Yoga philosophy in children’s classes

Samadhi

Teaching yoga to children is not just about physical poses or story telling.

Have you ever heard the saying; yoga is not about touching your toes but rather what you learn on the way down? Scrolling through Instagram, you might perceive yoga as an activity for super flexible bodies, dressed in funky clothing and contorting into impossible poses. I’m sure anyone of any shape or age who has attended a yoga class knows in actuality it is so much more. The poses are merely one part of this ancient practice and for children there are many other important aspects to consider. In this blog we look at Patanjali’s Eightfold Path and specifically how we include yoga philosophy in children’s classes.

Dhyana - Meditation

Dharana – we use mudras to help us focus and concentrate

Without philosophy, yoga would be gymnastics.

Yoga is not just about the physical poses but is made up of 8 different parts called the eight limbs of yoga. The Eightfold Path is the heart of yoga philosophy and offers a way to develop a healthy, peaceful life. This ancient code consists of universal principles, personal disciplines, postures, breathing, focus, concentration, meditation and the opportunity to experience joy in every moment.

These 8 limbs of yoga are:

  • Yama: social restraints or ethical values similar to universal commandments
  • Niyama: our personal disciplines
  • Asanas: physical exercises
  • Pranayama: breath control or regulation
  • Pratyahara: sense withdrawal in preparation for meditation
  • Dharana: concentration
  • Dhyana: meditation
  • Samadhi: ecstasy/enlightenment

Incorporating yoga philosophy in children’s classes using the Yoga Tree of Life

To introduce the Eightfold Path and yoga philosophy in children’s classes we use the concept of the yoga Tree of Life. Looking at an image of this tree we share examples as we explore yoga theory. We ultimately want to encourage children to “live” their yoga off the mat too. The best way as teachers to impart this philosophy is to truly practice what we teach for children to observe and absorb. By understanding and following the Eightfold Path children can achieve a healthy body, wise mind and the ability to feel compassion, whilst ultimately finding true inner peace and reflecting this outwardly too.

1. Yama – The Roots

Ahimsa – Non-violence

Violence is not only physical but can manifest in the words we speak. In our children’s yoga classes we encourage children to speak with kindness to others and to themselves whilst developing positive affirmations together.

Asteya – Non-covetousness / stealing

Encourage children to come up with their own creative ideas and if they are to copy someone or something to give credit. Do not take anything that does not belong to you, just take a moment to think about how you would feel if something was taken from you. This is important with time keeping too as being late is also stealing another person’s time.

Satya – Truth

Always speak your truth and act in a way that is true to your inner self and integrity. Only make promises that you can keep as honesty creates trust and more self-confidence.

Brahmacharya – Self-control

This yama is about greed and desire, which is a big problem in today’s society as we always want more! This can refer to food, sweets, toys, clothes, new technology etc. Teach children not to take more than they need and to be grateful for what they have. A great story that we use whilst teaching this yoga philosophy in children’s classes, is the story of Ubuntu. The direct translation of this is word and philosophy is, “I am because we are.”

Aparigraha – Non-accumulation of needless wealth and materials, non-possessiveness.

For many children the amount of possessions they have is very important (media and advertising have a lot to answer for here). Ultimately we are trying to detach from too many possessions, so encourage your children to give some of their unused items to charity.

2. Niyama – The Trunk

Saucha – Cleanliness and purity

This refers to our bodies, thoughts and words. As adults we can set the example by living a clean, balanced life with exercise and healthy food, caring for the environment and not speaking negatively in front of children.

Santosha – Satisfaction and contentment

To be satisfied with all that we have and all that we are may be one of the most important Niyamas. To accept what is and remain unaffected by what may be taken away.

Tapas – Self-discipline and the the ability to try and work hard

Encourage children to practice yoga at a certain time each day or week as this will develop positive habits. Perhaps they could try a few sun salutations each morning or 5 minutes of quiet sitting each evening. We know that hard work pays off so let’s teach this to our children too.

Svadhyaya – Introspection and self-study

Children have many questions about life so let us encourage them to think about these and enjoy such discussions. Introduce meditation and contemplation exercises to get to know one’s self and try to be the best person you can be.

