In my kids yoga classes, I like to intertwine sequences of poses with yoga games that really get the kids pumped up – we laugh really hard while some poses are being performed without them even noticing! These games are so much fun and the kids can get very excited about it, wanting to play it again and again, even if we just finished playing it. As I pay attention to time management, I make sure the kids get at least five minutes, sometimes a bit more, to wind down at the end of class and, as adult yogis say about savasana (final resting pose on the mat), allow the benefits from poses to sink into their bodies. This could be a challenge when having young kids lying down on yoga mats in stillness for that long. I have noticed from many years doing yoga that this can also be difficult to many adults.
In general, before you get to savasana in a yoga class, you go through some poses to bring the heart rate down, reestablish regular breathing, enjoy some longer muscles stretching and letting the “dust” or thoughts in your mind find their final seats so the mind can be clear and you can actually stay in quietude for a few (or many) minutes. So, depending on how much time available I have until the end of class I start slowing down with calming poses and longer holds. During the final 5-7 minutes, I usually put on calming songs, which will help me keep track of time without having to check my watch, so I can be fully with the kids and help them really let go and lie still, to sometimes astonished parents. To help them stay on their mats, I frequently model for them on my mat; but once they are lying down, even if fidgeting a bit, I get up and go walk around our circle to assist them in this surprisingly hard task of letting go.
One very useful way I found to help the kids relax is to hold onto each of their limbs and move it gently until there is no resistance from their part, as if you were holding onto a loose strand of hair. Another way, or even complimentary to the previous one, is to use something soft and light like a feather to touch their toes, arms or neck – some of the kids are really ticklish, so make sure you are ready to face a laughing wave around the circle! Last week, when I used these two methods together to have the kids relax, can you guess what happened by looking at the picture next to this text? The picture quality is not great, I know; it was taken with my music player device, not a good camera… But you should be able to get the bigger idea. It shows that, after I had gone around the circle assisting the kids, I finally reached my mat and lied down to model stillness for them. To my surprise, all the kids came to help me relax, using the methods I had just used on them! Once we finished relaxation time, we sat together on our mats to formally end class, and I made sure to encourage them to do to their parents what they did to me. I hope they follow through at home, because when parents and kids are relaxed, or at least not stressed, their interactions are way more positive and productive!