If your schedule is anything like mine, you and your kids spend a ridiculous amount of time in your car. Driving to and from school, activities, sports practices, and lessons plus waiting in the car for all of the activities, lessons, and practices to finish adds up to a lot of sedentary time. And often, there are siblings in the backseat being dragged along. Rather than use a smart phone or DVD to passively entertain the peanut gallery, use the time to practice breathing, mindfulness, and meditation.
The next time you’re stuck at a stoplight, don’t squeeze the steering wheel in frustration. Use it as an opportunity to breathe! Try Thermometer Breath. Your body becomes a thermometer, with your belly the bulb full of mercury. As you inhale, the temperature rises and the mercury (your breath) moves up, filling you from bottom to top. When your lungs are full, the temperature cools and the mercury again falls as you exhale, top to bottom. You can probably get in a couple long breaths during one stoplight.
If you kids are mentally fidgety or bouncing around, it’s time to practice a moving meditation. Start with both hands in fists. Lift the right pinky finger so it’s straight (an ‘I’ in sign language). With your left hand, make an ‘L’ shape with your thumb and index finger. Then, switch the signs simultaneously, so the left pinky has become the ‘I’ and the right hand now makes the ‘L’ shape. This takes a great deal of focus and practice (and since you are only focusing on one thing, it is a meditation, too).
Kids have a hard day at school? Are they nervous about a big game or test? Use your driving time to help your kids physically relax. A quick session of Freeze and Feel will calm the tension. Pick a part of your body, your feet for example. Squeeze the muscles in your feet, making them hard like ice cubes. Hold them tight for an inhale. On the exhale, let them melt, like an ice cube in the sun. Allow them to spread and make a puddle. Now freeze another part (hands, face, and shoulders are really beneficial to freeze and melt). In my car, we like to get silly and freeze very odd parts: earlobes, hair, bottoms, you get the idea.
Waiting for a sibling to get out of soccer practice or school can be very boring just sitting in the car. So take a trip! Have your child close their eyes and get comfy. Then describe the car becoming magical and lifting them gently into the clouds. They are flying! You can describe the trip in detail to your child to visualize, or just start them off and then become quiet as they mentally visit a far off place all on their own. They can picture landing on a beach and swimming with mermaids, or flying into space and floating with the stars. The flying car can take kids to visit relatives that live far away or even into their own bedrooms to rest with their favorite stuffed animals. Be gentle waking them up (try to do it before the sibling come barreling into the car), maybe with a long, quiet “om”, or a holding of their hand. Remind your child that they can go back and visit their spot whenever they want if they close their eyes and picture it. In Yoga, we call this savasana.
You carry everything else around in your car (snacks, crayons, random socks, hair ties), why not carry a happy Yogi (or two)?