Ishvara – Pranidhana – Faith in a higher Power/source

A belief or understanding in something bigger than ourselves and our egos. Something that is not driven by our individual wishes and desires.

Asana - We are all connected

All Yoga Poses/Asana can be practiced solo or with friends

3. Asana/Poses – The Branches

By practicing physical asanas we improve our circulation, respiration and digestion. Our body becomes stronger and supple and our memory, concentration and willpower improve. Asanas help us to be calm and are also very important for a healthy body and mind. In children’s yoga we explore traditional poses in fun accessible ways whilst teaching all the benefits that yoga has to offer. Some represent living things like cobra, lizard, eagle and trees. Some poses mimic natural forms like our standing mountain pose. Others represent man-made objects such as boat, bridge, chair and some are inspired by geometric shapes like triangle pose. We also give the children opportunities to make up their own poses.

4. Pranayama/Control of Breath – The Leaves

Practice breathing exercises to teach about inhalation and exhalation and the importance of our breath. There are many fun ways to introduce children to recognising in controlling their breath for example: blowing feathers and bubbles, breathing with the Hoberman Sphere, breathing deeply with hands on the belly etc. Until a child is 12 years old and their lungs have fully developed it is important not to encourage retention of breath.

5. Pratyahara/Control of Senses – The Bark

Here we use poses and activities to stimulate and educate the senses. Eyes around the clock wakes up our visual sense, listening to different sounds with the eyes closed, mindful tasting, smelling different scents and exploring feely bags to encourage the tactile sense.

6. Dharana/Concentration – The Sap

Balancing poses such as Tree, Warrior 1, 2 and 3 are wonderful for increasing focus and concentration. Present warriors in the context of determination, perseverance, focus, concentration, strength and personal power. Try to incorporate affirmations such as “I am brave. I am balanced. I have the strength and focus to realise my dreams.”

We also like to include mudras into our children’s yoga classes to encourage focus. If you would like to find out more about incorporating these into your children’s yoga classes, you would be welcome to join one of our upcoming Mythology, Mantra and Mudra workshops.

Relaxation

Dhyana – Relaxation and Meditation

7. Dhyana/Meditation – The Flowers

Relaxation and guided imagery are ways to introduce meditation to young children. Encourage drawing mandala meditation, sitting meditation and mindful exercises. Dhyana should be uninterrupted, deep concentration for a prolonged period.

8. Samadhi/Enlightenment – The Fruit

We cannot show this full realization to a child, but the feeling just after you have eased yourself up from your relaxation – that blissed out and happy sensation might be just a tiny glimpse of Samadhi.

Yoga is a way of life.

Children’s yoga is not just about story telling or clowning around. When practicing yoga poses with children, it is important to introduce them to yoga theory and philosophy too. To give them an understanding of yoga in its entirety so that they are not blindly following what you are doing. They can then internalise a greater knowledge of yoga’s benefits, where it originated and all aspects that will take their practice to a deeper level.

To find out more about teaching yoga to children see our Children’s Yoga Teacher Training page.

How yoga benefits children’s mental health and physical wellbeing

Mindfulness and meditation in the classroom - yoga workshop INSET days

Over the past decade we have seen a massive increase in the number of nurseries, primary and secondary schools offering yoga. Not only as an after-school club activity, but as an important part of the school the curriculum. More and more people are seeing first hand how yoga benefits children. Mental health professionals, medical doctors, neurologists, teachers and even the Government is beginning to recognise how yoga benefits children’s mental health and physical wellbeing.

Yoga and mindfulness provides so many benefits including supporting learning, healing, stress release and everyday life. The practice of yoga has been explored for thousands of years. The benefits to body and mind, that have been noticed and recorded, are vast. When sharing children’s yoga, we focus not only on the asana/postures but also on bringing other elements of the 8-fold path into our sessions. Mental and physical wellbeing is carefully nurtured. This is achieved through noticing and controlling the breath; moving and resting the body; and developing an awareness of the mind’s chitter chatter through meditation and mindful practices.

Supporting children’s physical wellbeing

The movements practiced in a yoga class (called poses or asanas) are much more than just stretching. They open the energy channels throughout the body, increasing flexibility of the spine, strengthening bones and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems. Along with proper breathing, these poses or asanas also calm the mind and reduce stress.

