What can we learn from helping children seek relaxation?
Earlier this year, I experienced a ‘wow moment’. I was with a large group of older teenagers – we’d finished the yoga practice and they were in Savasana, the last pose, and the restorative element of a yoga practice. As I gazed around, I realised there was absolutely no movement… and on top of that, there was a palatable air of peace and calm in the room. There were no toes wiggling… their eyelids were relaxed… hands were still… And as they lay serenely, I felt joyful because being still is not easy for many of us, especially not for younger people, but this moment had evolved organically and that made it all the more glorious.
They’d been doing yoga with me every week at school for two school terms. In week 1, some of them were so inhibited that they struggled to raise their arms up over their heads, let alone be comfortable and confident enough within themselves to be completely still!
But they managed it, naturally, over time, and it was the very best sight!
Savasana – what’s it all about?
For some people, savasana might look like the chance to have a little nap at the end of the class, for others it might be a waste of time and for some, it might be the most challenging pose. I would argue that it’s perhaps, the most important pose – you’re aware, conscious, awake, but you’re relaxed and calm. According to The Yoga Journal, it has an array of benefits when practised regularly including: relieving high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue and insomnia and calming the nervous system.
But when you think about it, being still can be a highly vulnerable state, especially if you’re lying on your back. When I work with children and teenagers, I’m always very aware of not specifying a way to lie… they can choose a position that feels safe and comfortable for them. We want to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to rest and to reassure our mind and body that there’s no threat or risk, otherwise we’re unlikely to find relaxation.
For children and young people, it’s useful to see Savasana in a similar way to resting in the car after a big day out expending lots of energy. It’s the downtime when you let your mind and body be.
But the mind can get in the way can’t it?!
What was that noise? How much longer will we be here? What’s for tea?
Practise Makes Perfect
But the good news is, that practise and patience can help! Children are quick learners so if Yoga and Mindfulness are integrated into their worlds from a young age, then how wonderful! Children love many aspects of yoga – yoga games, paired work, and yoga stories, but for most of them, they end up enjoying Savasana the most!
Because children need to rest just as much as adults do (even if they don’t realise it!). And it’s really special when they genuinely manage to relax.
Recently, at the end of a class, a 6-year-old girl said: “I cried but not in a sad way. I was calm and sleepy.” I wondered if she was crying because it was a new, slightly unfamiliar sensation. We had a little smile and a hug, then she went skipping off.
Top Tips For Creating Calm at Home
Whether you’re relaxing at home with your kids or taking a break in the classroom, here are a few top tips for creating a calm atmosphere:
1: Always let them choose their position. Some children will automatically opt for their tummy, or side, others on their back – lying straight or star-fished out. There’s always a huge variety in every class I teach. If they prefer to sit, then they can! The most important things are comfort and safety.
2: Create a nice environment. Dim the lights, reduce the noise, and maybe hand out blankets. Make a clear distinction that this is relaxation time.
3: Check in with your expectations. Many children can find it very hard to be still. You can start by moving through the body wiggling different parts then freezing. Gradually work up, but just start with a couple of minutes. You can tell them a little story or play soothing music as silence can be very tough. Don’t work if they fidget, be patient.
Try these for yourself and do let us know how you get on!
© Copyright Jasmine Wellbeing Tynemouth