Practical advice about raising children
Illustration by Peter H. Reynolds, from I Am Yoga
“P-l-e-a-s-e, can we stay outside for just five more minutes?”
If your child has been waking up before the birds and his homework isn’t getting done, such indicators could point to Spring Fever.
“The good weather, surge of vitamin D, and the sense that school is coming to an end, are all signs that the seasonal transition has hit,” says Susan Verde, kids’ mindfulness and yoga teacher and the author of I Am Yoga (Abrams Young Readers, $14.95). “Kids’ natural desire to move their bodies and get outdoors is put into overdrive.”
While such restlessness can disrupt the daily routine, making it more difficult to keep kids on task, a mindful approach to your youngster’s change in mood and behavior can prove beneficial.
“Chances are, as parents, we’re experiencing the same thing. We enjoy the excitement of the warm weather and everything blooming, and we also like for our kids to connect with nature, instead of sitting inside. Being aware of your own feelings, you can then understand how the outdoors and desire to frolic is calling,” says Verde. With such perception, “You’ll probably become less anxious and frustrated, and more patient and compassionate. Then, you can start a conversation about finding a balance together.”
Win-win deal-making suggestions include the opportunity to take mini breaks, says Verde.
“While they’re doing homework, allow them ten minutes to run around outside or play catch. After, they can come back and regroup,” she says. And as long as you feel your child can handle it, “By all means, let them tackle homework outside. If it’s not a distraction it can be a refreshing and inspiring way to get work done”
Kids yoga is a structured way for kids to move their bodies and calm an overstimulated nervous system, says the expert.
“Yoga is a way to give kids some fun and movement, while actually working to bring their attention inward and get their minds to settle a bit,” says Verde.
In Child’s pose, for example, “The focus is internal, and is a great way to center. It’s a fun starting off point too, as your child can imagine he’s a seed, which grows and becomes more expansive, just like what’s occurring outside this time of year,” says Verde.
While you’re already seated, moving to Flower Pose encourages timely talk about nature and growth. “Kids can roll back and forth to get their sillies out,” says the author.
Tree pose requires more focus and balance, by drawing both body and mind inward.
The calm, conscientious breathing and effort required is a way to cultivate what they will need to get through the rest of the day, and with their studies,” says Verde.
Attention and balance is also required in Eagle pose, which can sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable. “Learning to move through and past such discomfort can strengthen the ability to work through responsibilities that may not be as pleasant as what is calling from outside.” says Verde.
End your sequence in Savasana or in an easy seat, for a breathing exercise. With one hand on the belly, “Count the inhale and exhale. Breathe in for one count and out for one count, then breathe in for two counts and out for two. Continue counting up, but as soon as your mind wanders, start back at one. It doesn’t matter how high of a number they get it’s just a great way to help children notice when their mind wanders and help them practice bringing it back. Again, it’s a wonderful way to calm the mind and help children bring their attention back to their responsibilities so they have more time to enjoy the season.
(Excerpted from I Am Yoga. Illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds)
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Start by kneeling on the floor, with the tops of your feet resting on the ground, big toes touching. Sit back on your heels, either keeping your knees together or separating them the width of your hips. Bring your head down gently to the floor in front of you. Your hand can stay by your side or you can reach them out in front of you. Breathe in and out and hold the pose as long as it is comfortable. Use the pose as a chance to relax and rest.
Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together. Dive your hands in between your knees and out and under your legs. Lift your feet off the ground, knees pointing out to the side, and balance in your flower. Your feet will most likely separate in the air. Breathe in and out slowly. What kind of flower are you?
Tree Pose (Vrkasana)
Before getting in to this pose, find an unmoving spot on the floor or something directly in front of you to stare at to help you balance.
Begin in Mountain pose. From your mountain, lift your arms and reach out to either side, like th branches of a tree, to help you balance. Lift one foot, turning your knee out to the side, and place your foot either below the knee of the standing leg or above it. Breathing slowly in and out, bring your arms up over your head and imagine yourself growing like a tree. Slowly lower your hands to your chest, place your foot down, and repeat on the other side.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Stand in Mountain pose. Bend your left leg and cross your right leg over the left. Lift your left arm in front of you, bending at the elbow, and circle your right arm underneath your left, turning your hands so your palms meet, or just bring your forearms together from elbows to fingertips.
Find balance first, then slowly lower your hips, as if sitting in a chair. Breathe in and out slowly, as if you are an eagle watching something far below. Unwrap your arms and spread your wings as you come out of the pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
Relaxation Pose (Savasana)
Lie down on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides, palms facing up. Let your legs separate naturally and your feet flop out to the side. Try not to talk or look around. If you are comfortable, close your eyes. Let every part of your body relax and sink in to the ground and be supported by the earth underneath you.