A regular yoga practice helps with overall physical and mental health. Therefore contributing to the possible prevention of diseases such as diabetes, acute anxiety, low bone density, asthma and obesity. All problems that pose an increasing threat to the development of our children today. Performing the poses slowly and with mindful control also acts as a mental exercise in concentration and meditation.

Children enjoying yoga

Children exploring physical poses

Breathing, emotional development and awareness

Yogic breathing increases lung capacity, as well as strengthening and toning the entire respiratory and nervous systems. Deepening the breath brings more oxygen to the body through the blood stream. We may take it for granted, but breathing is one of the most important foundations of our wellbeing. If you can teach a child to be aware of their breath they will ultimately become more in control of their emotions and overall wellbeing. These are everyday tools for calming and energising the child to help develop a state of relaxed awareness, which is crucial for learning.

YogaBeez children and young people workshops in schools for Healthy Living Week

Children learning important relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and mental health

Mindfulness helps children develop healthy responses to the chaotic world around them. It also helps them deal with their own emotional responses to the world. The idea is to encourage children to use these techniques whenever they need to find calm, refocus their energy, and concentrate on specific tasks. Mindfulness has been seen to decrease stress and attention deficit issues, depression, anxiety, and even hostility in children. Research over the past few decades has shown that mindfulness training also develops social-emotional awareness, memory and learning, body awareness and coordination, and interpersonal skills.

Skills for life

By taking part in yoga classes, children develop important inter and intrapersonal skills. A regular yoga practice offers effective help for learning disorders, hyperactivity, stress and lack of exercise.

Yoga also increases self-confidence and most importantly …. its great FUN!!

It’s easy to see why more and more schools are embracing the need for yoga in their classrooms. Children who learn yoga at an early age have a healthy head start in life. This is especially important in our fast-paced and stressful world. Through bringing increased awareness to the external environment and to the internal experience of the body and the mind, children will benefit psychologically and emotionally. Children can easily learn these techniques, and when learned young, they become lifelong tools.

Read more about our yoga classes and how yoga benefits children


Find out more
If you would like to bring yoga into your school or train as a teacher to share these myriad benefits with our younger generation then take a look at our range of courses suitable for parents, nursery and school leaders as well as regular yogis.

Yoga and Montessori benefits the whole child

Learning breathing techniques

How yoga benefits children

  • Improves posture, flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and motor skills
  • Helps children recognise and honour all emotions, learning to trust their instincts
  • Teaches breathing techniques that increase energy and decrease anxiety providing effective coping strategies for stress
  • Increases body awareness as we explore our anatomy and benefits of the poses
  • Teaches relaxation and stress management techniques for school and home
  • Nurtures self-esteem, confidence and acceptance
  • Offers a platform for creativity and imagination
  • Builds a foundation for lifelong well-being
  • It’s non-competitive and honours each child’s unique way of absorbing and integrating information
  • Provides techniques to quiet the mind and sharpen focus and concentration
  • Endorses healthy choices and lifestyle
  • Balances and coordinate the brain
  • Encourages positive thinking and a motivation to learn
  • Improves grades and reading skills
  • Aids better sleep
  • Promotes a sense of peace, within and without
  • Allows for playfulness and collaboration in the learning process
  • Allows children to learn to respect themselves, others and the world around them; encouraging the acceptance of differences
  • Trains the sense of balance and as a result boost overall health and physical fitness

How Yoga and Montessori philosophies benefits the whole child

YogaBeez children and young people workshops in schools for Healthy Living Week

Yoga and Montessori philosophies benefit the whole child as they both offer a mindful, non competitive approach to help children learn, develop and live harmoniously with others.

Maria Montessori once commented that ‘children are the makers of man’. By providing them with a foundation of love and respect, for themselves and the world around them, we help the new generation to create and live harmonious and satisfying futures.

She saw each child as a unique individual, who developed at their own rate, and believed in educating the whole child, with movement paramount to the education of the mind. “Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside,” she wrote in Discovery of the Child. “Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.”

Yoga, like Montessori education, is a process of discovery.

A mindful, non-competitive exercise, emphasising movement and breathing and the connection of body and mind, it helps students of any age to understand our own nature and live harmoniously with others. In an age where technology means that children often spend long hours glued to a screen, this is more relevant than ever. 

