Touch is vital to our survival and this is especially true for babies and young children. Positive touch is touch that respects the child, their autonomy, and space while expressing care and friendship. Touch has been shown to be a way that humans non-verbally communicate with one another. Yoga is a great time to model positive touch to build confidence and connection, while promoting relaxation. Between fun activities and partner poses, positive touch can be incorporated into your yoga practice or classroom with kids! It goes without saying though, that everyone has a right to say “no thank you” . Should they not want to participate in the following, bring a few stuffed animals for these students. Try not to fret! Much of the time, those who prefer space, do warm up to their stuffed animals and learn what positive touch is. Remember, respect for boundaries is a huge component. Modeling this shows children that positive touch is dynamic and represents care and love.
1. Massage train: I love this one because everyone gets a little massage and it fits into so many themes. It’s a great way to foster positive touch and is a ton of fun. You have the children sit down in a line (their train) all facing one direction and instruct them to lightly massage their friend’s back. Have them feel their friend breathing as well. Then, you switch directions to be fair! Tell them a story about where their train is going and make sure everyone puts their arm up when the locomotive says “choo choo”! Encourage them to ask their friends what their favorite train is or where their favorite adventure has been!
2. Partner yoga poses: Poses that require teamwork obviously also require touch. It is contained and within a specific context, and thus, helps kids bond and build upon their friendships through trust. There are so many partner poses to choose from as well. You could even have an entire class dedicated to partner poses. Some of the most fun are partner boat, double downward dog, double pretzel, and shoulder rest. These are all safe, are not too invasive, and incredibly fun. They are a good balance for those children who are shyer but could benefit from positive touch. Partner poses are great for their hearts and bodies!
3. Clapping games: Popular clapping games are again, subtle, and promote budding friendships. Clapping games also challenge our coordination and concentration. Laughs always ensue because they are difficult! In addition, clapping games are great icebreakers and a great brain-builder. You could even have children make up their own game and song. Ask them to show you how to do one and then, do it!
Positive touch is important to humans as it is a form of communication. Yoga is often a time of vulnerability and touch can be used to reassure, reaffirm, and relax. Always use your best judgement when utilizing touch, but know that there are ways to foster respectful touch in a yoga class!