Lately the news has been full of stories about mindfulness and the Government is starting to trial mindfulness programmes as part of the curriculum in state schools. But what is ‘mindfulness’ and why do children need it?
Mindfulness is training one’s mind to pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental and curious way. It develops three core skills – concentration, helping to understand one’s feelings, and sensory clarity. It has been proven to reduce stress, depression and help with emotional regulation in adults and children.
But how does it do this? Yogis have long known about the power of the breath and with mindfulness training there is an emphasis on breath awareness, co-ordinating movement with the breath and using breathing techniques to calm down and control impulses. Children are taught techniques for relaxation and getting to know their own ‘monkey mind’ and how to concentrate more effectively.
In the children’s yoga classes at TPYC there is a strong element of mindfulness in everything we do. Each class begins with breathing techniques and an emotional ‘weather check’. Breathing is co-ordinated with movement in sun salutations and other poses and children are encouraged to notice the sensations in their bodies. The interactions between students are full of kindness – competition is discouraged and students work at their own pace to put in their best effort. And finally, every class ends with a guided relaxation/ meditation where the children ‘float up in the clouds’ or ‘fly with magical birds’, for example. They leave the class very relaxed and centred.
But classes are not the only thing you can do for your children. Practicing mindfulness at home will greatly help them and you. Take time to notice things around you – smell, see, feel, eat slowly, pay attention to the present. Sometimes less is more. Encourage your kids to notice their breathing. Any pranayama practice from class can be worked on at home – count your breaths, try to make them audible, feel your breath in your chest and tummy. And we all need more savasana time in our lives! Model self-care for your kids by sitting still or lying down for 5 minutes with some gentle music or a guided relaxation. Kids love the Calm Kids meditation CDs- great for kids struggling to sleep at night.
Make mindfulness a part of your family’s life and you will see the reward of happier, more focused and calm children.
Kids yoga classes at PYC are on Tuesdays at 4:45pm (ages 5-7) and Wednesdays at 4:45pm (ages 8-12). The all-level adult class is on at the same time in the studio below. You can sign up your kids for a full term (10 weeks) for £90.