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Caring Feelings - Yoga

Caring Feelings

The Caring Feelings activity is a child-friendly version of a Loving-Kindness or Metta practice, which is a type of meditation that can help your child develop compassion, contentment, and a feeling of well-being. In a traditional adult Loving-Kindness practice, kind thoughts would be sent to the self, to people close to you, to people you feel neutral about, and to people who you are angry or upset with. In our version, we are going to start with someone that your child loves very much, as this is the easiest way to access his kindness. We will end with the self, and, eventually, after this practice becomes familiar, you can try including someone challenging.

Yoga kids

Begin by finding a comfortable seat; close your eyes.

Bring to mind someone that you love very much. This can be a family member or a friend. It can even be a pet. Imagine that person and begin to send caring feelings to that person. Notice how imagining this person makes your heart feel.

Now send some wishes to the person you’ve brought to mind. For instance, you can say, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.

Next, send some kind thoughts to the people in your family—siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.”

Now imagine sending loving kindness to children around the world—the ones who you know and the ones who you don’t know. Imagine all of the children living around the world, the ones in your own neighborhood, and the ones who are living far away in other countries. Say to them, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be filled with joy.”

Finally, send loving kindness to yourself. Sometimes it can be challenging to send kind wishes and caring feelings to yourself, but, if you learn how, you will always be able to give yourself a boost of love when you need it. Imagine yourself sitting in a quiet place where you feel comfortable and safe. Now say to yourself three times, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be filled with joy.

Sit quietly for a moment or two, then open your eyes. (When practicing with your child, you can ring the singing bowl, to let him know that it’s time to open his eyes.)

Follow-up: Ask your child how he felt about sending out the caring feelings, especially how it felt sending them to himself. You might talk about times when he sent unkind feelings to others or to himself, and how that felt. Ask him if there is anyone else he would like to send caring feelings to before you finish up for the day.

Challenges: Once this activity becomes familiar, try including a person that your child has a hard time with in his kind thoughts. Be sure to avoid anyone who your child finds frightening or is extremely angry at. Instead, try using language like “someone who annoys you” or “someone who has been bugging you lately.”

Daily Practice: Caring Feelings is a wonderful practice to bring into your daily life, as an antidote to the negative thoughts we all have about ourselves from time to time. . As the practice gets familiar, you can both experiment with sending kind thoughts to someone after an argument or disagreement (especially if you have an argument with each other!). I Am In Charge Mantra

This children’s meditation is a variation on a traditional kundalini yoga meditation. It is an active meditation that reinforces your child’s personal power and capacity for self-determination. It is accessible and engaging for children who have trouble keeping their bodies still, and for many children this becomes one of their most relied-upon tools in everyday life.

This meditation combines vocalization with movement of your fingers. You will connect each of your fingers to your thumb on both hands at once, while reciting the mantra “I am in charge.”

Say one word at a time as you connect your fingers. Press your thumb and first finger together saying “I,” your thumb and middle finger together saying “am,” your thumb and ring finger together saying “in,” and your thumb and pinkie together saying “charge.”

Put enough pressure on your fingers to really feel the connection they are making. Once you get into the rhythm of the practice, close your eyes and keep going, repeating the movement and the mantra for as long as you choose, starting out with just a few moments and then working up to several minutes.

Begin slowly, using both hands simultaneously, and, as you feel more comfortable, go a bit faster. You can start saying “I am in charge” loudly and then lower your voice with each round until it becomes a whisper, ultimately repeating it silently to yourself for a few rounds.

The mantra “I am in charge” is a very useful one, but you can also try this meditation with any four-word (or four-syllable) mantra or saying. Feel free to experiment and be creative. Through repetition it will become a part of how she thinks about herself and serve as a touchstone for gathering strength in challenging situations.

Follow-up: The mantra “I am in charge” raises the question of what you are in charge of. Take the time to talk with your child about the things in life that we all control for ourselves. Children often feel like they have very little control and self-determination in their lives. Help your child explore where she has choices and ways that she has control over her experiences, actions, and reactions.
Challenges: Younger children or those with fine-motor challenges may struggle with the coordination to connect their fingers, especially with their eyes closed. Encourage them to practice the movement first, and even to watch their fingers if they need to, and then add the vocalization as the movement becomes comfortable.

Daily Practice: This activity gains potency with repetition.  This can even be done in the classroom when she feels particularly restless, if she moves her fingers silently. For many children this small movement can help them stay calm and connected during the school day.
Taking a Step-by-Step Approach

Each of these activities has value both in what happens during the activity and what happens to the habits of the mind when the activity becomes part of your way of living. Connecting to the environment and connecting to the self need to become habits for your child, routine practices that, over time, become a normal part of how he operates in the world. For yoga and mindfulness practice to have the greatest impact on your child’s everyday life, make them a part of the everyday life of your family.

When you first begin to introduce these Connect activities to your child, think of them as a chance to explore. Encourage your child to ask questions, and share your own feelings and thoughts about the practices. Reinforce the idea that there is no one right way to do these activities, and keep the mood light and playful. The activities that your child is most responsive to and interested in should be the ones that you focus on including in daily practice. As the activities are repeated you can start practicing them with more intention—working on keeping your body still, keeping your eyes closed, or increasing the length of the practice.

While you may have purchased this book with one family member in mind, all of the activities will benefit anyone. I encourage you to share the practices with your whole family and view them as a path toward developing a more integrated and fulfilling way of life. Embracing the program as a family will change the way your child experiences it. Instead of being singled out as having a problem that needs to be fixed, your child will be part of a collaborative effort to live a healthy and happy life.