Sunday, 4 September 2016

Kids' yoga - back to school anxiety

Some children can't wait to get back to the routine of school and meeting up with their friends.  For others though it can be an anxious time especially if they are moving up to 'big' school.  Even after all these years I can remember my first day at 'big' school.  It seemed huge compared to my junior school and so much was different - the uniform, a different class and teacher for every lesson and so many books - my mum used to meet me half-way home to help me carry them (I was too proud to let her come to the school)!  Then there was the compulsory beret which we had to wear all the way home.  You also go from being one of the oldest children in junior school to one of the youngest in 'big' school.  I can remember wondering how I was going to cope with it for five years.  

The good news is yoga can help.  Breathing techniques can calm anxiety- try getting your child to place their hands on their tummy.  As they breathe in get them to imagine that their tummy is a balloon which they are blowing up, then as they breathe out and their tummy releases get them to imagine the balloon deflating. Repeat several times.  

Encourage your child to talk about their worries and try to work out solutions together. Positive affirmations are also useful such as  'I make friends easily', 'I am capable and I love learning'.

The following sequence will help relieve anxiety, give your child confidence and boost self-esteem.

Sun Salutations - these include half inversions and chest openers which calm the mind. Sun salutations also 'burn off' the hormones adrenalin and cortisol which create anxiety. Please see 'Yoga pose gallery -

Child's Pose (a pose that makes you feel safe and protected) - sit back on your heels and lower your head to your mat as you sweep your hands back to hold your heels.  Stay here for a few minutes then to come out of the pose bring  your hands forward, press into your hands and come up.

Rolling like a ball (this is such fun to do which can help break the cycle of anxiety) - sit at the front of your mat with your ankles crossed.  Hold your right big toe with the first finger and thumb of your left hand and your left big toe with the first finger and thumb of your right hand.  Breathe in and as you breathe out roll back on your mat like a ball.  Breathe in and roll back up.  Repeat several times. Change the cross of your legs and repeat.

Downward Facing Dog (a half inversion that helps calm the mind) come back to all fours, breathe in,  tuck your toes, breathe out and lift your hips high.  Hold for five breaths. 

Standing forward bend (forward bends  also help calm anxiety)- after five breaths, walk your feet forward and when your shoulders come over your hands take hold of your elbows. Breathe in and come up very slowly to standing. 

Mountain Pose (standing tall with good posture is grounding helping to take energy out of your child's head where it is creating anxiety) - stand with your big toes touching and heels slightly apart.  Spread and open your feet balancing your weight evenly over your feet.  Stand tall lifting your chest.  The mountain stands firm, through changing weather gales, snow, sun, hail.  Just like the mountain you too can remain firm whatever changes are happening around you.

Warrior 1 (another grounding pose that also boosts self-esteem and confidence - face going back to school head on) - come to the top of the mat, step back with your left foot and turn your toes out. Breathe in, stretch your arms up, breathe out bend your front knee. Don't forget to do the other side.

Warrior 2 (another grounding pose.  Get your child to imagine turning away from his/her anxieties about school represented by the back arm and looking forward to school with confidence represented by the front arm. Encourage him/her to absorb the qualities of a warrior - strength, determination, willpower) - come to the middle of your mat and step your feet wide.  Turn your right leg to the right, your left toes in.  Breathe in and lift your arms to shoulder height, breathe out bend your front knee and turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  Hold and feel yourself getting stronger with each breath.  To come out, breathe in straighten your front leg, breathe out turn your feet to face forward and bring your hands to your heart in prayer position.  Repeat on the other side.

Tree pose (balances are good for letting go of your worries because they encourage you to be in the present moment - not worrying about school.  If you are not present you will fall out of the balance!) - come down onto the mat and take another Child's Pose.  Stand in the middle of your mat and take your weight into your left leg.  Find a spot that is not moving to gaze at (this helps balance) and bring your right foot to your left ankle, shin or reach down and bring your right foot to your left thigh.  Lift your chest and take your arms up.  Hold and breathe. To come out lower your arms and right leg down. Repeat second side. 

Finish with a meditation.Have your child lie down with their favourite soft toy if he/she wants to.  Get him/her to settle by asking him/her to watch his/her breath then read the following visualisation out or make your own up.

Imagine you are in a garden.  There are some steps leading down to a lawn.  Walk down the step. With each step you take, you feel more and more relaxed.  You reach the bottom of the steps and see a pond with a water feature in the shape of a dolphin.  Water shoots out of the dolphin's mouth and falls back into the pond.  All at once you feel tired and lie back on the grass, watching the cascade of water split the light from the sun into its colours.  You start to feel yourself becoming lighter then floating upwards towards a rainbow.  As you continue to float upwards you become bathed in red light. The red light makes you feel confident and strong.  The red light fades and you are bathed in orange light.  Orange helps with your creativity.  The orange light fades now  and you become bathed in yellow light.  Feel energized by the yellow light so that the school day does not feel so tiring.  Still you float upwards and the yellow light fades.  You become surrounded by green light which will help you make friends. As the green light fades you are bathed in blue light.  The blue light will help you talk about any worries with your mum and dad, and help you ask questions at school.  The blue light fades and you are bathed in indigo light which helps you make wise choices.  Finally you are bathed in violet light which helps you feel kindly towards all living things. Gently now you start to float down back to the garden.  Thank the rainbow for all the gifts you have been given. Become aware of your surroundings now, the floor beneath you, the room you are in and take some deep breaths. Open your eyes and have a stretch, wriggle your fingers and toes or whatever feels right to you before turning onto your right side. Spend a few moments there then come back to seated.

Do this meditation any time you feel it will help.

Happy school days!


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