In fact, Yoga and Montessori philosophies align seamlessly in many ways: 

  • Both focus on exercising, educating and empowering the whole child 
  • Both are non-competitive with the emphasis being on the process and not the end result – we encourage children to enjoy the poses without trying to perfect them
  • Just as Montessori aims to build self-esteem, we modify the poses and give children the tools they need to complete them successfully 
  • They both work to balance and calm the child
  • Both begin simply and gradually increase in difficulty, moving from the concrete to the abstract 
  • Yoga and Montessori both value movement as vital to the development of the mind 
  • There are three parts to a yoga pose: going into the pose, being in the pose and coming out of the pose with control. These correlate with carrying a piece of work from the shelf, using the work and thoughtfully placing the work back on the shelf
  • Just as the Silence Game is sometimes used in a Montessori classroom, meditation is introduced to children in yoga classes to help improve awareness and focus

Merging the Montessori curriculum into our children’s yoga classes we can stimulate all areas of a child’s development. 

Yoga for personal, social and emotional exploration

Yoga games, group and partner poses are a great way to encourage social interaction. We always foster a win-win attitude – there is no right or wrong or winning or losing in these explorations, just taking part and putting in your best effort is all that’s required. Emotionally we encourage not only interaction with others but also looking within to find your inner silence. Breathing exercises teach children to master their own emotions – breathing out stress, breathing in calm, exhaling anger and inhaling joy. We teach children to try and focus on the positive but also that all emotions are recognised and welcomed. The Volcano Pose is a great tool for noticing anger or anxiety in the body and finding a healthy way to channel these sometimes crippling emotions. 

Why not try this one at home next time someone in the family is feeling furious?

Volcano Pose – Good for all ages

Start in Mountain pose and jump your feet apart into Open Mountain. Bring your hands into Namaste right down at the bottom of your abdomen. As you inhale, rise your hands up to the top of your head and then exhale as you separate your hands and bring your arms up and out to the side. Really blow out your breath like a volcano exploding. Repeat this several times. This is a great pose to do if you are feeling really CROSS!! Imagine that angry feeling in the pit of your tummy – like burning hot lava. As you bring your hands up move this agitated feeling up through your body until you are finally ready to release it out of the top of your head and blow it a way. Fun to start with a really cross, scrunched-up face and as you let go of this feeling a happy peaceful calm feeling washes over you and a smile spreads to your cheeks. Now you could fill your volcano / pit of your tummy with happy thoughts and feelings or anything you love and imagine this bursting out of your volcano instead. 

Physical development with yoga

When moving through the poses, children become more aware of their bodies… noticing how they feel, learning correct anatomical terminology and becoming more spacially aware Yoga strengthens, stretches and loosens muscles. Senses are educated and each pose has a particular balancing effect on the body’s various systems – skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, nervous, lymphatic, hormonal etc. Body awareness leads to self care. This is something so many of us need to relearn as an adult… when the body is broken only then do we stop. Instead we can help children recognise when they need some time out, time to be still, to recover, to rejuvenate.

How about some family yoga at home? Partner poses are great fun to explore together:

Sit and Twist
Sit facing your partner in a comfortable cross-legged position making sure your knees are almost touching each other. Then both wrap your right arms behind your back. Now stretch your left arm diagonally across your body and try and find your partners right hand, which should be just poking out next to their left waist. When you have both found each other’s hands give your self a little spinal twist as you both look over your right shoulders. You might need a little help initially trying to coordinate this pose but once you have it you will see what a great twist this provides with a little help from a friend. 

Story telling through yoga

Communication, language and literacy

Many children’s yoga classes have themes, which we discuss and explore. Through the theme of the class we discover the anatomy of our bodies and learn the scientific names for our bones and muscles. We chat about nutrition and how to live healthily. The children take turns to read guided imagery or make up stories during the relaxation period at the end of the class. We bring books to life with yoga, play name games and explore the alphabet through our poses. The vocabulary we use in the classes is rich and varied and languages from around the world are introduced. We also encourage teachers to set up pen pal projects with children in other yoga classes across the globe. When last did you receive an envelope in the post that wasn’t a bill or a statement or advertising of some sort. Let’s bring back letter writing.

