As a kids’ yoga teacher, the most rewarding moments for me are when the children get very quiet and still, and tell me that they feel “so calm.” This is one of the most amazing benefits that children can gain from yoga. Understanding how to calm down when they are feeling big emotions is a strategy that will continue to support their emotional well being throughout their lives.
Over the years, I have found some strategies that work really well to help kids relax. Usually, kids need to move a bit before they can be still, so I incorporate these techniques after some yoga poses.
1. Deep Breathing
Image credit: Gordon Ogden
Breath is the single most important component to feeling calm. Helping children center themselves through breath is so powerful for their mood, energy, and wellbeing. There are so many fun breathing exercises you can try that kids will love.
2. Hands-On Assists
Sometimes, kids need an incentive to be still. Just like adults, having a teacher offer a hands-on assist is sometimes just the thing we need to release every last ounce of tension in Savasana. At the end of my classes, when children are laying on their mats, I offer a light squeeze around their calves or shoulders.
Knowing that they will receive a squeeze if they are still and quiet really encourages them to settle in. With your own child, you can explore using massage on the head, arms, legs, hands and feet.
3. Essential Oils
Smell is a powerful sense, and I often incorporate essential oils in Savasana. I tell children that I’m going to give them the smell of the sun, the ocean, or flowers, which is a really exciting and fun experience for them. I put a bit of oil in their hands and let them rub them together and smell. This also encourages deep breathing.
4. Progressive Relaxation
Image credit: Gordon Ogden
Asking a child to lay down and be still and quiet rarely results in a still and quiet child. However, guiding them through a way to relax their body usually does.
Starting with the feet and working up the body, I encourage my students to tense the body part, holding as much energy and tension as they can there. Then, I tell them to let that body part totally relax and sink into the mat. By the end, they have brought attention to each part of their body, noticed how it feels, and consciously relaxed it.
The slower you can go here, the better, using your nice, calm voice to inspire their own relaxation.
5. Use Calming Music
A lot of my students really love calming music. They say it makes them feel like they are in a dream or at a spa. I use nature sounds, piano music, or ambient noises to create a calm, and peaceful environment for kids to relax.
6. Use Your Imagination
When I ask children to lay in Savasana, I tell them that this is their time to go anywhere they want. I ask them to imagine the most peaceful place in the world—real or imagined. I ask them to think about what it smells like, sounds like, and feels like to be there. I invite them to paint a picture in their mind of this wonderfully peaceful place.
At the end, we all share where we visited. I hear everything from the beach to Hogwarts to Disneyland. The more we do this, the more excited kids become to visit these places and embrace a few minutes of calm imagination.
In general, it is impractical to expect children to just sit and be calm. However, with guidance, encouragement, and a little incentive, children start to embrace and yearn for that feeling of calm and relaxation. Try out a number of these techniques, or even combine them together and see what works for your child!
Image credit: Kate Swarm