“Miss Sara, I can’t wait to do the “sleeping pose” again.”
Savasana often becomes the children’s favorite part of yoga class, which I think is incredible since it is the part of the class where they are not doing a thing.
The children begin class so eager, excited, and full of energy. After moving and working their bodies in such good and healthy ways, they are truly ready for rest and relaxation. I tell my students that their bodies deserve this rest and that taking this time helps them repair and build the muscles they just worked.
Please do not get the idea that I simply call out, “Everyone get into Savasana,” and that the kids readily roll onto their backs, shut their eyes, as they go into deep stillness. Instead, Savasana must be gradually built into the class flow.
Savasana comes at the end of your class after you have practiced breathing exercises, learned yoga poses, played yoga games, practiced balance, built community with one another, and are now ready for a bit of stillness, relaxation, and time for some mindfulness.
Yoga is about movement and poses and postures but it is also about being still and quiet and mindful in savasana. This is such an important skill to learn in our busy lives and especially a wonderful one to model with children
Here are a few ways to help promote stillness and mindfulness with kids.
Change the Mood
I like to begin to speak in quieter tones and if possible turn the lights down lower. It’s also easy to play calming music or nature sounds. This change in their surroundings signals to children that a change is coming. As you build this into the class flow, children begin to recognize the signs and signals leading to Savasana.
Be a Melting Ice Cube
As Savasna follows our Building Community component of class we are already seated in a circle. I like to challenge the kids to lie down as slowly as they can as if they are an ice cube melting into the ground. When they get down to the ground have them stretch out as long as they can with their toes pointed and their arms up overhead. See how long they can get by taking deep breaths.
Squeeze and Relax
While kids are lying down on their yoga mats preparing for savasana, I’ll sometimes have them squeeze a body part as hard as they can. Let’s say they squeeze their hands for a few seconds and then they relax it. Or also squeeze their shoulders up by their ears and then relax it. They’re actually able to physically feel the difference their body makes from holding it so tight and then relaxing.
Use Memorable Phrases
I challenge the children to stretch as “long as a pencil” or have them be “as still as a statue” or “as quiet as a mouse.” This gives the children a mental picture of how to pose and act.
I allow the children to lay however they feel comfortable. It could be on their backs, on their stomachs, curled up into a ball, but have a realistic expectation for how long the kids can lie still. 15 to 30 seconds is good for the preschool ages while older children can stay longer. The more they get used to Stillness and Savasana at the end of class, the longer they can stay still.
Bring Them Out Slowly
When it’s time to come out of this relaxation, I like to ask them to roll over on their side and use their arm as a pillow. Then they sit up and you can quietly lead them through a couple of big, deep, cleansing breaths while bringing arms up overhead, breathing in, and breathing out and placing your hands at heart center. We’ll do that a couple of times.
I like to give a few positive closing words that unite the class and set their path for the remainder of the day or the week. I also like to thank them for coming to yoga, taking care of their bodies, working together, and having fun.
Introducing and teaching yoga to children is one of my favorite things to do. I love coming up with new and different ideas on how to actively and effectively engage children with yoga. I want them to learn, be engaged, and have fun. As I am fully aware, an adult yoga class is not like a kids yoga class. Adults do yoga for many different reasons including all of the mental and physical benefits. Kids on the other hand, will definitely receive these benefits, but in the beginning their main desire to learn and try some new things and above all to have fun!
Kids learn, and respond differently than adults and having an understanding of where children are coming from will give you an insight into how to reach them. I want more than anything for you to successfully introduce the wonderful world of yoga to children.
I know you have some pretty amazing ideas for introducing yoga and mindfulness to children! Nothing can be as disheartening as not the kids not responding or listening. Kids need yoga and mindfulness today. They need you!
Having a few techniques and strategies up your sleeve will help get and keep your students’ attention. Learn how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen.
Important Note:To help keep their effectiveness, please do not overuse one idea.
Use What You Have
Look around you! What in your surroundings do you have that you can use to your a
advantage to help get your students’ attention? I love utilizing the lights in my classroom and it works amazingly well to get everyone’s focused and ready for what we are doing next. A lot of times after a large group active movement or busy activity or game, I like to dim the lights which then automatically brings the energy back down. I also like to dim
the lights or turn them off for the beginning of our Building Community section of the class and definitely the Stillness and Savasana at the end.
I am also very fond of using the Whisper Technique. If you get quieter, they will get quieter as well. Try this. It really works with those younger ages.
Use Nonverbal Cues
Kids really respond well to nonverbal cues. It can be easy to tune out someone’s voice if you are hearing it for a long period of time. This is true for adults as well! Having a non-verbal cue that is age-appropriate is an easy and wonderful way to get your students’ attention. Raise your hands in a way such as peace fingers raised, hands in mudra, or hands-on head etc. when you want to get everyone’s attention. They will then follow suit when they see this action. I also love the fact that when children are doing something with their hands; they aren’t touching one another! This is a favorite way of how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen
My favorite! I love love love using props in my kids’ yoga classes to help get and keep students attention. Balls, puppets, scarves, bells, books, anything seasonal related and I am popping it into my kids’ yoga bag to take along to my classes. One item that I use every single class is The Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards. I select 4-6 poses that we are going to work on in class and they provide a wonderful visual for practicing and for games.
Keep in mind that yoga props can be things that you have at home. Preschool-aged kids respond well to stuffed animals whispering in your ear about what you are doing next while older kids enjoy anything that they can use for balance practice such a beanbags or puff balls for breathing games.
Ready for more?! Our onlineKids Yoga and Mindfulness Online Teacher Training includes an entire training chapter focused completely on class management and how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen. After all, you have the amazing lesson plans and ideas so let’s be sure that the class is ready for them!
“Mother’s hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts, forever…” –Unknown
Celebrate Mother’s Day with these Family Fun Yoga Ideas!
Back to Back Breathing:
Back to Back Breathing is a wonderful and relaxing way to connect with your children. It also builds mindfulness. Sit tall in a comfortable position with legs crossed. Slowly rest your back gently against your partner’s back. Encourage your child to try to notice your breath. Is it shallow or deep? Fast or slow? Can they feel your back move as they breathe? This is a really sweet partner exercise for any age and feels so comforting to lean against another person like that.
Stand in a circle side by side and touch palms to help balance each other. Then take one foot and place it on our leg. Bring your branches (hands) up taller. Remember to switch legs. Notice how you are all stronger when you work together!
Legs Up the Wall:
Kids and adults both love this relaxing yoga pose! Scooch up close to a wall and lie flat on your back. Slowly raise your legs straight up against the wall which makes an L shape with your body. Keeping your legs together, flex your feet. Relax your arms to the side and keep your neck in a neutral and relaxed position. Close your eyes, and take a few moments and rest in this incredible restorative pose! This can also be done as Partner Legs Up the Wall Pose.
Toega is the perfect yoga game to play with all different ages. What exactly is Toega? It is yoga for your feet! Kids love this simple exercise and it is good for them as well. All you need are some colored pom pom balls and bare feet! It is fun and easy to play. Find out how to play here.