There is a strong connection between our body and our mind. All of our mental and emotional tensions express themselves in our body. If we are not happy, if we are worried or anxious, we will feel it after a while in our back, shoulders or neck, in our digestion or as a headache. When we are stressed or sad our immune system becomes weaker and we are more susceptible to diseases. Being happy and relaxed is the best preventative medicine.
This is true for kids just as much as for adults. Kids do not have a stress-free life – try to see the world through their eyes and you will understand that.
It is very difficult to release the tension directly from the mind. If we just tell someone “Hey! What’s your problem? Just chill.” It doesn’t really help, right? But because the body and mind are so connected, if we release the tension from the body, the mind relaxes too. It is easier to do it through the body.
Modern doctors and scientists have just recently caught up with yoga and now for the most part understand the connection between mental tension and physical ailments. Many doctors these days prescribe Prozac or other antidepressants for chronic headaches, indigestion or other discomforts (whether these problems can be alleviated without pharmaceuticals is another matter).
In yoga we release physical (and therefore also mental) tension through stretching in the yoga poses, through breathing deeply, through playing… but lying down, being still and letting go is the best and quickest way to relax this tension.
When we combine guided imagery with physical relaxation, not only does the relaxation become more interesting and fun, but also its effects penetrate deeper. By using our imagination, we can easily influence and even completely change our emotions and our body.
When we experience the world using our senses, all the information comes through these channels into our brain and is interpreted and presented to us there – the real experience is really happening in our mind. When we are engaged in imagination or guided imagery we actually create an experience in our mind, so our brain and our body respond in the same way as if these experiences were really happening.
The inner images we create during guided imagery have a tremendous response on many emotional and physiological levels – this is the reason they are such a powerful tool in creating a positive change. When using visualization and imagining ourselves to be in a peaceful, pleasant and beautiful environment, our mind and body respond by relaxing.
Nowadays, based on these principles, many sports professionals, business people, and even army personnel use guided imagery to create positive mental patterns, relax, and improve performance.
At Rainbow Kids Yoga we end almost every class with relaxation and guided imagery. The first challenge is always to have the kids stop all activities and just lie down and relax! If the class was exciting and intensive, they will be happy to rest and be quiet for a few moments. If the energy is too high for relaxation, try to play a meditative game prior to the relaxation or otherwise use one of the techniques offered below. After a few classes, the kids learn to enjoy the relaxation and guided imagery and will be anticipating it eagerly.
The relaxation can take anywhere between one minute to ten minutes, depending on the age and mood of the kids.
Tips for Guiding a Relaxation:
1. Your Voice
Our voice is the instrument that leads the students to relax. When you guide a relaxation, speak in a deep and clear tone, keeping a slow rhythm with breaks between sentences. It is in these short breaks that the students go deeper into the relaxation.
Speak loud enough so that people won’t need to make an effort to hear you (if they do need to make an effort to hear you, it is not relaxing anymore), but soft enough so that they can relax.
Colour your voice; you can still be a bit dramatic and descriptive in the tone of your voice to match what is happening in your guided imagery story.
2. The environment
When we guide someone into a deep relaxation, they have to trust us fully; as they let go and surrender to the relaxation they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable. If we can create a protected and safe environment, we will make this process easier for our students.
Close the door and make sure that no one will burst in and make a noise that will startle your students. Create a quiet, warm and comfortable space for the relaxation to happen. Soft background music can be very helpful as both a neutralizing agent for other disturbing noises and also for creating a pleasant atmosphere.
3. Creating an atmosphere
Use incense and candles (watch for fire hazards), music and even blankets. You can dim the light but don’t turn it all the way off as some children don’t like the dark.
Music is always the strongest tool to create the right atmosphere. Use relaxing music or nature sounds… but not a thunderstorm or lions roaring in the jungle!
4. The posture
Let your students relax in any pose they find comfortable. This can be on their belly, on their back or on their side. If it fits your theme, ask them to sleep like a snake on their belly, curl-in in Child Pose like a caterpillar waiting to be transformed into a butterfly, rest on their back in Starfish Pose or lie down on their yoga mat towel, relax on their magic carpet, or doze off on the yoga cloud.
5. Deepening the breath
The deeper we breathe, the more oxygen reaches our muscles and the easier it will be for our bodies to relax. Take about ten deep breaths before starting the guided imagery.
