The holidays are here… traditions, food, family and community all come together in our celebrations of the season. But with those wonderful moments we also experience disruption of our normal routine, digestive sluggishness, weight gain and fatigue.
Children are not immune and are often more sensitive to many of these factors than we realize.
Use our mini-sequence below to support digestive health and well-being through:
- Reducing stress
- Increasing awareness
A growing number of studies have shown that children are experiencing stress and its effects at younger and younger ages. Stress levels directly correlate to digestive health – the higher the stress, the worse the digestion.
Our emotions and our digestion are linked.
When we are under stress, mucus secretions along the digestive tract can decrease. The digestive system’s smooth muscles contract as blood is diverted to our cardiovascular system and extremities to prepare to fight or flee.
These reactions are important and how we have survived.
Unfortunately they are the same whether we are being chased by a lion, forgot our homework or feel uneasy in a social situation. The sympathetic nervous system does not distinguish between threats to life and lesser every day stresses.
For children, stress is often compounded by the inability to control or change their surroundings and situation, leading to feelings of being trapped or powerless.
We can help children use breath, mindfulness and movement to increase awareness of situations and habits that are causing stress and then work with them on steps to adapt, accept or change them. Simply bringing the stressor or conflict to light can allow children to discover that they are able control their reaction, body and breath even when they cannot control their situation.
Digestive health mini sequence (for children and adults too):
- Sit in a comfortable position with long spine. Options to kneel, sit cross legged, or sit on the edge of a chair with both feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on your low belly. Take a deep but comfortable breath in as if you were breathing into your hands. Feel your belly press into your hands as your lungs expand filling with air.
As you exhale feel your belly draw in and upward as the air empties from your lungs.
- Inhale again and feel your belly move toward your hands, your rib cage and chest expand 360 degrees, front side and back body.
Exhale and feel your chest relax, ribs settle and belly draw in and up. See if you can match the length of the inhale to the length of the exhale while keeping the breath comfortable and easy.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
- Seated Spinal Twists (helicopter pose):
Bring your hands to your shoulders and lift your elbows out to your sides so your triceps are parallel to the floor. Gently twist to the right and left at a comfortable pace while breathing normally.
Do two 15-30 second sets.
- Seated Spine Rotation:
Bring hands to rest on knees or thighs and begin to rotate the torso as if your were drawing circles on the ceiling with your head. Circles can be small or large as feels comfortable.
Circle 1-3 minutes in each direction.
- Come to neutral and aligned spine. Place your hands and awareness on your belly once again. Close your eyes and return to deep breathing.
On the inhale affirm “I am healthy and whole” on the exhale “I release and let go”.
- Repeat mantra as long as you like and then sit in silent observation for a few moments.
Give children the opportunity to process their experience by drawing, journaling or discussing what they noticed.
How do you use yoga to reduce stress or help you digest during the holidays?
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