We’ve all heard a child utter the dreaded words, “I’m bored!” They say that the greatest gift you can give a child is moments of boredom. It’s a time for children to dig deep into the treasure chest of their own imaginations. These days children are so often pacified with electronic devices and television which potentially stunts much of their natural inner creativity. So how can you use yoga to support a child’s inner creativity and stave off those moments of boredom?
In this blog I have shared 10 ways you can use yoga to support a child’s inner creativity. These simple yoga practices can be used at home and in the classroom, so perfect for parents and teachers to use at any time.
Yoga can nurture creativity during the Early Years, whilst simultaneously stimulating other areas of development such as: personal, social and emotional, physical, intellectual, communication and language, mathematics and understanding the world.
In children’s yoga classes we explore themes and storytelling. We do this to blend exercise, relaxation, mindfulness and education. All the while, encouraging health, well-being and supporting creative expression. It is well known that the ancient art of yoga promotes health, but it can also help to unlock creativity – an essential component of learning.
‘’When I practice, I am a philosopher, When I teach, I am a scientist, When I demonstrate, I am an artist.” B.K.S Iyengar
As we move our bodies into interesting shapes, our brains and sense of self-awareness are influenced. Without competition or judgement, we allow children to explore poses in their own time. We are not trying to attain perfect yoga but are creatively finding fun ways to imitate animals, birds, insects and man-made objects with our bodies and our breath.
In these 10 simple yoga practices we start to explore learning areas and awaken our creativity. We also exercise our bodies, notice our feelings and learn about the world around us.
1. Begin with child’s pose
For this starting pose I have included a suggested script you can learn and use with your child.
Practising tree pose
Grow from a resting seed into a beautiful tree
Roll yourself into a tiny ball, feeling your belly on your thighs (this child’s pose position is wonderfully calming and is also a great massage for the digestive system). Then be still as we lay dormant through the winter. As spring arrives we slowly start to unfurl, stretching and breathing into our back body. Wiggle your toes (these little toe bones are called phalanges) as your roots drink in some water. Now bring your hands together and as we slowly stand up, imagine your shoot pushing up through the soil, stretching your arms up high as your stem looks for light. Then grow your branches out wide, let your fingers pop out like leaves.
Eventually some flowers may form and even some fruit. See if you can lift one leg now in the tree pose – finding a focal point to keep your attention and help you balance. Feel steady and calm or try and gently sway from side to side, on tip toes, root down. Do what feels right for your body, don’t worry about anyone else’s tree – see what happens if we close our eyes, notice your emotions and thoughts. Now connect branches with the person next to you. Become a forest together – notice if the balancing becomes easier when we are connected. If you were a tree – what kind of tree would you be?
As we come into these physical postures we are starting to become more mindful. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, improve wellbeing and promote the innovative thinking that supports a child’s inner creativity.
According to Julia Cameron who wrote The Artist’s Way, a wonderful book exploring creativity, the most common hindrance to creative expression is fear. “This thief of joy can stop us in our tracks before we’ve even attempted to express ourselves.” Yoga offers a great platform to have conversations about emotions and feelings and any issues that may be occurring at home or in school.
2. Just breathe, breathe, breathe.
Teaching a child to be aware of their breath can allow them to acknowledge and take control of their emotions. Proper breathing affects mental and physical wellbeing, concentration, energy levels, memory and sleep patterns. Through breathing exercises, we learn to recognise our emotions – breathing out stress, breathing in peace and tranquillity, exhaling anger and inhaling joy.
Hand breath is a wonderful mindful breathing exercise that can instantly calm the heart rate, deepening the breath and quietening the mind. Hold one hand in front of you and with the other trace the fingers – breath in as you trace up the outside of the finger and breath out as you trace down the inside of the finger – repeat with all fingers. One hand equals five deep, slow, even breaths – two hands are even better.
3 Developing confidence and independence to support inner creativity
Encouraging children to do simple, independent tasks like rolling up their own mats, pouring their own water, choosing which pose they would like to practice – will positively affect self-confidence and self-worth. When a child’s confidence grows, creativity flows and so does the ability to express freely.
Enjoy the outdoors and yoga
4. Let the volcano erupt.
The Volcano Pose is a useful exercise to reflect on our feelings. Talk to a child about anger or fear – what colour do they think it might be? Where do they feel it in the body? When they are feeling this way what are some of the reactions they might have? Embrace what you are feeling, come into Mountain Pose, bring your hands together down in front of the pit of your belly – imagine here lies a burning hot angry magma … breathe in as we lift this angry/anxious feeling up through the body and let it explode out of the top like an erupting volcano. Now feel the lava start to cool … think about something that makes you feel peaceful, content, safe, happy … and breathe this feeling through the body. Remember to ask them to notice how different they feel afterwards.
