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by Łukasz Strachanowski

It is hard for children to navigate through their energy levels. As adults we have different coping strategies in place (or at least we should by now!) to deal with drops in daily energy or excessive energy moments. I try to avoid certain food for lunch that will make feel sluggish like pasta, Chinese food or any meal that is heavy on carbs. I take long deep breaths to fill up on fresh oxygen. I exercise or nap depending on what I think I need. I also use coffee for boosting low energy moments. I am a self-confessed coffee addict.

On the flip side, when I have moments when I feel like I am going to bounce of walls, I run. I play outside with my children. I do some head or hand stands. I use the energy constructively.

Children don’t often listen to their bodies. When that energy slump or high hits, it is often when we see disruptive behavior (like sibling fighting) or tantrums. Yoga is a great tool to help children find outlets for their different energy levels.

Here a list of my favorite yoga poses and fun activities to help kids calm down:

Poses:
seated spinal twist
pigeon
fish
reclined twist
corpse

Activities:

Mandala coloring: Mandalas are balanced visual designs that are used as meditation to create internal harmony. While coloring the design in a quiet atmosphere, thoughts come and go resulting in a meditative state—  a clarity and calmness. Besides the coloring books I love using, I have also found websites online that allow you to download mandalas for free.

I have also found some great sand mandalas here.

Books I recommend that help children relax:

Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X by Jeffrey Allen
Relax Kids:Aladdin’s Magic Carpet by Margaret Viagas
101 Relaxation Games for Children by Allison Bartl

Please let me know if you have ways to help the children in your life calm down and find peace.

Namaste 🙂





Yesterday I introduced to both my 5-8 and 9-11 year old classes a new vinyasa flow after our traditional sun salutation A. I found this sequence in the Mary Kaye’s Yoga for Teens Card Deck.

The card deck is beautifully made with affirmations, inspirational quotes, alignment guidelines, and pictures of girls in each asana. The asanas are divided into categories such as warm up, work in and wind down. The cards have pose benefits, counter poses and best transitions to help in putting together great vinyasas. Each pose is also rated for difficulty.

I love the whole deck but find the inclusion of a few vinyasa flow sequences at the back very special. Each is named according to its mental or physical benefits. My classes have loved both the “perk me up” sequence which would be a great morning routine and the “anxiety buster” sequence. It was the later vinyasa that we worked on in class. This sequence is composed of balance poses and twists. Indian yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar describes twists as a “squeeze-and-soak” action: The organs are compressed during a twist, pushing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. The balance poses create a mental focus that calms the mind.The end result is a feeling of mental clarity and strength of mind and body — a great way to eliminate pre-test or pre-game jitters.

perk me up vinyasa

1. cat
2. cow
3. child’s pose
4. camel
5. downward dog
6. upward dog
7. dophin
8. plank
9. child’s pose

mood lifter

1. warrior one
2. warrior two
3. warrior three
4. triangle
5. half moon pose
6. crescent lunge
7. crow
8. mountain
9. standing forward bend
Repeat entire sequence on other side.

One of the reasons that I love to teach yoga to children is because of yoga’s power to create change in both the body and mind. Children are just learning about themselves. Their self opinion is tied to the people around them — peers, teachers and family members have a huge influence on how kids see themselves. Yoga allows kids to find their own strength and teaches children to trust their own voice inside of their head instead of always listening to what others have to say.

That being said, the reality is that other people do effect how children see themselves so why not keep a reminder of the positive things others have said or written to refer to on the occasion when self-esteem falls.

A great idea that I found on a fabulous website www.beliefnet.com for adults is to create a self-esteem folder. You can call this folder something more playful for children but the general idea is to fill up this folder with notes from parents, siblings, friends and teachers about the child’s positive qualities. Birthday cards, drawings, certificates from programs or sports, quotes that people have said about the child, work from school in which  they have pride — basically anything that will help boost up the child’s feeling of worth should be included.

I remember back in elementary school wanting so much to be this one girl in my class. She had long black shiny hair, she was smart and pretty and was admired by everyone. I was so jealous of her that I also remember getting in trouble for throwing cut up paper at her… if only I had a box or file to glance at back then to remind myself that I too had qualities that made me special.

21VYM+CZx5L._SL210_I recently found great yoga cards called Creative Yoga Games for Kids made by Edna Reinhardt in Australia. These cards have inspired me and my classes for the last 6 weeks. The 48 cards are divided into groups of 6 card sequences. The cards come with ideas for games and learning. I have been introducing the poses in sequence and then doing them backwards and then having the kids try different ways to sequence them while thinking about transitions. I also have been playing a game called musical mats. I lay out a card or two per mat and the kids run or dance around to music. When the music stops, the kids must find a mat and do the poses. It is a great game and energy releaser.

Just a side note:
While the kids are doing their poses, I try to remember to make specific comments to each of the children about the asanas they are working on. It is so easy to provide general “nice job” or ” great down dog” comments but it is so much more beneficial to point out a very specific detail to comment about such as, “Tommy, your table top in your table pose is so flat that I can eat off of it!” or “Sara, I like how you made starfish hands in your down dog!” These types of comments create a sense of pride and help children learn about their strengths. It shows them that we are really paying attention and that we appreciate them… a great self-esteem boost.

Photo by Kyle Stauffer

Photo by Kyle Stauffer

I remember my first yoga class that started off with chanting OM. It felt awkward and made me self-conscious but the energy that came from everyone chanting simultaneously was nothing like anything I had ever experienced.

Prior to that I should mention that I did practice a bit of Trancendental Meditation when a boyfriend convinced me to try it with him one summer during college. Again I remember both the feeling of discomfort with the unfamiliar and awe of the energy that group meditation creates.

Last year my old 14 year old lab would wake me up at 5am with her lonely bark and I would go downstairs to keep her company as she couldn’t make it upstairs with us anymore. On those mornings I started my day with meditation. I switched it up often from my TM mantra to repeating a morning prayer to listening to affirmations that I downloaded from a great website http://www.mythoughtcoach.com. I regretfully do not practice meditation daily anymore, but it did help me start the day more grounded.

Can children benefit from meditation?

I absolutely believe that they can. In my class of 8-11 year olds I play a recorded version of the meditation Sa Ta Na Ma. In this meditation you start by touching your first finger and thumb. With each sound you touch your next finger to your thumb. It makes me think of rosary beads. The music is a bit funky and hypnotic. If you were to meditate using Sa Ta Na Ma without the song, you would first say the words, then you would whisper the words and lastly you would think the words along with the finger touches.

I have children in my class that make sure that I don’t forget to play the Sa Ta Na Ma song before savasana. I think that meditating before savasana helps the kids settle into deep relaxation more quickly. One student told me that she often uses this meditation to calm herself down at home or when she feels sad.

For younger children whose attention is not as long, I do centering warm ups using sound. We sometimes take a deep breath and then draw out the sound different animals make or pretend we are bees and hum or buzz until we are out of sound. The kids love these exercises and it gives them the unique experience of group sound and energy creation. There is a great centering song by Karma Kids called Rub Your Hands (OM Song) that the kid also enjoy though it is a tad too long. I recently learned from a fellow yoga blogger that hand rubbing is a great way to stimulate both the right and left sides of your brain. Brain Gym. Great stuff.

Find a mantra, sound or song to use and give meditation a try with the children in your life. Let me know how it goes!

As adults we struggle with balancing the different aspects of our lives:

(1) Spiritual
(2) Intellectual
(3) Psychological
(4) Social
(5) Professional
(6) Recreational
(7) Physical

In yoga class we are able to teach children the importance of balance. We work hard to find our center, to maintain our breathing and focus, to stretch and to grow in our poses. How hard we work in class to find and maintain our balance is just as hard as we must work off our mats to create balance in our lives. Children may not understand the list above but they do feel stress in their lives when some aspect is out of balance. Yoga allows children to breath, to find rest and peace, to strengthen their bodies, to socialize with peers. Yoga gives children a place to listen their bodies and settle their minds.

Here is an exercise that would work great in class:

Project materials are paper, crayons or markers and possibly magazines, scissors and glue.

Have the class draw a circle and make pie shapes that depict the different aspects of the their lives. School, Physical Activity/Sports, Friends and Family, TV, Extracurricular (music lessons, girl scouts, drama) and Reading/Quiet Time. Have them color in (or glue on magazine pictures) to fill in the pie shapes.

Talk to the class about how their lives are balanced or not. Ask the class if there is anything from yoga class that they can do to help them in their daily lives.

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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