By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
What are the best meditation techniques for children? Kids have open minds in comparison to adults. Meditation provides many benefits for children. It allows them to tap into an inner peace, improves concentration, builds self-confidence, and provides a healthy outlet for stress and negative energy. Yoga instructors can teach children some simple techniques to begin a steady meditation practice that they can build upon throughout life. This gives kids the life skills and self-confidence to help them through life’s daily challenges.
Feel Your Breath (Mindful Pranayama)
Breathing is an important component of any meditative practice. Children can learn how to become mindful of their breathing by concentrating on their breath. They can sit or lie in a comfortable position. Then, their Yoga instructor should ask them to place their hands on their bellies, while they inhale very deeply and exhale slowly and steadily. After a few rounds of deep breaths, the Yoga teacher should ask the children what they noticed about their bellies during the breathing. The belly should move out with the inhale, like filling up a balloon, and deflate on the exhale. If children are lying down, they can place a stuffed animal on their bellies to help see it rise and fall with their breath.
Shavasana Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques allow children to let go of obstacles, which make focusing difficult. Shavasana (Corpse pose) teaches children to become aware of the different parts of their bodies. With practice, they will learn to release tension from the entire body through stillness and concentration. Teach children to lie on their backs, with their arms at their sides, palms facing up. Ask them to close their eyes or soften their gaze. As they lay without talking, guide them to relax each part of the body. Tell them to focus on their toes and feet, wiggling them a bit and then bringing them to stillness. Travel up the legs, stopping at the calves, knees, stomach, hands, arms, shoulders, and so on. If you are teaching a class of preschool children, focus on large body parts. Yoga teachers can be more specific with older kids, focusing on smaller muscle groups, like the face muscles.
Ask children to sit in Easy pose (Sukasana), with their legs crossed. They can place their hands on their knees, in prayer position, or perhaps, Guyan Mudra, where the thumb and forefinger of each hand press into each other. Ask them to breathe deeply a few times, filling up the abdomen and chest, and then slowly exhale. After a few warm-up breaths, ask them to add a sound to the exhale. Examples can include buzzing like a bee, hissing like a snake, shushing some to be quiet, or a more traditional, “Om.” This silly “game” will prepare children for future meditative practices with mantras or pranayama.
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