I love working with kids in private yoga therapy practice at my home in Deland, Florida. I love getting to know the kids and creating a special relationship with them. Kids come with all sorts of issues, ranging from anxiety to anger, to obesity and even severe mental health issues.
One of the main things I teach kids in yoga therapy sessions is self-confidence and how to manage anger. I use a variety of techniques and stories to help kids.
During our "conscious snack" time is when I sit down and listen to the child about what has happened in the week. Usually ahead of time I asked the parent if there was anything they needed to work on. So I find a story to include. During snack, when we mindfully eat and taste, we converse and I tell a story.
• I use a lot of self-confidence and anger stories of world folklore from my book The Treasure in Your Heart: Yoga and Stories for Peaceful Children, which relate a lot of yoga philosophy for kids to manage their emotions of fear, anger and more and find a way to live in the world peacefully. I use the story from India of the cracked pot, and stories of what happens to people when their anger gets out of control. They get into hot water, such as a rabbit in one folktale from Mexico. Or we burn our own house down with anger, such as a man did in the Indian folktale of The Lotus on the Roof. We do movement with our bodies to feel the action and emotions and work through them with different choices and awareness of our choices.
For self-confidence I love the American folktale of The Little Fir TreeThe Little Fir Tree. The little tree doesn't like its leaves until a series of blunders leave it wishing for its own pine needles. This teaches kids self-acceptance as they empathize with the character.
• I emphasize the skill-building that we are doing together: Awareness, breath work, patience, physical fitness, self-expression, kindness. It is a body confidence we are going for. A confidence in the self no matter what happens in the world around us.
• I draw an outline around the kids' hand and ask him to list his strengths, such as smart, helpful, good at school. The picture they can refer to of their hand with the list of positive and powerful qualities.
• I talk about the chakras in kids yoga, giving out coloring sheets and teaching yoga poses that relate to the chakra. For self-esteem, we focus on the third chakra, boat poses, core strength, breathing, as well as the root chakra, standing poses, feeling confident in the body. I use lion pose and tell the African story of the Lion's Whisker from my book Storytime Yoga: Teaching Yoga to Children Through Story.
• Using multicultural folktales gives kids the experience of enchantment and otherworldly, necessary to pitch them out of the ordinary so that they can experience timeless and spacelessness - yoga.
• I use puppets to help kids articulate what they are feeling and make stories with them. Other props and toys are useful to help kids access their feelings of anger or fear. A few YouTube videos about Kids yoga with props and puppets for kids yoga.
• I tell personal stories of when I was young about my fears and anger and what happened and how I resolved issues.
• Children create their own kids yoga stories with their bodies so that the confident feeling is imprinted in their body, patterned. in the nervous system as a form of ritual that they can carry with them or act out any time. Some kids make shields or lotuses. The primary concern is that they feel safe in their body and in control.
• By telling stories and asking kids to tell stories, this develops their oral capacities and ability to articulate feelings. Images and symbols told in stories helps kids think in images, which engages consciousness and assists in articulation.
• For older kids and teens, I help them understand that adults, parents, teachers, friends, they all have "stories" in their heads about who they are, what they think is happening, what is going on with us. We don't need to believe in their stories. They are allowed to have their stories. We are responsible for our thoughts, words and deeds. That is our yoga and we watch for what "stories" we are projecting on to others. We look for what is real, not fantasy. This is svadyaya, self-study in yoga. This is especially true with kids and teens with complex mental health issues, such as bipolar and schizophrenia.
• During relaxation, I repeat healing images from the story to the child. Kids can draw the images afterwards and talk about the images.
• Ultimately it is the relationship between the yoga therapist and the child where the healing occurs. My studio is a safe place for kids to play, come and share their feelings, hear uplifting and helpful stories, learn yoga and breathing and feel good about themselves. The anger or fears tend to dissipate, and they take that good feeling with them. Kids tend to sleep better and do better in school.