Every story has an ending. Perhaps the hero returns home to share tales of adventure with friends and family. Maybe the journey is one of self-discovery and the protagonist ends with a clearer understanding of their character and values.
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, There’s no place like home."
- John Howard Payne
In Yo Re Mi, we welcome the end of our yoga adventure as an opportunity to transition into relaxation, stillness and reflection. After an energizing class that engages and works the whole body and mind, even children who are not prone to stillness often feel more ready to drop into a resting pose. For many children and adults, relaxation may become the most cherished part of their yoga experience.
And it's no wonder! Our lives are very full and sometimes it feels our days are spent simply moving from task to activity to appointment without a break. Children are often over scheduled, over stimulated and overwhelmed and then carry that pattern all the way into adulthood. The more we practice relaxation, we may find more opportunities for stillness throughout our day and be able to calm our bodies and minds more efficiently.
As summer winds to a close, we will conclude our theme of Stories and Quests by exploring transitions and relaxation, known to storytellers as the falling action and resolution of plot lines. Check out this awesome video about the components of a story from the folks over at Scratch Garden.
How to relax if you struggle with anxiety or insomnia:
In warmer weather, our bodies naturally move slowly and require more rest. This makes August the perfect time of year to slow down, chill out and relax. And with autumn just around the corner, it is also a great time to create positive habits that will help us remain centered through the transition into a new school year and upcoming holiday season.
Interestingly, most of us are not very good at relaxing. For adults and children that struggle with insomnia or anxiety, even the thought of a long period of stillness may cause some discomfort. If this is you, or if you are working with young children, the key is to start slow and create opportunities for little victories.
Don't attempt to sit in meditation for 20 minutes; try 2 minutes instead!
When your mind loudly starts to run through your to-do list or rehash a conversation, give it something else to do. You may try visualizing yourself in a safe and comforting place outdoors - a secret garden, your own private tropical island, a field of wildflowers. Allow your safe place to evolve and grow more detailed with each visit. The more you practice, the easier it will be to access peace and calm.
Visualizations may not work for everyone. Or they may work better in combination with breathing exercises and poses that relieve physical tension and discomfort. Read more tips in our post Calming to Quiet: Top 3 Ways to Transition Children to Relaxation. Different tools may work better depending on stress level, energy level and time of day.
Here is one of our favorite exercises to release body tension and bring awareness to the breathing:
Try this: Reclined Tighten & Release (optional Breathing Buddy)
Lie down on your back in a comfortable position, with your legs long and your arms resting alongside your body with palms facing up.
Start by tightening and scrunching your toes and feet as much as possible.
Tighten, tighten, tighten as you breathe in deeply and then relax as you breathe out fully.
Move up your body, tightening and releasing with your breath...ankles, legs, hips and bottom, belly, chest and shoulders, hands, arms, shoulders and neck, face.
Then do three rounds where you tighten your whole body and relax completely.
After the last round, see if you can release all tension and holding from your body and feel yourself sink into the support of the floor below you.
You might also place a weighted stuffed animal or bean bag on your belly. As you breathe in deeply, watch your breathing buddy rise. As you breathe out, watch your buddy fall. Continue to feel and watch the waves of your breathing. You may eventually feel ready to close your eyes and let your breathing return to neutral.
Learn more about the 5 Fave Breathing Exercises For Children (and Their Grown-ups).
The end of the adventure is also a perfect time to take stock, reflect on the journey and celebrate victories. Be sure to give yourself and your students the opportunity to observe how your body and mind feels after relaxation. Allow those positive effects to be a reminder and encouragement to make time for self-care even when the to-do list is long, the deadlines are looming and the schedule is jam packed.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act but a habit."
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