Always begin the relaxation with a few deep breaths. It activates the relaxed nervous system and makes the children automatically more relaxed and calm. You can guide them to:
- Breath more deeply than usual.
- Breath deeply enough that you can hear your breath.
- Listen to the sounds of the waves in your breath; when you breathe in the waves come close and when you breathe out the waves go back into the sea.
- Breath deeply enough that you’ll be able to feel how the breath moves your body; when you breathe in your body expands and lifts, when you breathe out everything relaxes.
- Breathe deeply enough that you feel how your breath moves your partners head, or another object on your belly.
- With every breath that you take your body becomes lighter and lighter, so that you can slowly even fly.
- With the inhalation the body expands and with the exhalation, it relaxes and sinks closer to the yoga mat.
6. Guided imagery
In guided imagery, you take the students on a magical journey within themselves. It should always be a pleasant and comforting journey and it’s best if it’s connected to the theme of your class.
Like any good story, this inner journey should have a beginning, middle and an end. You can go into as much detail and description as you like; or you can just slowly guide the participants with a general guideline, letting them fill the story with details of their own imagination.
When you do guided imagery, try to use as many senses, sensations and feelings as you can. The more facets of your being that you can bring into your description, the more real it becomes for the brain and the more powerful the experience will become. Describe to your students not only what you see around you in the journey, but also what you hear, feel, sense, smell, taste, etc.
7. Gradual ending
The influence of the relaxation will last longer if you come out of it gradually. Jumping out of the relaxation can be unpleasant. When the guided imagery ends, let your students stay in silence for a moment before you guide them to take a few deep breaths, wiggle their fingers and toes a bit, stretch lightly, yawn… and only then open their eyes and sit up gradually.
A nice way to end the relaxation is to whisper the name of each child in their ear accompanied by a positive affirmation or a compliment about their practice today as an indication that they can slowly sit up. In family yoga classes with young children, I have them get up first and 'wake-up' their parents with kisses and hugs.
We don’t clap after relaxation. There is a magic that happens on it’s on that we try not to disturb. Don’t rush the children (and parents) out of it.
Because everything is naturally relaxed and quiet at this point, for older children, these few moments after the relaxation are the best time to meditate. You can just sit silently with them for a moment or guide them through a short meditation.
Try this guided imagery just for fun:
Magic Powder. Close your eyes and breathe deeply; much deeper than you usually breathe. With every breath, feel how you become lighter, calmer, more peaceful and relaxed. Imagine a flying carpet in front of you—it’s soft, with colorful fringes. It’s amazing in its beauty.
Climb on the carpet and sit on it; let it slowly lift you up. You feel very comfortable and safe on the carpet as it takes you through the sky. Enjoy the flight! Enjoy the pleasant breeze and the excitement!
You choose to stop now and just hover and look down. Look down and see the place you are growing up in, your home, your school, your friends, family, neighbors, the view around…
All of a sudden, a wise and old wizard appears on your magic carpet and sits beside you. The wizard has a long white beard, and a long beautiful blue gown. He is holding in his hands a magic wand and a little cloth sack. The wizard looks at you with eyes full with love and hands you his magic cloth sack. Inside this little sack, he says, there is a very special magic powder; using it you’ll be able to create everything you ever dreamed of, and have all the things you might want. Using the magic powder you can change the world you see underneath you now.
You thank the wizard for the magic powder, you slowly open the little cloth sack… and POOF! the wizard has disappeared into thin air. You lower your flying carpet a bit and fly around all the familiar places in your neighborhood. Take some of the magic powder in your hands and sprinkle it where ever you would like to see or feel things differently. You can change anything you want, or add anything you would like to create a world that makes you perfectly happy. You can bring into your world people or animals you would like to have there just by sprinkling a bit of your magic powder. You sprinkle the magic powder everywhere and a new beautiful world is revealed underneath you. The view changes, the colors become brighter, the way you feel changes… you can even ad to yourself some good qualities you might want by using this magic powder. Take your time now to create your own safe and joyful new magical world.
Thank the new reality you have created; thank your imagination and your freedom to choose and create. Keep this place you have created in your memories and in your heart, and know that you can always return to it using your imagination – and even much better; you will slowly create this beautiful reality in your real life.
Wiggle your fingers and toes gently, stretch lightly with a deep breath, open your eyes and come back to the classroom.
There are so many more fun ways to relax and learn with us - Join our Rainbow Kids Yoga Teacher Trainings today!
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