Traveling with the kids this season? Most parents know that achieving actual R&R is no small feat, especially when it comes to the actual departure and arrival at your destination. The hassles of flight delays, traffic, and waiting on endless passenger lines can strain the family unit — and quickly sap the pleasure out of a getaway.
While us grown-ups can develop our own coping skills, such as making lists and packing food, or bringing items to ease the stress of being in transit, kids don’t have that kind of control over themselves and their environment. Yoga can help. In her new book, I Am Yoga, author and kids' yoga teacher Susan Verde shares an important message about the power of imagination and self-expression for kids.
Below, Verde shares five poses that can help youngsters deal with the stress of holiday travel.
Have your child place his hands or favorite stuffed animal on his tummy and slowly breathe in through the nose, imagining the belly filling with air and then flattening with each slow exhale. Diaphragmatic breaths physiologically slow the heart rate down and lower blood pressure, reducing stress chemicals from the amygdala. Emotionally, children are able to focus on something positive and calming, becoming more connected and regaining some control.
Whether at an airport or at Disney, waiting can be frustrating for a child. Doing a standing pose to spark imagination and have a little fun while actually strengthening or stretching the body can be a great way to make lines less unpleasant. Have your child try tree pose. It’s not only a challenge to balance but another opportunity to find focus. Have him place one foot either against his ankle or closer to the thigh and find an unmoving spot to gaze at and aim to balance. He can try reaching his arms up in to the air and “growing” his “branches.” Ask him what kind of tree he is. Sometimes the answer and wobbling lead to giggles, which can make time seem to move faster. Don’t forget the other side!
Travel conditions often aren’t conducive to movement. Cramped airplane seats and long car rides squashed next to siblings or in a car seat can make for a lot of discomfort and complaining. If there’s no opportunity for standing, try movements that stretch the upper body. Shoulder rolls and reaching the arms up overhead can help. Imagination comes in handy in these instances. Touching the “clouds” or reaching for the “stars” (instead of poking your brother) can be creative and fun. Coordinate arm movements and breathe in to reach up, and out to lower your arms.
If you can get out of your seat on a plane or train or at a pit stop when driving, try star pose. Stand with both legs and arms wide apart, expanding the whole body. Or a warrior pose to stretch and bend your legs and feel powerful!
Poses to Connect to the Earth
Once you’ve reached your destination, there’s always jet lag or exhaustion from the trip to contend with. Kids can feel off balance and out of sorts. Poses that ground them to the earth can help. Downward-facing dog is a great one. By placing both hands and feet on the ground and lifting the hips to the sky, a child can feel steady and firmly connected. Equal pressure on both sides of the body can revive and refresh. Don’t forget to bark! Savasana or relaxation pose is an opportunity to rest the body. Lie down on your back, relax every part of your body and feel heavy against the earth.
Being in a new place with new people or doting family can often feel scary or smothering to a child. Finding a place to do child’s pose creates a feeling of security and personal space. Sitting back on the heels, place the forehead onto the floor and either extend the arms along the floor for a stretch or keep them at the sides. This posture gives a child a chance to say, “enough” or “I need to be with me right now.” It’s a break from an overwhelming situation and a chance to regain control.
The yoga tips above can make travel time with the kids less nerve-racking, but more importantly, a sense of empathy combined with imagination can make all of the difference.
Adapted from I Am Yoga, available for order now.
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Erika Prafder is a veteran writer for the New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A longtime yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits a news source for young yogis. She recently co-founded drawingboardshop.com, an e-commerce and content site celebrating life's gifts and creative entrepreneurship. The working mother of three resides in a beach community in Long Island, New York.