Mindfulness, or being mindful, is simply learning how to be present and be aware of what you’re feeling and thinking. When we are present, we are not worrying about something that might happen or feeling down about something that already did happen. Learning how to be in the moment will lead to a more grateful life and an overall feeling of contentment. Yoga is designed to facilitate mindfulness, but mindfulness should eventually become a way of existing. There is no better time to foster mindfulness than when your children are still young, and you can even learn how to be mindful with them.
Tried & Tested Ways To Teach Mindfulness And Yoga To Children:
1. Take a “break.”
Ask your child if they want to take a break with you when you think they might need one – or you might need one. Sit down together and practice being quiet… your breath will slow down, and you will calm down, without even having to think about it.
2. Encourage imagination.
Children are using their imaginations all of the time when they play, so why not reinforce that? Sit together, close your eyes, and imagine a cozy bear cave… ask them: what does a cozy bear cave look like? When doing poses (or asanas) with them, ask them what this posture should be named; for instance, someone in child’s pose looks a lot like a turtle.
3. Discuss the benefits of being mindful and practicing yoga.
Children love to learn about new things. If you want to introduce mindfulness to your children, be prepared to answer lots of questions about the what, why, and how of being mindful and practicing yoga. Start the conversation by sharing what yoga does for you.
Learning the patience of practice is an invaluable lesson for children to learn. Being mindful can be a difficult thing to figure out, even for adults. Some postures are not easy if you’ve never done them before. Show your children that learning something new takes practice and that what practice leads to is always worth it.
It’s hard for some children (and adults) to sit down and take a moment to be quiet or take time to move through the asanas. If your children are resisting practicing with you, then allow them to play around you while you take a moment to turn inward. Your child is acutely aware of you and what you do; even if they don’t join you right away, rest assured that they are taking notes.
6. Make mindfulness an option.
Don’t turn meditation into broccoli, or whatever healthy food you hope your child won’t refuse to eat today. Allow your child to join you if they would like to, because even if they don’t want to today, they might need to tomorrow; never give up on something you think is worth your child doing.
7. Be flexible.
Not everything works for everyone. For example, my child does not like hot chocolate, and there is one meditation where you pretend that you’re holding a warm cup of hot chocolate that you have to blow on to cool down. If your child doesn’t like hot chocolate, try something else they like; maybe soup?
Children love to pretend and act like characters and creatures. Simply make emotion faces together (like happy, sad, and angry) and cute animal faces (like bunnies and puppies), or make soft farm animal sounds (like moo’s and peep’s). Not only will you each be giving your full attention to one another, but it’s difficult to not be anywhere but here when you truly become immersed in play.
9. Make them laugh.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be serious and laughter has undeniable health benefits. If your child is still not having it with this mindfulness business, you may just have to sit and make silly faces with them or have a staring contest. Becoming more mindful has a lot to do with getting to know what is going to work for you.
Ask your child to listen with you, whether you’re flowing through yoga poses or just sitting down together. You’ll both have to be quiet and share what you hear. This is an amazing opportunity to have a glimpse into your child’s mind. They may notice things you don’t or describe sounds in a way you would never.
There’s no better way to become mindful than to really stop and listen to those you love.– Ashley Archambault, Yoga Teacher and Mother