For the Mamas and the Papas

Last week I wrote about conscious parenting, which may or may not be a good fit for you. Regardless, I feel that one of its basic premises is universal: we need to be present with our child and meet her where she is at. This is not as simple as using age-appropriate communication, but also includes understanding what difficulties our children may be facing. Did you know that all children, even toddlers, deal with stress? The NIH (National Institutes of Health, USA) explains that any situation that causes a child to adapt or change is a potential stressor, in which case our quickly developing, socially-adapting little ones are bombarded with scenarios in which they are apt to feel uneasy!

One great way of helping your child develop positive coping skills is through yoga. A growing body of research shows that yoga-practicing children are more adept at handling their emotions and calming themselves. And when a child is calm and centered, certainly he is a happier, more attentive participant in his life at home and school. 

Even just the focus on movement is a critical opportunity to help our children get back into their bodies, in this day and age of less unstructured play and more screen time.

Don’t sweat it if your experience has strayed far from the cute internet images of sweet little children modeling mom or dad in a yoga posture. Reality more often resembles a long-suffering parent thwarted by a thrilled child who has discovered said parent now functions as the perfect tunnel / beast of burden / jungle gym. 

If you already have a yoga practice, you may favor certain postures for how they open tight areas or for the challenge they represent. Postures are great, and finding new space in our bodies is satisfying. But when it comes to practicing with our little yogis, we get back to the basics: breathing, balance, and mindfulness in an imaginative package. 

Many of the simpler postures – cat/cow, table, butterfly, e.g. – are easily accessible to a child’s imagination. And yes, pretending to be a series of animals is still yoga! Get creative – whatever appeals to your little one can most likely be adapted to movement. 

A great breath exercise for waking up and energizing is the elephant breath. Using your arms as trunks, you can imagine what you are showering out with each big breath – sparkles, love, laughter. When it’s time to calm down, you each become a coiled snake and focus on slow, resting breaths. During this time, you might provide a guided meditation that is as simple as a story of a journey for your child to take, sounds, smells, and sights to exercise their focus. 

However it works for you, getting into yoga movement with your child is undoubtedly a great way to share time and have some fun while introducing highly beneficial personal skills.