Resiliency is a skill that starts early | 3 Tips on Introducing Yoga + Meditation to Kids
We’re Talking About Practice: Developing Resiliency
When I was a kid, I learned most of my resiliency training through the practice of martial arts. It made me really tough and yet there was something that seemed to be missing. Don’t get me wrong, breaking boards and doing high kicks give you a lot of mental and physical strength. But I found myself anxious and nervous quite often. I would get anxiety over belt tests and sparring matches. I would get wrecked about my grades and the fear of failing in school. There was a lot going on at home too and that added pressure is very detrimental on childhood development because young people cannot change their environments until they become adults. Therefore, children devise their own plans, some are good and some are not so good. But through this experience of feeling “stuck” or “trapped” in my own condition, a sense of hopelessness is born in the subconscious. Childhood depression and anxiety is so commonplace in society and sometimes we brush off or downplay the magnitude of this issue.
You know, I once heard that when children face adult problems or are exposed to high stress living conditions such as poverty, domestic violence, abuse, etc., it is equivalent to an adult experiencing a car accident. It has the same effect on the brain for children, because their little bodies are not yet equipped to handle such stress, their brain development is affected. We’re now learning that stress can become genetic and pass on. We know that brain damage, if undetected or not treated, will affect childhood behavior. Long-term emotional trauma can trigger an onset of PTSD as well. Neuroscience and research studies have shown this to be true. We know that childhood is all about learning. Short-term memory is vital to a child’s education and development. If stress is a major factor in a child’s life, this can cause the hippocampus of the brain to shrink. The hippocampus is responsible for short-term memory. If a child is unable to remember, they cannot learn. We also know that inadequate sleep among youth can cause major symptoms such as difficulty paying attention and lashing out. This is where we begin to see behavioral and emotional issues in schools. A child that undergoes stress for a long period of time may suffer from developmental delays and problems with memory. It’s a domino effect.
So today I want to share three tips with you to help engage children in practices and techniques to help them cope and understand what stress is and what it does to the body. We want to give them the tools early! These are very simple and easy skills to learn which will help them to:
promote healthy habits
treat others with respect
create collaborative environments
These skills do take practice. Practice, practice, practice! The more we help them create healthy habits on a daily basis, the easier it becomes for them to manage life on their own as they develop.
Use a Meditation Blanket
I love to use my meditation blankets to help create a space for meditation. They’re fun and easy! I set it out and teach them about boundaries and how to hold space for others. We have one person sit in the middle, the rest of us gather hands and we do a one minute meditation. This helps them learn to quiet the mind while also learning that others have the same right. They learn first-hand and we break the stigmas and preconceived notions about meditation. I also show them the box breathing technique to help them learn how to manage their heart rate and how to bring their stress levels down. It gives them power over their mind + body!
Show Them Easy, Attainable Yoga Poses
We do very simple and fun poses to give them the sense of participation and accomplishment. I love to do Chair Pose, Tree Pose, and Triangle Pose. The goal here is not to make it so difficult but you also want to give them a challenge to do something they’ve never done. When you face resistance, which will happen from time to time, talk about how some of the poses are very similar to that of a P.E. class. On my info sheet, I include a photo of Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks meditating and doing yoga! It gets them to lift the lid of this societal taboo we have about yoga + meditation. It’s about educating them on the origin of yoga and showing them the evolution of what it is today. I make it known that yoga is a tool more or less.
Make it about Science and Do it in Groups
When kids get together, they want to have fun with their peers. So to capture their attention, I make my lesson science-based. We talk about the brain and what stress does to the body! I have an info sheet that I use to help them follow along and connect the dots between mental and physical wellness. Yoga is that shortcut that kills two birds with one stone. So I help them learn brain terms like:
parasympathetic nervous system
sympathetic nervous system
They become engaged by the science behind it and want to try it for themselves! I use science and neuroscience to build my case around the benefits and it has seemed to be a good way to introduce this ancient practice to young people.
If you would like a copy of my info sheet, feel free to comment below and I can send you one !