Simply stated yoga means, “To yoke” or to join together. I explain it to the kids as a joining of their body and brain, and their body and breath. It’s a simple concept but can be quite challenging to do. This is especially true for some of the kids we work with whose bodies are sometimes hard to control and minds that run away with worries. By helping them find a place inside them selves where they can feel present, centered and calm, they can then begin to handle all of the stress and expectations that are placed on them in the world.
As the yoga instructor on the inpatient unit I follow a predictable pattern each group. We begin by focusing on our breath, then we move our bodies doing yoga poses and then we calm back down with relaxation techniques. The Yoga Calm for Children training program I have attended emphasizes that the act of moving from calming activities to alerting ones and then back to calm is essential in teaching self regulation. Sometime I teach the kids how to breathe from their bellies with a breathing ball, other times I use beanie babies as weights on their stomachs to help them tell the difference between shallow and deep breath. For relaxation it’s a choice of progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery or just calming music. Recently I have been reading our adolescents a tip from Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson to give them something to think about as they finish their relaxation time.
My favorite class of the week is on Wednesday night at 8pm when the blue group (13-18 year olds) has just finished visiting hours. They usually complain I am “ruining their social hour,” but once they enter the atrium they get curious. I bring in as many senses as possible with aromatherapy, chimes, soft music and low lighting. They even use the beanie babies as eye pillows during relaxation. I can’t tell you how many say they sleep better those nights. Even if they don’t like yoga they are learning skills, getting some movement and taking some time to learn more about their bodies and minds.