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Poses to Ease Children’s Emotional Pain

While we might look back at our childhoods wistfully, conjuring up images of ice cream cones, fireworks, and sleepovers, the truth is that growing up is hard. Family situations, peer interactions, physical challenges, and societal pressures all weigh on children no matter how intensely the adults in their lives try to intercede.

There is suffering. And this suffering manifests itself in their little bodies, just as it does in ours. Fortunately, we can give them the tools to ease the discomfort and fatigue that negative emotions and stress create in the body through yoga postures. Tools they can use for the rest of their lives!

Grief resides in the lungs

When we cry really hard, we often have to gasp for breath. When we grieve a loss, we physically feel the pain and tightness in our chest.

  • Backbends open your chest, allowing more oxygen to enter the lungs and release tension in the neck: cobra, camel, bridge, fish
  • Long, mindful breaths move the diaphragm, create more space in the lungs and bring the mind back to the present moment: dirgha pranayama, bunny breath

Anger builds up in the liver

You’ve heard of being so angry that your “blood boils”? Your blood is cleaned in the liver and the liver is in the belly:

  • Twists wring out the spine and internal organs, flushing them with freshly oxygenated blood and releasing spinal and belly tension: pretzel twist, reclined twist, fish twist
  • Core strengthening poses build fire in the belly; boat, crow, any balance posture

Fear is felt in the hamstrings

Constant small stressors and moments of anxiety can keep kids in a fight-or-flight response and lead to chronic tight hamstrings, and thereby back pain.

  • Forward folds are soothing to the nervous system and stretch the hamstrings: ragdoll, pyramid, seated forward fold, wide angle fold (seated and standing)
  • Passive leg stretches encourage us to slow down and draw the blood back to the heart: legs up-the-wall

Hips are like an emotional “junk drawer”

If you have an emotion that you haven’t processed (or haven’t even recognized), it resides in your hips.

  • Hip openers release sadness: cobbler, pigeon, goddess, lunges
  • Hip circles move the joints in all directions, polishing them: hula hoops, dancing, hip circles

Shoulders hold stress

Ask kids to show you what a nervous person looks like. Chances are they’ll squeeze their eyebrows together, tighten their jaw, make fists, and bring their shoulders up to their ears.

  • Shoulder circles gently get movement started: shoulder rolls, arm swinging

  • Shoulder blade movements release tension while opening the chest: puppyeagle

Jaws control tension release

We often hold our emotions in through clamped jaws. This tension affects our tooth health and the tightness trickles down into our shoulders.

  • Release the jaw through large, mindful movement: lion, yawning, neck rolls

  • Remind yourself and your students to keep the teeth from touching during meditation, breath work, and throughout practice

Our minds are powerful and our bodies are stubborn. What we perceive as danger or stress may just be that – a perception or belief. But our bodies think it is real and react accordingly. Help your students (and yourself) work through big emotions with yoga postures, breathing, meditation, and lots of positive affirmations – KAY’s online recorded workshop, Relaxation and Meditation for Children is full of suggestions for making mindfulness and peace part of your family’s everyday routine.


5 Common Places We Store Emotional Pain Infographic

Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, and beyond!


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