By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist & YogaKids Instructor
During my routine Monday morning yoga class, I was reminded that my favorite part of practice is savasana. To me, this final pose is like a delicious dessert, something to savor at the end of a really yummy meal. I found myself lying there thinking about springtime, change, and new beginnings, and wishing I could recruit and share this fantastic, relaxed, connected, and organized feeling whenever I so desire! The spring is a time of year full of transitions for myself, my family and also the kids that I work with at the TLC Learning Center. Savasana, such a nourishing, sweet, soul-satisfying pose, helps me feel as though I can take on anything that life dishes my way!
Finding Peace in a Busy Schedule
So then, after class, I began to think about how I can accomplish this task, using yoga like the YogaKids pledge reminds us: “anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better.” I am reminded of my most difficult time of day, the after-work pre-dinner time frame when I am running low on patience, life gets briefly super busy, and my sensory system is most sensitive and fragile. Doesn’t it seem like everyone needs a bit of you then? To help with homework, answer the phone, cook dinner, pick up a something at the store, go through the mail, see who is at the door, answer a text message, etc.? Sometimes I feel as though if one more person needs my attention I am either going to run for the hills or cry like a baby. Not a very pretty picture, is it? As an occupational therapist I am more aware than most of my sensory system; what calms and soothes it when I am frenzied, what alerts it when I am drowsy, and what disturbs it and sends me into a fight or flight response. Most of the time I have enough wits about me to remember my strategies: take a break for a minute or two, spritz myself in a calming essential oil mist, do some alternate nostril breathing, a forward fold, a sun salutation or two. While I might not be able to enjoy savasana at this time there are other yoga poses and tools that I can access to find the serenity within me. I have ways to regroup and re-enter my world with a refreshed mind, an open heart, and a calmer sensory system.
Sharing Calming Choices with Children
Not all children are able to do this. In fact, many are not. One of my favorite things about YogaKids is that it gives us the opportunity to teach children about the art of self-regulation – the ability to calm or energize to meet the demands of the environment at that moment. More and more often children need strategies to learn how to calm and center themselves. While we adults may have developed many strategies without even being aware of them, children benefit from learning strategies from us! So maybe in my kitchen in the evenings, I can more openly share that I am about to enter into a fight or flight response, and communicate with my family what I am doing when I start my ‘Finger Flowers’ deep breathing and why it helps me! Maybe I create a spot on my fridge or wall for pictures or hand-written sticky notes of my favorite calming choices to remind myself and empower my family to build upon and use them!
So put on your detective spectacles over the course of a day or so and see what your children do to calm themselves. Do they rock in a rocking chair, chew gum, take a bath, swing on the swing set, ask for a hug? From their choices, see what you can glean to enrich the sensory opportunities they are seeking and expand upon them. For example, if they like rocking chairs think of yoga poses that involve rocking like Rocking Horse or Rock ‘n Roll. Do you own a child-sized rocking chair, and might this be a perfect gift at a birthday? If they self-regulate through the use of their mouth, consider if deep breathing through Take 5, Finger Flowers, or Polar Bear Pose might be good choices for them. If they like the warmth and feel of being in a bath, try offering them a 2-3 pound heated and scented rice pack as a strategy to calm. In your time with your child, notice what helps him or her to settle down. Share these observations with your child so that you have encouraged the ability to self-regulate within AND outside of the coziness of your home. Empower children to develop for themselves the art of self-regulation!