by Lauren Chaitoff
It is 7:30pm on Sunday night. The sun has set and my eight-year-old self begins to feel stomach knots because tomorrow means I have to go back to school. My mother affectionately coined this feeling the “Sunday night blahs.” The blahs hit an all-time high when mid-August rolls around, as I knew the start of the school year was approaching. (Still to this day I have a visceral response when back-to-school ads begin to creep into the collective minds of parents and children during the summer!)
Does your bean ever get a case of the Sunday night blahs? Through a few simple yoga exercises you can help your bean welcome the back-to-school experience with an open mind, body, and heart. Below are three exercises that can ease any back-to-school jitters your child may have, and make for a smooth and peaceful return to the new academic year.
The Shake Out. One way to deal with general anxiety is to transform uneasy energy into useful feelings and actions. The Shake Out is an exercise that enables children to release and redirect unvented frustrations through the movements of their bodies. Begin by asking your bean to stand in Mountain pose. The Shake Out exercise begins with children enthusiastically shaking their left leg as they count up – from one to ten – at a rapid pace. Next, while counting up to ten, ask your bean to shake their right leg … then their left arm while counting up to ten … and finally their right arm while counting up to ten. Next, ask your bean to return to their left leg and shake it out, but this time they should count up to nine. Once again, have your bean cycle through shaking each remaining limb while counting up to nine: right leg … left arm … right arm. This exercise should be repeated across all limbs until the number one is reached. The Shake Out can also be done after school to release the unexpressed energy that children typically have after sitting behind a school desk for long periods of time.
Take 5 Breathing. This breathing exercise enables children to pause, rest and relax whenever they need it. Begin the exercise by asking your bean to make a gentle fist. He or she should inhale for the full count of five – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – while they unroll one finger at a time. Once all five fingers are spread wide (the hand should look like a starfish) ask your bean to take a long exhale through their nose as they close one finger at a time bringing their hand back into a gentle fist. Repeat this exercise one to three times. Take 5 Breathing can also be done while studying or before an exam as it helps ease stress and focus the mind.
Visualization. Begin by creating a relaxing atmosphere. Play soft music, dim the lights, and perhaps light a candle. Encourage your bean to sit comfortably or lie down with their eyes closed. Ask them to imagine a favorite memory from the previous school year. Was it a Halloween parade or a school play? How did they feel in this experience? Were there any specific smells, sights or sounds they remember? Was anyone with them during this special time? Encourage your bean to explore this “special school space,” and tell them they can visit this space anytime they want simply by closing their eyes and using their imagination.
A new school year brings the opportunity to create new memories and experiences that can last a lifetime. If it feels appropriate, ask your bean to imagine what makes them most anxious about school. Allowing your child to acknowledge and speak about their feelings as valid thoughts and concerns will help them discover that such feelings are often not as intimidating as they initially seem. When we open ourselves up fully to the things in life that scare us or cause us trepidation, we typically have an easier time surmounting such things – fears and challenges, worries and apprehensions – reducing the power they once had over us. At Yogi Beans we tell children: when you face your feelings you can make friends with them; and then they are not so scary anymore.
Here’s wishing you a peaceful, easeful and happy start to the new school year!
Yogi Beans is the brainchild of mind-body-fitness expert Lauren Chaitoff. In 2005, after training in theater and working in Los Angeles as an actor, Lauren decided to shift her career towards positively impacting children’s lives through fitness and wellness. In 2007, Lauren created Yogi Beans, a company devoted solely to teaching yoga to children of all ages in and around New York City. In 2010, she fortuitously met Alexa Klein, Yogi Beans’ CEO & Co-Owner, and the two united to open Yogi Beans Kids Yoga Studio in NYC. Lauren currently oversees and trains the stellar Yogi Beans Instructor team, leads regular Yogi Beans’ public teacher trainings, and teaches weekly classes to beans of all ages. Lauren continuously evolves Yogi Beans’ programming from her extensive experiences in the classroom, on her mat and through her love and nurturing of her own baby bean, Vivienne Bell. Find Yogi Beans on facebook and twitter@YogiBeans.