Giving children tools to recognise their breath and emotions, unwind and lower stress levels can ultimately help children tap into their creative minds and support a child’s inner creativity. We explore the breath in many creative ways: riding beanie babies on our bellies as we fill our lungs with fresh air; blowing feathers and cotton wool balls as we explore long exhalations; playing pretend trumpets which empty our lungs completely.
All this breath play, helps children to explore the differences they feel after slow, deep breath or fast, shallow breathing. When we are stressed our breathing speeds up. It becomes short and shallow which activiates the amygdala in the limbic system of the brain. Therefore our fight, fright, flight or freeze responses are evoked. Strong emotions like anger, fear and anxiety come out to play and abstract thinking and creativity can be stunted. Sometimes just stopping and taking a deep breath can bring us back into the moment and shift the gears of the brain and its responses.
5.Uplift with name games and affirmations in poses.
As we introduce ourselves we share what we are feeling grateful for or think about what part of our body we love the most. Sometimes whilst holding a pose we incorporate affirmations. These are positive self-statements that promote constructive behaviour such as compassion, self-esteem, peace and honesty.
Here’s how it could work:
When holding the warrior poses… Warrior 1 – I am smart, Warrior 2 – I am strong, Warrior 3 – I am balanced … I am beautiful, I am brave etc. The mind is a powerful thing and repeating positive affirmations helps us believe them, feel them and become them.
6.Express yourself through questions
Asking questions after poses encourages curiosity and nurtures creativity in the yoga class and in everyday situations. How do you feel after a relaxation? What did you notice during this balancing pose? What did you feel in your body and mind during this strong pose? Did you feel calm or energised?
Through specific themes we discover the anatomy of our bodies and learn the scientific names for bones and muscles. A question like, ‘if you were a butterfly where would you fly right now’ develops curiosity about the world and travel. Some will choose Jamaica: others may choose the local supermarket. It’s important to honour and welcome all answers as they are all creative and exploratory in there own way.
Enjoying yoga together
7. Be stronger together.
We encourage intrapersonal development through meditation, mindfulness and poses practiced independently. We also want to nurture a child’s interpersonal side. Whilst competition in yoga is discouraged we do encourage group and partner poses and games. These can dramatically improve connection, awaken creativity, cultivate trust and encourage social interaction with peers. Nurturing and honouring good friendships and relationships is very important for a fulfilled life. If you have siblings or a group of child in a classroom, let them join together to create a forest of trees, or a giant beautiful flower with everyone becoming a petal!
8.Explore the world.
Through the reading and sharing of books we can explore rainforests, oceans, jungles, space and countries around the globe. Nearly all yoga poses are nature and of course there are the man-made objects. We plant seeds in learning areas so that the children are constantly learning new facts through the poses – ecology, science, biology and even some maths. We explore different cultures, languages, foods, instruments and music from different continents, developing an awareness and appreciation for sound and rhythm. In addition we can use mandalas for drawing meditations. Or create pictures with items we collect on walks such as leaves, acorns, flowers and little sticks.
9. Move the body.
Children become more aware of their bodies as they move into poses. They use their imaginations to explore the world around them. This reminds them to listen to their body and observe how it feels. The body is strengthened and senses are awakened and educated. Each pose has a profound effect on aligning the body and balancing all its intricate systems. Try asking your child or children how they feel? What do they notice in their body after trying a yoga pose? They could share this out loud or just think it to themselves.
For example, brain balance poses such as the eagle, help to connect the left and right hemisphere of the brain by crossing the body’s midline. The left side of the brain governs logic while the right hemisphere coordinates tasks that involve creativity and the arts.
Children in meditation
10. Relaxation is key for supporting a child’s inner creativity.
True physical and mental relaxation is an important benefit of yoga. Deep relaxation balances the entire nervous system, putting us into the calm state of rest and digest. This is an optimal state to allow our creative juices to flow. The perfect practice for this is lying down in savasana. You could read a story or ask them to concentrate on their breathing and thinking about each part of their body becoming soft.
It’s clear that yoga and mindfulness provide a wonderful platform to explore and support a child’s inner creativity. These simple practices can be used at anytime to help develop your child’s inner creativity – turning boredom into exploration!
Did you know that you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to train in children’s yoga teacher training? Parents and teachers make brilliant children’s yoga teachers. If you’d like to learn how you can support a child’s inner creativity maybe you should consider training to teach. Have a look at our range of courses.
Read more about the benefits of yoga for children.