Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson, and is a technique in tensing and relaxing the muscles. This technique leads to an increase in relaxation throughout the entire body, essentially, physical tension melts, which in turn relaxes the mind and emotions. YogaKids creator Marsha Wenig developed the Lemon Toes technique to take a very adult practice and make it kid-friendly. In this version of PMR, children imagine their toes are straws, sipping sour lemonade up from their toes to every part of the body. Children sip, pucker, breath and relax.
Santosha is one of the niyamas, yoga’s observances, and it means contentment. Life can be very challenging, and Lemon Toes helps kids understand that pain comes and goes. Children develop tools to cultivate contentment even in challenging times. In Lemon Toes, we experience the sensation of constriction, tightening and compression in the entire body, followed by a feeling of ease. This can be very comforting to children as they begin to trust that pain in life is inevitable, but suffering is not. Living a joyous life is less about avoiding challenges, and more about how we deal with and think about life’s challenges. Lemon Toes helps kids experience tension and realize that they are still OK. It gives them trust in the universe.
Author and happiness expert Shawn Achor says that only 10% of happiness is based on our external world meaning where we live, what fun “stuff” we have, the weather etc… 90% is based on how our brain processes what happens to us. We could be sitting on a beach in Hawaii sipping a fruit drink while someone rubs our feet and still be miserable — or we could be walking in Chicago on a cold dark windy April morning and experience much joy. Lemon Toes helps kids process discomfort as a natural part of life, and helps them to experience less fear and anxiety around discomfort.
When we experience pain, it is important to also find the opposite of that — or ease. Dr. Deepak Chopra spent time in a monastery in India, and part of their practice was to go out into the streets barefoot and beg for their food. Deepak told his teacher that walking barefoot was extremely painful and his teacher told him to focus on the foot that is in the air. In Lemon Toes, kids experience constriction and then the opposite of that, extreme ease. The ease is much sweeter after the constriction than before. Children are able to notice their being more easily and the practice is very mindful. Welcoming the opposite of sensation improves focus and concentration.
Mindfulness refers to staying in the present moment; it leads to a deeper sense of peace. When we shut of the mind’s constant stream of thoughts (many of which are negative), we tap into that place in ourselves that is full of peace. Body sensing is a mindfulness technique used to draw focus inward. We can’t sense the body and think at the same time so thoughts begin to melt away. Lemon Toes draws the attention inward, and children improve focus, concentration and reduce stress.
Lie on your back. Imagine that your toes are straws, sipping sour lemonade up from the bottom to every part of your body. Hold your breath as your toes curl and pucker. Breathe out as you relax your toes. Work your way up your legs, belly, chest, and arms, sipping, puckering, breathing and relaxing. Make a sourpuss face. Tighten up your nose, eyes, cheeks, teeth and forehead. Let our hair curl. Hold it, squeeze it tense it. Release. Finally, tighten your whole body at once. Hold it for 5-10 seconds. Completely release, relax. Feel the difference between sour, tight and ten