Maybe it’s a refusal to put on a hat, maybe it’s wanting to get out of the car, or not get out of the car — whatever the trigger (and it can be anything, can’t it?) we all know the moment when our child is careening toward a full-on meltdown.
And at that point, the difficulty in processing whatever has happened has moved from a mental reaction to a physical one. The overwhelming feelings that the child is experiencing are now manifesting as physical sensations and stress. Therefore, addressing these physical reactions in the body with some yoga is a great place to start!
Here are five kid-friendly yoga poses to help support in those seemingly impossible moments:
First and foremost, ask your child to take a deep breath. This can be a great way to help create a moment of pause to help release tension. Breathing with your child can be even more effective, especially when it is also fun.
"Bee’s Breath" is a wonderful way to facilitate this.
Sit on your knees — inhale and get very long through your spine with your arms back. Exhale and lower your forehead toward the ground as you buzz like a bee all the way down.
Teach your child that moving a muscle can help change the way they're feeling. It’s hard to find solutions when everything feels tight! Let your child know that when they feel frustration, stress, or anger, that it can be helpful to try Cat Pose.
Inhale and look up, letting your spine drop low. Exhale and tuck your chin, lifting your spine up high like a cat.
Deciding in that moment to take what is bothering us most and “let it go,” can feel very empowering for a child who has reached a level of total powerlessness.
"Cloud Pose" can be used as a way to scoop up all this (invisible) frustration in front of both you and your child, and just send it up and away and over your heads. It can also be a great way to encourage kids to name what is feeling so difficult, without having to solve it yet. Whatever it is, the two of you can name it, scoop it up and release it.
Inhale and bend your knees, and "scoop" the invisible clouds in front of you. Exhale and straighten your legs, lifting your arms above your head.
All of these exercises are about giving your child more options in a moment when she or he feels like there are none (other than a complete meltdown).
You can suggest a shift of focus and a balancing pose to help balance all the different emotions you know your child is feeling. Balancing poses help shift our focus out of our heads and back into our bodies, which has a stabilizing effect.
The stillness and concentration required in Tree Pose brings rest to a frustrated mind.
Standing up, become long and tall in your spine. Rest one foot on your ankle or above your knee and balance. Your hands can be palm-to-palm at your chest or in the air like branches. Take a few breaths, then switch feet.
It can be so helpful in stressful moments to give your child ways to self-soothe. In a yoga class, the pose used to “take a rest” is Child's Pose. This restorative pose allows for a child to curl up and is a great stretch also for the lower back, hips and thighs. It also has a wonderful calming effect on the central nervous system.
This moment of coming into a comforting position can help a child get a much needed moment to self-soothe and re-group.
Begin on your hands and knees. Press back to sit on your heels and bring your chest to rest on top of your thighs. Your arms can be stretched out in front of you or tucked in by your sides. Breathe deeply and rest.
Adapted from Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story, by Mariam Gates. Illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder. Sounds True, April 2015.