Here’s a fun mindful activity to assist your child’s letter learning

Alphabet Backrub – Age 4 – teen

Sit down behind your partner and use your finger or hand to write a letter of the alphabet on their back. Let them know if it is a small or capital letter otherwise it can be a bit tricky. The recipient must guess what the letter is. This is a fun way to learn to recognize the alphabet. Older children can write words or even short sentences. Take turns.

Knowledge and understanding of the world for the whole child

We use the theme of each class to explore different cultures, languages, foods, instruments and music from different countries. Fauna and flora and animal’s habitats are learnt through adventures to rainforests, jungles, wetlands, under the sea, to space etc. We use the poses to plant seeds in various learning areas so that the children are continuously being exposed to new facts about ecology, science and biology.

For example: Alligator –
Lie on your belly and stretch your arms out in front of you. Turn your arms so that the back of your hand is on the floor and roll onto your side. Lift your top arm up as you open and close, clapping the other hand as you come down – Snap Snap Snap!!! For an extra challenge – keep your legs together and lift your 2 feet up like a big alligator tail. Then roll over swap arms and start again.

Some Interesting facts: Alligators and Crocodiles are similar in many ways but there are a few differences too: 1. Alligators prefer fresh water habitats, while crocs usually live in salty water! 2. Alligators have a rounded u-shaped jaw, while crocs have a more pointed v-shape. 3. Their teeth are different too – an alligator’s teeth don’t really show when its mouth is closed, while crocodiles’ teeth have a special interlocking pattern that does show, plus a large tooth on their lower jaw that sticks out over their top lip even when their mouths are shut.

Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy

We highlight patterns, sequences, angles, numerical awareness, counting and rhythm while practicing poses.

For example, singing the Tea Pot song is a fun way to introduce young children to the Triangle/Trikonasa yoga pose. For older groups we look at angles – obtuse and acute – and measure the various triangles our body makes – scalene, Isosceles, equilateral.

Creative development

We encourage the imagination and creativity of each child through the use of props, guided imagery, drawing and colouring meditations. We make models of skeletons, paint interpretations of visualisations and prepare healthy snacks.

Music from all over the world is incorporated into our classes through different instruments, rhythms and beats.

We do not incorporate any religion into our sessions; we simply honour and respect the diversity of all beliefs, cultures and traditions. One area we try and escape from completely is the technical world. Children receive so much stimulation from technology and the media today. In our yoga sessions we aim to leave all this at the door and come back to our basics … our bodies, our minds and our spirits.

As role models, parents and teachers we have a duty to plant seeds, teach children how to water them and give them the tools to create their own beautiful gardens and yoga certainly helps to do just that.

If you’re feeling inspired to share yoga with children, take a look at our range of training courses. These courses are suitable for parents, teachers, yoga teachers or therapi

Children enjoying yoga

Choosing the right yoga teacher training course for you

YogaBeez accredited yoga foundation teacher training course in Helsinki
YogaBeez yoga and mindfulness teacher training course in Cape Town

You’re investing time and money into a training course, so you need to know it’s right for you. I’ve shared my top 4 priorities for choosing the right course.

When I chose to specialise in children’s yoga 14 years ago, there were only three courses to choose from. One was in the UK and the others abroad, so the decision was made fairly easy for me. Today in the UK alone there are probably 20 children’s yoga teacher training courses being offered, about ten of which have surfaced in the past two years.

There are so many options for trainings – how do you even begin to decide which programme is right for you?

It can be a minefield out there and deciding to embark on a teacher training is a big decision. Many factors contribute to finding the perfect match. Every decision is personal, with different priorities and considerations for each of us, however there are some fundamental questions that could steer you in the right direction.

Here are a few key factors to consider when setting out on this exciting new venture

1. Understanding your intention will determine what kind of training is right for you.

Ask yourself these questions before looking for the training that best suits your needs.

