For the past fourteen years I’ve taught a kids yoga class at Desert Song Healing Arts Center on Tuesday afternoons. I’ve worked with hundreds of children under the age of ten. Some of them are in college now, and new students keep arriving. Many of them attended my class for several years before outgrowing it as ten-year-olds. Every now and then a particular child captures my heart. Later that evening after taking a class, I spoke to the grandparents of one such child.
It was a day when I was feeling a bit tired, even questioning whether I should continue teaching my kids class. As I talked with the grandmother, she told me a story that shifted all my doubts. Recently, the child’s father suddenly died. She said the evening of his passing, her six-year-old grandson climbed up on top of their car and sat with his legs crossed in a meditative posture gazing into the sunset. It seemed in that moment he was embracing the yoga practice he’d developed in my class and used it to make sense of a deeply challenging life situation. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of giving children tools to cope with what arises in life.
I thought of this in a slightly different way these past few days and how it looks at the Seed. Particularly during nap time, children are experiencing more than a sleep break from their day. In some classes, students are given specific exercises to help them relax. One such exercise I witnessed was having the children lie on their backs with a small glass blob (not recommended for children under three) resting on their foreheads. The point was to invite children to lie still, evening out their breathing cycle. Some teachers read to their students as they drift off to sleep. Others rub lavender lotion on the children’s hands with each child’s permission.
Throughout this transition to sleep (or resting calmly awake for some students), children learn to self-regulate and calm themselves down. These skills are consciously taught, even at the toddler level. When children are upset, or just needing to relax, we teach them to breathe to regain a sense of calm. During nap time they have soothing music that helps with the process, as well as back rubs if requested. They are given continual reminders that they can consciously shift how their bodies are feeling, and how their emotions affect their bodies.
We live in an age where all of us are over-stimulated at some point. As adults we live busy lives, often feeling hurried or under stress. This trickles down to our children. The good thing is, in addition to the kinds of practices we offer our students at nap time and throughout the day, there is a vast amount of resources available to parents and children that cover topics such as relaxation, mindfulness, self-regulation, and guided imagery. I invite you to check out some of these as we work together to help our children live with a deeper sense of peace.