It was his first yoga class and he was bouncing all over the place...understandable for a 7 year old! Not a problem at all - it's how children that age figure out to be in their growing and changing bodies!! And you've got to love the energy! At the end of class, like always, we ended in Savasana - deep relaxation. We take this time to slow down our bodies and minds and give ourselves the rest we deserve after what may have been a challenging class.
We closed our class and he approached me polite as can be, "Excuse me - after we laid down and stayed still, why did I feel so weird when I sat up?" as he made his arms look limp along side his body to emphasize the feeling. "Oh," I said "you felt relaxed." Relaxed. "Oh. Okay." he said. And when I asked him if it felt good, he nodded. It dawned on me that this child may have never experienced the feeling of relaxation. So this week, I'm dedicating all my classes to relaxation!
One of my favorite books, "The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids", is packed full of help for children to cope with stress, anxiety, and transitions in life. And for kids, if you make it creative, fun, and imaginative, then it will be effective.
This week in my classes, I've been using "The Balloon Ride Script" (with my own little twist here and there), which has captured children of all ages (and has even sent some into a light sleep). Relaxing on their backs, hands on their stomachs, they began with some deep belly breathing:
Did you ever see someone just let go of a balloon on a string? Did you watch it float up? It's hard to take your eyes off that.
What if we could let go of our worries, problems, and mixed-up feelings, and allow them to just float away out of sight? That would feel awesome. OR we could take a trip up in a balloon ourselves, the kind you can ride in. We are going to relax our bodies and out minds and see where the wind takes us. Ready?
First, just let yourself get comfy. Feel all your muscles relax and let go. Feel your heartbeat slow down and say to yourself, "I am relaxed." Take 3 long deep breaths.
Imagine you are in a big field, and in the middle of the field is an enormous hot-air balloon. The balloon has so many different beautiful colors and a comfy basket for you to ride in. The basket is safely tied to the balloon, which is controlled by hot air inside it. Just stay relaxed and notice what is going on around you. There is no right or wrong way to imagine this. Do your best to imagine what colors you can see on your balloon. Listen to the sound of the whooshing air filling the balloon. It makes a wonderful sound, long and slow.
You are feeling completely safe and relaxed on this trip, and maybe you will want to go with a friend or grown-up that makes you feel safe. Maybe you want to bring your dog or cat. Or maybe you just want to go by yourself.
As you get into the basket, you can hear the great whooshing sound of the balloon's air, almost like deep, slow breaths in and out. The big ropes are released and you are lifted off, going up, up, up. And you are feeling completely safe and relaxed. The field, the big trees on the ground, the houses, everything below you seems to be growing smaller as you float higher and higher. Can you see anything else below you? Clouds? Birds? Boats on a lake? Just notice it all and say to yourself again, "I am relaxed." It feels so good to just float away. The sky is like a big, blue dream, and you can feel the gentle wind blow across your face. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. It feels good. You can hear the creaking of the ropes and the quiet whoosh of the balloon. As you rise, you feel every muscle become loose and relaxed. Anything the you were worrying about before left, any big feeling you had, any problems are just getting smaller and smaller, and it feels so good to just let them go, and you say to yourself, "I am relaxed."
As you look out over the edge of the basket, you see that you are floating over the tops of the highest mountains. Passing by the tops of the tallest buildings in the biggest cities. Flying over the bluest oceans. There is only wind and air and a light and happy feeling of being safe and free. Notice how this feels in your body. Just enjoy how good it feels.
Now slowly, slowly the balloon begins to gently descend, to get lower. You begin to see shapes on the ground, the tops of trees, and roofs of houses. Cars on the street look tiny, but are slowly getting bigger. Remember as you come back you are bringing that magical, peaceful feeling of relaxation and calm. You see the field beneath you as you gently, gently move nearer, downward toward it.
Finally you are almost on the ground. With a gentle thud, the balloon basket touches, and when you are ready, you step out. (Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground.) Feel the bottom of your feet touching the earth. It's been a wonderful ride. You say to yourself, "I am relaxed." Slowly wiggle your fingers and begin to stretch your arms. Notice how good you feel when your body and mind are relaxed. Remember that anytime you feel worried or feel like problems are too big, you have the power to relax and make them get little. Remember this special balloon ride and what you saw and how good it felt. And know you can return here and go up anytime, using your breath. It's all yours."
Enjoy and share this great visualization with your own kids!