  • Are you looking for a career change or would you just like to add a class to your usual work week, for a bit of change in your everyday schedule?
  • Are you hoping to bring some yoga into your work space i.e. yoga and mindful techniques in your classroom or to offer to work colleagues a class at the end of their day?
  • Have you been on maternity leave or are a full-time mum wanting to get back into work but not in the same capacity as before?
  • Are you looking to teach adults or specialise in children, teenagers, family yoga, babies or prenatal etc?
  • Are you merely looking for ways to deepen your own practice?
2018 graduates with Bryony and their certificates from the YogaBeez advanced children's yoga teacher training course

2. Research training courses thoroughly.

oga trainings can vary hugely in terms of curriculum content, theory versus practical, philosophies, attention to anatomy, practical business advice and so forth – making it important to research as best as you can. Evaluate the course syllabus/training outline for the balance of subjects taught. Most trainings are required to cover a minimum number of hours dedicated to things like poses, anatomy, breath work, history of yoga and Vedanta so choose a programme that speaks your language and excites you. What speaks to you most about the yoga teacher training you are researching?

Here is a handy checklist:

  • Ensure your training is accredited, as this will certainly reflect the quality of the training you are getting. There are various governing bodies for yoga, which have set the standard for what a properly constructed teacher training should contain.
  • Talk to people who have been through the programme and the teachers themselves if you can. Was the response to your email a generic one or was it answered directly by the teacher? Is there a personal touch or are you only able to chat once you meet? If this is important to you – seek it out.
  • What is your trainer’s philosophy and mission for their school – what are they trying to share, what kind of skills would they want their teachers to develop and leave the course with.
  • Does your training give you an opportunity to put practice to the theory you are learning? Do you get to observe and teach an actual class – to actual adults, children, teens etc?
  • Will your course qualify you for insurance, as we need this to practice in public venues?
  • What size is the training – is it intimate or vast (15 teachers who get personal attention or 35 teachers whose names never get learnt.)
  • Does your training provider require that you have been practicing yoga for a while? Whilst there is no need to be an expert when you arrive on a teacher training, if you are looking to teach yoga it is imperative that you have a solid regular practice when you arrive – “practice what we teach.”
  • Do you want to be a part of a franchise or would you like to start your own career? What are you signing yourself up for?
    And finally, online trainings can be a good addition to what you have already learnt but being in the presence of a qualified teacher is very important as you start your journey of teaching yoga. It is so important to observe teachings and be observed whilst you are teaching. Be supported by an actual human being rather than a screen if at all possible.

3. Connect with the teacher

A connection with the teacher is fundamental in determining how much you will gain from the course. Training to teach yoga can be physically, emotionally and mentally challenging so it is good to be sure that your teacher is able to support you through this process with sensitivity.

  • Have you researched who your trainer has been studying with and are you familiar with them? Would you like to know more about their teachings?
  • Do you share a similar philosophy of teaching?
    Do their website, personal journey, teaching intentions, articles and programmes inspire you?
  • How long have they been teaching and running these trainings?
  • And most importantly – will your teacher continue to support you after your training is complete? Does your training school have a sangha/group of teachers who connect in with each other? Are there WhatsApp groups, Private Facebook groups, newsletters or website forums? It can feel quite isolating being a yoga teacher, especially when you start out, so community is paramount – whether it’s face-to-face or online, make sure this is something that is offered.

4. The practicalities: dates, location and investment.

Never overlook the practical bits that will play a huge role in your decision.

  • Choose a price that suits your budget – many teacher trainings have payment options and early bird discounts, so it’s worth asking about this.
  • Find a date that works for you. If you are a school teacher, is your training offered during school holidays? If you are in a full-time job you might need to find a training that is offered on weekends.
  • Would you prefer to do a full, intensive training and integrate all the information post-training or would you prefer to have it running over a longer period of time taking time to integrate and practice all you are learning along the way?
  • When choosing a location think realistically about what you can commit to, given your current responsibilities – family, work etc. It’s important not to overstretch yourself so think about how you could manage less travel time at the end of each training day.

As you can see there is quite a bit to consider. Don’t be afraid to get online or on the phone with the person you want to train with. Feel supported as you move through your application process. This is a big step to take, an investment in many areas of your life … find the right course for you and enjoy each step of this journey!

Contact me if you’d like to know more about our courses.

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see some of our teacher trainings in action.

