On Thursday, my friend Nicole Gage and I spoke about “Bringing the Practice of Yoga into your Program” at the Opening Minds conference in Chicago. We had a great turn-out (by my estimation, about 80 people attended our session) and they were all willing, able and energetic participants.
A large part of our presentation focused on using Yoga as a means of reducing stress in young children. There are several types of yogic breathing techniques that slow down the nervous system, allows one to focus, and returns the heart rate to normal. Most yogic breathing is done through the nose which warms and moistens the air on the inhale and allows for deeper exhales. Teaching children about breathing, taking a moment to “catch” the breath, and regulating the inhales and exhales are tools that they can use anytime, anywhere.
Begin by modeling the “in-breath” and the “out-breath” by holding a single layer small piece of tissue next to your nostrils. When you breath in through the nose, the tissue moves towards it (sucks it in) and when you breath out through the nose, the tissue flutters aways from you. Let the children try this with their own tissues. You can use the expressions, “Smell the Flowers” and “Blow out the Candles.” These are things they know how to do already (although blowing out the candles through the nose is harder to do).
Now, add some counting. See if the children can smell the flowers for 3 seconds, as you count, “1, 2, 3.” Next, see if the children can blow out the candles for 3 seconds, “1, 2, 3.” You can increase the in and out-breaths to 4 or 5, counting while you are doing this. This repetition, while seeming simple, reinforces number sense by modeling the “Stable Order Rule” that numbers go in a certain order and that order never changes.
Try incorporating some yoga into your practice as a teacher and let us know how it goes.