them to participate and remember what they’ve learned.

De mi primera vez… y mi reto más grande!

Cuando tomé mi curso de yoga para niños tenía muy clara la meta: acercar a mi
bebé al yoga.

Era fácil y sencilla, bueno, eso creía yo, hasta que empecé a poner todos mis
conocimientos en práctica con mi hijo de dos años y dos meses. El resultado,
para no extenderme se resume a una palabra: NEFASTO.

Mi hijo corría de un lado a otro, sin quedarse quedito en el mat, sin prestarme
atención a mi o a mis movimientos, me ensució el esquema de clase, me quitaba
la música de mi celular y pretender ir al jardín secreto… bueno, misión imposible,
me brincaba encima, me tiraba los legos y cuanto juguete tenía cerca, para
cubrirme, por decir poco fue un completo caos.

La historia se repitió por dos semanas. Todos los días, intenté darle la clase y el
resultado, no era muy alejado del primer día, con algunas ventajas: me ayudaba a
traer los mats, se quitaba los zapatos y empezó a pedirme repetir canciones.
Mi emoción e intensidad fue disminuyendo, pasé de llegar del trabajo, ponerme
ropa deportiva para, feliz y emocionada a darle la clase, a mirarlo en silencio,
pensarlo una, dos, tres veces y ¿porqué no? decidí que tal vez podía darme un
descanso a mi muy breve y frustrado inicio como profesora de yoga.

Y así pasaron los días… cuatro para ser exacta, en los cuales volví a mi rutina de
tirar la ropa, cambiar mi ropa a algo más cómodo sin intención de salir ni ser vista,
tomar café y tirarme en el sofá, para jugar simplemente lo que él quisiera jugar. Un
poco frustrada quizás… todo había vuelto a la normalidad, hasta que al quinto día,
mi bebé decidió que era hora de poner de nuevo a esta mamá en orden, claro está
que me costó entender el mensaje. De forma enérgica y casi incomprensible, me
decía que me quitara los zapatos, pensé que quería que me los cambiara,
entonces eso hice, lo cual no le gustó para nada. – ¡Mamá zapatos!, y se quitó los
de él. – ¡Mamá piso! y yo, lo admito, en otro mundo, sólo le preguntaba – ¿qué? Sin comprender a qué estábamos jugando en esta ocasión, la conversación se
continuó repitiendo un par de minutos, mientras él trataba de hacerse entender.
Hasta que se me ocurrió terminar la pregunta: – mi amor, ¿qué quiere?… Como lo
más obvio del mundo, sentado en el piso, sin zapatos, sin medias, alzó las manos
de forma abierta, palmas arribas como quien quiere explicar que es lógica la
respuesta y contestó: – Mamá yoga.

¡Mamá yoga! no me lo estaba soñando, me lo repitió, porque yo de incrédula se lo
seguía cuestionando – ¿quieres yoga? y un sí alegre y decidido fue la respuesta.
No se diga más, corrimos por los mats, él mismo los extendió y ¡empezamos la
clase! Debo admitir que no fue un ajuste completo al esquema de clase, ni lo es aún,
pero el objetivo inicial se había logrado. En ese momento me di cuenta que era
una buena idea matricular el curso de PreKay tomar el entrenamiento de yoga para
bebés y niños pequeños definitivamente era necesario para mi meta, así como
para obtener nuevos conocimientos y como consecuencia practicar más. Ahora
sólo debíamos continuar, el ritmo y la intensidad la debía bajar yo. después de
todo, aquí quien está aprendiendo a ser profesora de yoga para niños es esta
mamá, y no al revés…. aunque mi hijo me lo tuvo que recordar. Vamos con todo y
vamos con ganas, que esta aventura apenas está empezando.

Mom! I Can’t Sleep!

We’ve all been there. Lying in the dark, desperately trying to go to sleep, but growing more agitated and alert instead. It’s bad enough when adults suffer from insomnia, but when kids do? Then the whole family suffers the consequences. Avoid that with a few bedtime practices to get your kids to dreamland (they work for grown-ups, too).

Alphabet Meditation: Kids need to know their alphabet for this practice to work. Give your child a subject: food, Harry Potter characters, animals, etc. Then they think of an example of the subject that starts with each letter. For example, if the subject is fruit, their list might be: apple, banana, cantaloupe… When they find a letter they can’t use, they can skip it or think longer. When they find that their mind has wandered off topic (which will happen repeatedly), remind them to come back to the last letter they remember completing. Teach and practice the Alphabet Meditation with your children to model how to redirect the mind without becoming frustrated. Practicing this meditation is great for kids who can’t fall asleep because they are worried – it gives their minds a more positive, focused topic to think about.

Counting Breath Meditation: Often used in adult yoga classes for the final meditation, Counting Breath is a simple but very effective practice in settling our monkey minds. It’s as simple as inhaling and saying to yourself, “one”. Exhaling and saying to yourself, “one”. The next inhale you say to yourself, “two” and exhale, “two”. Continue to count your breaths. Some people say the number in their mind and also visualize the number floating by. Eventually, and it won’t take long, you’ll realize that you lost count and began  to rummage through the thoughts filed away in your brain. Simply start with “one” again. When practicing with your children, remind them that just getting to “three” or “four” can be challenging.

Squeeze and Release: Sometimes, just noticing tension in your body will start the relaxation process. So exaggerate that with Squeeze and Relax. Starting with the feet, make them squeezed up and tight. Hold. Then release and feel them get soft. Do the same with the hands. Make fists and strong arms. Squeeze and hold. Then release. Keep repeating with different parts of the body, ending with squeezing the entire body. Then relax and settle in for rest.

Guided Visualization: Sometimes children need us to guide the way to relaxation. Create vivid mental experiences by using all 5 senses to explore an imaginary internal world. There are several websites that offer free scripts or even video and sound files. With enough practice and experience, kids will eventually be able to guide themselves into rest and relaxation.

Massage: Take a hands-on approach to calming your child and coaxing them to sleep through the power of touch. Use slow, smooth strokes while massaging toward the heart. Legs, arms, back, and belly – it is very soothing, especially if you pair the massage with a soft, repetitive voice. Say something like, “It’s the end of a long day. Close your eyes and float away”. Try this poem to massage your little one’s hands (the massage movements are self-explanatory):

Five little tubes of toothpaste.

Squeeze bottom to the top.

Screw on the cap.

Don’t waste a drop.

Nighty night, little yogis.