December 2013

After the Pie, the Breath

December 2, 2013

Golden Sleepy In-the-Keyhole Pie2 Light In-Thought

We gathered this past week with our family and friends, full of conversation, joy, and lots and lots of pie. This is the time where the holidays kick into high gear. The lights go up, the songs are played, and the excitement of what is ahead is always in the forefront of our minds.

It is also a time for rhythm, for balance, and especially for a deep breath. As wonderful as the holidays are, they can also be a very difficult time to balance emotions, sleep and anxiety for children. When we think about how tired we are at the end of the year, one can only imagine how mentally and physically exhausted our children must be. I remember a few years back, after working so hard to create the “perfect” holiday for my boys, Jacob spent Christmas Day with tissues stuffed up his nose, as one nose bleed after another kept coming. I called the doc, and she very simply told me that he was overly excited, and his body was responding. That was the moment where I realized that while the holidays are amazing, teaching our kiddos a few basic tricks to balance their emotions is essential.

Most of you know that I am a yoga and breath work advocate. I think that most of our daily lives could be greatly improved with a few moments of quiet reflection and sacred movement, and children are certainly no exception. For many of us, teaching kiddos yoga is easy and fun, but breath work is a bit more challenging. One of the biggest questions that I get from parents in regards to children is how to teach them to breathe. I think that most of us feel that breathing is a natural response, and that kids already know how to do it. While that is true to some extent, children are notorious for taking quick, shallow breaths when excitement sets in. That only serves to heighten their emotions, not calm them.

I know no young one who will sit for long periods of time and listen or practice breath work, but in my experience, teaching kiddos for a few minutes a day two simple techniques can make a world of difference (and not just at the holidays). The first is to teach them to take an equal inhale and exhale. I encourage my children to count to ten as they inhale through their nose, and to count to ten on the exhale (again, through the nose). This seems to be a good number to start with, and if they are ever in a place where the stress in really hard (think blood draw), I encourage them to extend that time by a few seconds. If they practice just once or twice in the morning, they have that tool at the ready, and when you see the excitement or stress level rising, simply remind them to count to ten and breathe.

The second is to take a full inhale through the nose, and exhale fully and loudly through the mouth with a sigh. I have no idea why this is so relaxing, but trust me, it works. I use it all the time on myself, especially when there is lots of sibling arguments of noise in the house. It is like a quick reset button, and I have yet to see it fail. I have my boys take a deep inhale, and then let out a long ahhhhhhhh. They love the way it rolls off the tongue, and there is always a smile and giggle at the end. This is such a beautiful time of year, and it should be filled with joy and fun. Allowing rhythm and quiet to seep into our days is just as important as the excitement and activities that fill our calendar. A warm bath each night before bed, a cup of mint tea, a story are all great ways to calm children and encourage good sleep and rest.

Wishing all of you a beautiful and magic filled start to the holiday season.

For more info on restorative yoga for children, please visit this post 

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