One of the first tasks of parents and caregivers is to try to interpret their children’s emotions. For babies, each cry means a different emotional message: hunger, pain, fatigue, fear, etc. and the role of parents is to accommodate and troubleshoot these emotions. As children grow, they are taught to identify, express, and eventually regulate their own emotions. However, the development of emotional maturity is not always easy for children, especially as they face more complex life situations. For parents, staying calm when children are feeling strong emotions is a challenge, and interpreting their emotional cues and resolving them is an ever-changing learning process, and it’s normal for children to experience a wide range of emotions.
Yoga can be a powerful tool for moving energy, regulating feelings, and releasing emotions because it connects our minds and bodies. The next time you recognize any of the following common emotional cues in your child, try these yoga-inspired moves with them to help them understand what they’re feeling.
emotions: A case of “idiots”, boredom or restlessness
Movement/Position: Toe-ga (derived from the word yoga)
How: Take pom poms or cotton balls and scatter them on the floor. The goal is to try to pick up as many pom poms using only your toes and place them in cups. If standing and balancing on one leg to pick up pom poms is too advanced, children can sit on the floor.
Advantages: Although not really a yoga pose, this game is fun, family-friendly, and great for a quick emotional reset. While kids may think they’re just playing, they’re building confidence and working on developmental skills like balance, eye coordination, strategizing, as well as gross and fine motor skills .
- Use this activity as a way to introduce balancing yoga poses such as warrior pose (see below).
- Practice identifying colors by calling out the color of the pom pom to grab.
Emotions: Self-doubt or shyness
Movement/Position: warrior poses one and two
How: There are several variations of the warrior pose in yoga. For both, stand in mountain pose with feet facing forward and arms at sides.
For the first warrior, keep your body facing forward, step back with your left leg and bend your right leg, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your toes, and raise your arms straight up. You can say “I am strong!”
For warrior two, keep your legs in the same position and rotate your upper body to the left. Next, stretch your arms from your shoulders in opposite directions, with the right arm extending forward and the left arm extending backward while looking straight ahead. You can say “I am powerful!”
Repeat on the other side.
Advantages: All variations of the warrior pose promote feelings of stability, strength, and power.
To build: Pair warrior poses with affirmation “I am” statements — like I’m strong, I’m brave, I’m powerful — to encourage positive self-talk.
Legs on the wall
emotions: Tiredness or anxiety
Movement/Position: Legs against the wall
How: Sit facing a wall as close to it as possible, with your knees bent. Lower your back to the floor and extend your legs so they rest on the wall. You may need to make minor adjustments to bring your butt closer to the wall. Put your arms where they feel comfortable and relax.
Advantages: The whole family can benefit from this restorative pose, which can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Putting your legs up against a wall also increases blood circulation, which can be nice for young athletes with tired legs. When done for a few minutes, it can also help relax your muscles and increase your overall energy level, which can help children who feel tired but can’t or won’t nap .
To build: Add eye pillows and blankets for extra relaxation and support.
Freeze Dance Yoga
Emotions: Sadness, anger, agitation, excitement or overstimulation
Movement/Position: Freeze dance yoga
How: Play upbeat music. While the music is on, jump and dance. Then pause the music and say a yoga pose. Hold the pose for 10 seconds while trying to calm your body in the process. Repeat for the duration of the song.
Advantages: Music and dance are already powerful endorphin release tools. Adding yoga to the mix makes this activity a trifecta for shifting our energy. Movement helps kids release energy, while pausing to do yoga poses helps them focus and draw their attention inward. This mindfulness lesson also helps teach children that throughout the day it’s okay to pause and check or scan their emotions.
- Instead of pausing to do yoga poses, use the pause to practice mindful breathing.
- Teach anatomy while exploring deep breathing. Have the children place their hands on their stomachs, hearts, noses, and in front of their mouths as they breathe in and out. If you have bilingual children, you can use this activity to remind them of the names of these body parts in their second language.
- For children ages 2-5, try dancing to “Yoga Clock (Tick Tock) by Karma Kids Yoga for a guided frozen dance!
- Want to move differently? Create a spinner with words that describe what players can do, like “jump”, “breathe”, “stretch” or “shake”.