This is a wonderful little exercise for you to guide your children through when they are feeling stressed, over stimulated, or simply need to find a way to wind down. It is not always easy to find yoga classes for children, and it’s even trickier to get children to adopt their own practice.
But if you can find something that they love, that makes them very aware of the benefits that they receive, then they are much more likely to stick with it. My daughter loves this relaxation ball technique – we managed to get these photos taken this past fall so we could share this with you!
Relaxation Ball Technique #1:
Take a weighted ball, in the range of 2 – 5 lbs. This is what you will use throughout these poses. Have your child lie down on their yoga mat. Then place the ball underneath their back, between the shoulder blades. Guide them with your voice through these next steps. Ask them to take a few moments to breathe and relax, allowing their body to grow heavy and ‘melt’ into the ball. (Find some optional tools just for body rolling here.)
This is a wonderful and gentle chest opener. If they respond well to music – I find many children do – then it would be a nice touch to play some soothing music in the background. Once they are breathing deeply and evenly, and feeling relaxed, coach them into moving slowly, with small movements at first, up and down, and then side to side, along the ball with their back.
From there, they can move on to small circular motions. They can either press their heels into the mat in order to help this happen, or they can bend their knees and place their feet flat on the mat in order to press into their feet to assist the movement.
Relaxation Ball Technique #2:
Have your child move the ball down to their lower back, and find the spot in the lower back that feels like “The Magic Spot” – the point where it feels really good and they are able to completely relax. There will be a Magic Spot at every point in this sequence of relaxation techniques! (Remember, you can always join in with your child as you are coaching them through this.)
Once they have taken the time to release their body into the floor and onto the ball, they can begin with the rolling. Just as with the previous technique, they can move the ball up and down, side to side. From there, the movements flow into circles. They can adjust their feet again to assist with the movements of their body and the ball.
A fun thing to try, is to have them play with different shapes. They can play with tracing squares, triangles, diamonds, figure-eights, and whatever else they or you can come up with! This has the added benefit of getting them to explore movements of their own body at a deep level, allowing them the time to make a deeper connection with their own relationship to their body.
Relaxation Technique #3:
Now the ball moves to right underneath the buttock. This can be very tight for most people, and sometimes ticklish (especially with children). So you may need to take a bit of extra time with your child here, in order to get them relaxed with the ball. Have them do their breathing, and take note of whether or not the breaths seem to shortened or a bit more uneven than in the previous techniques.
If their breath has become more labored in any way, try counting their breaths for them. Have them take a slow breath of 4 counts in, then a slow breath of 4 counts out. After a few rounds of this, at then end of each 4-count inhale, have them hold the breath for 4 counts before they breathe out for 4 counts. Then pause for 4 counts before inhaling again. This method is very effective for bringing quick and deep relaxation.
When making the circles with the ball in this position, be sure that the circling is small. The ball can be moved to a few different points on one buttock before moving the ball over to the other side and repeating this method.
Relaxation Ball Technique #4:
Move the ball now to the very outside of the upper hip. Pause here to find the Money Spot, lean both knees over toward the hip that the ball is on, and begin with deep breathing. From there, begin with very small circles that move gradually into larger circles. Use gentle pressure into the feet to help with this. This is a good position to play with working with spiral shapes!
Once this position feels complete, your child can lean their knees even further in the same direction. From here, have your child begin rolling the ball down the outer thigh from the high position of the outer hip. This can be another quite sensitive area, so you may wish to have your child turn over toward knees a bit further, placing their hands down and lifting the torso up slightly.
This takes some weight off of the ball, and between the pressure placed in their hands and the pressure places in their feet, they can take quite a bit of weight off if they so choose. Once this has been completed on one side, move to the other side and complete the same sequence.
Relaxation Technique #5:
Now it’s time for your child to stretch out all the last bits of ‘stuff’ they are holding in their body! Have them roll over to their belly, and place the palms of their hands beside their ribs (to come up lower) or their waist (to stretch up higher). From here they will press into their hands in order to straighten their arms, and reach their chest up to the sky into an upward dog or a cobra pose (their legs straight behind them).
Once they’ve held that for a few rounds of breath, they will lie their belly all the way back down to the mat. From here, they tuck their chin to their chest, pull their belly buttons in to use their tummy muscles, and lift their hips all the way up toward the ceiling into downward dog pose. Here they can stretch out however they need to or want to, playing with different hand and foot positions and whatever else comes to mind for them!
The idea is to have them feeling better at the end of this sequence, so ask them to take a moment and really feel into their body. Do they need to move around some more, get rid of their wiggles? Do they want more static stretching, playing with different poses and positions? Do they need to just lie back and enjoy the music for awhile, or do they need some extra special cuddle time with you?
Perhaps there is something they suddenly remember wanting to talk about, or get off their chests. Maybe there is something that they suddenly feel comfortable expressing … apart from chatting, perhaps they want to sing a song, or color a mandala.
My wish in sharing this with you, is that you may find some tools or nuggets that you can use in helping your child connect more deeply with aspects of themselves as they grow. And perhaps it will, as it has with us, deepen the bond between you and your child. Enjoy!