6 top tips for supporting children going back to school

Homeschooling

2020 will forever be remembered as the year our collective normality changed. With little warning, day-to-day activities that we took for granted were no longer possible. Schools and businesses closed, travel ground to a halt and families found themselves locked in their homes around the clock. While the world grappled with the growing pandemic and economic uncertainty, the challenges of an unprecedented lockdown created a breeding ground for fear and anxiety. Being at home became an endless cycle of balancing chores with working remotely, developing new routines, and having no social interaction. And possibly one of the greatest challenges? The abrupt need for home-schooling.

Bryony and her 10 year old assistant

Breath…Mindfulness…Creativity…Activity…Positivity

Surviving the new normal required adaptation.

Suddenly all parents were in the same boat. Trying to teach year 5 maths, researching exactly what an acrostic poem might be and desperately trying to recall long-forgotten grammar dos and don’ts. Then came whipping out the baking soda to make volcanoes and being ready for 9am exercise classes. Most parents will agree that this new reality brought with it many wonderful moments of togetherness, but at the same time stress levels were elevated for parents and children alike. Sometimes it felt as if time was standing still, sometimes the days flew by – a curious rollercoaster of triumphs and failures.

In time, we did what every species must do to survive – we adapted. We discovered gratitude for the things we once took for granted, communities stood together, the skies cleared and moments outside were treasured. Zoom and Google Classroom became a lot less scary, and across the world people found creative ways of working and teaching online. Among those trying to find ways to ease the stress and chaos of the time were the many yoga teachers who took their classes online so that families could practice together – exploring their breath, moving their bodies, noticing their thoughts and feelings and having some much needed fun.

As we move into September, schools are set to reopen, but this will more than likely be a staggered return, with children dividing their time between regular schooling and home-schooling.

Here are my 6 top tips for supporting children as they transition back to school

Just breathe

Take moments in every day to stop and really breathe. Feel your feet on the floor and notice as the rib cage expands and contracts; notice the belly rising and falling. You might like to count your breath – inhale one, exhale one, inhale two, exhale two. Remember that a longer breath out will help to calm you down. Try breathing in and as you breathe out whisper ‘peace’ – until all your air has been released.

Be mindful

Try grounding mindful practices such as body scans: sit or lie down and imagine you are shining a little spotlight over your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. What do you notice? With no judgement or control or trying to change anything, just observe … any tingling, temperature, tickling, heaviness, tightness, colours, sensations … just notice.

Stay active

There are many wonderful children’s and teen yoga classes now available online via zoom, Facebook and YouTube. Have fun exploring the different styles available. Be sure to enquire about joining exercise classes at school. Embrace the freedom to be outdoors with regular walks and bike rides. When did you last roll down a hill or spin around in circles and then lie down on your backs and cloud gaze?

6 top tips for supporting children going back to school

Get creative in the kitchen

Cooking and baking are great stress relievers. Explore healthy options such as sourdough bread, creative salads, soups and smoothies. Try bringing the classroom into the kitchen. Weighing out and portioning ingredients teaches maths and sprouting seeds explores science (top tip: mung beans take only a few days to sprout!) Show children the joy of being sustainable by planting your own herbs and tomatoes.

Make art

Turn glass jars into relaxing mindfulness jars filled with water and glitter. Another way to be mindful and creative at the same time is to sit and colour with your child. Sitting under a tree is the perfect place to enjoy peaceful time as you discuss colours and shapes. Try focusing on your breath as your pen moves freely to the rhythm of your breathing. Make gratitude link chains with the whole family. Start by cutting out strips of paper and having each person write down the things they feel grateful for. Glue the links together and hang somewhere visible as a reminder during tough moments.

Stay positive

Give your children a stack of colourful post it notes. Every time they notice a negative thought in their head, they can grab a post it and see if they can turn that negative thought into a positive one instead. They can write the positive thought on the post it and stick it somewhere visible. They will remember how they turned a negative into a positive.

And whenever you can, embrace a whole mental wellbeing day! Ditch the worries and the schoolbooks, make a big bowl of popcorn and share a great family movie.

The Dalai Lama once said, “It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts.” Yes, we need to help our children stay on track academically, but now more than ever we need to give them the tools to cope with an unsettling reality and ensure body and mind stay healthy.

During lockdown Bryony and her 10 year old assistant recorded a series of yoga classes for the whole family to enjoy.

Enjoy a Yoga Beez class online