I recently saw an interview on TV of a new mom with her baby. The reporter asked her what she wanted for her child. “I just want her to be happy,” replied the mom, an answer that probably most of us would give. As new parents we give our baby their basic needs to satisfy their happiness. As toddlers, we find that instant gratification in the form of a toy or treat works to bring happiness.
There comes a time when a child can learn that happiness comes from within. Our feelings are never wrong; we just need to learn how to understand and cope with our emotions. As parents, teachers, and child advocates we can help kids choose happiness over unhappiness.
We can foster happiness by displaying positive emotions like empathy and gratitude. Surround the child with people who lift her up rather than bring her down. We can also reflect on our own attitude towards happiness. In yoga, we practice Santosha, or contentment. Would a bigger house or new vehicle truly make us happy? If we often complain about material possessions, then the child will associate that with attaining happiness.
It is also valuable for a child to understand that being sad is okay too. The loss of a pet or a friend moving away will make us sad, and sometimes only time can help.
I feel so blessed to have YogaKids in my home and community to help nurture happiness within. When I teach a class, my intention is always to have the student leave feeling happier than they did prior to class. When I notice that a child in my YogaKids may be grumpy, here are some poses I incorporate:
Volcano: This pose safely releases emotions. Fill your volcano with something you love!
Begin in Mountain pose. Bring your fingertips together at the chest. Jump your feet apart. Place your palms together at the center of your body in Namaste Position. Breathe in. Watch your hands as you raise them over your head. Breathe out as you explode your arms outward. Lower them to your sides and return your hands to Namaste. Erupt and release again and again. Make big, exploding volcano noises. Jump your feet back together when you’ve finished erupting.
Untie the Knots: This pose loosens up your whole body to relax, shake, and feel great!
While standing, untie your neck by rolling your head around. Untie your shoulders by moving your shoulders up, down and all around. Untie all your knotted muscles and joints from head to toe. Massage and stroke them after you’ve untied them. Untie them until you feel nice and loose.
Tarzan’s Thymus Tap: This is a great pick-me-up for tired or cranky kids. The taps promote blood flow to the brain.
Start in any of the base poses, seated or standing. Make two fists and pound your chest. Pound and tap under your arms, too. Howl, yowl and yodel. Feel the power and vibration of your sounds.
Peace Breath: Send peace to all the parts of your body, especially your heart.
Close your eyes. Relax your face muscles. Let your skin drape over your bones like a soft blanket. Breathe in. Breathe out and whisper the word “peace.” Repeat. As you say the word, feel the peace inside you. Send peace to the animals, trees and plants. Send peace to your family and friends. Send peace to countries in the world that are at war. Send peace to all the people you love.
Pedal Laughing: Laughter can be the best medicine! If you fake laugh long enough, it will eventually turn into a real laugh!
Lie on your back. Bend your arms and legs like you’re riding a bicycle in the air. Pedal forward and laugh. Pedal backward and laugh. It might be hard to really laugh at first, but once you get started, you won’t be able to stop. Have fun and be silly with this one. Form a pedal laughing chorus. High-tone laughters are sopranos and lower ones are bass. Medium-low laughters are toners and medium-high are altos. Make music with your laughter!
In YogaKids classes we often incorporate books and music. I love a book called The Feel Good Book by Todd Parr. It’s perfect for ages 4-7, but I find older kids enjoy it too. Of course, the popular song “Happy” by Pharrell is fun and sends a positive message too!
After Savasana, the time of relaxation and renewal at the end of yoga class, I love to incorporate quotes. A favorite of mine is from Dr. Seuss in his book Oh the Places You’ll Go!
“You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose