Imagine this job description: Large institution looking for workers able to stay focused and still for long periods of time. Proper penmanship, reading skills, and math knowledge are required, as are excellent listening skills and the ability to work well in a group of coworkers. Successful applicants will receive a desk and solid chair to remain seated in for the duration of the day, thirty minutes for lunch (again, seated on a chair), and a brief period of exercise either in a structured sport or in a competitive athletic event. If selected for this position, you will be expected to be quiet for approximately six hours a day. Expect extra work to be completed at home, again seated in silence.
Would you apply for this job? Nope. I wouldn’t either. But, we ask our kids to do this everyday at school. Their little bodies weren’t meant to be still for hours at a time. Their little minds aren’t ready to stay focused on a single topic for long periods of time, either. They are meant to be children – to explore their bodies and their worlds through movement, through experimentation, through art, and through sound. As parents and teachers, we can provide our kids the opportunity to move and stretch, to breathe and relax throughout the day through simple yoga practices that can be done right at their desks. (And if your job description sounds like the one described above – you should take advantage of these breaks, too!)
Kids can try these yoga practices right at their desks:
Bunny Breath: Taking big breaths will re-energize the body and wake up the brain. Inhale 3 sips of air through your nose and exhale 1 long breath through your mouth. Repeat a few times.
Flying Breath: Add movement to your breath to stretch the whole body. Start with your arms dangling at your sides. Inhale through your nose and raise your arms. Get tall and take up space. Breathe out through your nose and let your arms float back to your sides. Repeat a few times.
Neck Circles: We hold tension in our neck – let it go! Pretend you have a witch’s hat on and draw circles on the ceiling with the tip of the hat. Go both directions. Now do the same thing with your long, pointy witch’s nose. Draw a circle with the tip of your nose, both directions.
Shoulder Circles: Relieve stress stored in the shoulders. Roll shoulders forward and backward, using fluid movements, several times in each direction.
Wrist Stretches: Especially important when doing a lot of writing or typing. Extend the right arm in front with the pam flexed (like the “stop” gesture). Interlace the fingers with the left hand and gently pull the right fingers back. Release and point the right fingers down. Grasp the fingers with the left hand, and gently pull again. Repeat on the other side.
Cat Stretches: Re-energize your spine (which wakes up your mind). Grasp the back of the chair’s seat with both hands. Roll the shoulders back to extend the collarbones and open the chest. Pull as much as is comfortable with your hands to initiate a mini-backbend. Then, reverse the curve by grasping the front of the seat with your hands between your thighs. Keeping the arms straight, curl the chest toward the pelvis, the spine to the sky. Repeat with the breath – inhaling hands behind and exhaling hands front.
Half Moon: Raise both arms to the ceiling, keeping shoulders down. Grasp the right wrist with the left hand. Now lean to the left, feeling the ribs open on the right side, being sure to keep the heart facing the front. Hold for 3 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Pretzel: Cross the right leg over the left so the knees are very close togethere. Place the left hand on the right outer thigh, the right hand on the back of the seat or chair back. Inhale, sit up tall, and twist to the right. Start the twist with the belly button and let it creep up the spine, finally ending with the neck. Hold several breaths. Slowly rlease. Switch sides.
Ragdoll: Scoot to the very front edge of the chair. Open the knees wide, feet flat on the floor. Keeping a flat back,fold forward into the space between the legs. Let go of the head – shake it ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Dangle for several breaths. When ready, inhale and roll up one vertebra at a time.
Want more classroom yoga breaks? Try these blogs: