Anxiety is a form of stress that relates to worries about what might happen – something going wrong or danger. If you google “child anxiety”, you get over 500 MILLION websites that deal with this topic. A study in 2000 found that “the average American child in the 1980s reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950’s”.
The children’s anxiety appeared to correlate with social aspects – like divorce rates and crime rates – and suggest that decreases in social connectedness may be partly responsible for the rise in anxiety. If this study was done in the 80’s, I can’t imagine what the levels of anxiety have risen to now. Although the divorce rate has slowly declined, kids have less social interaction and more YouTube and TV time than ever.
But one problem nowadays is that anxiety is being mistaken for ADD. And instead of teaching kids ways to deal with anxiety, medication is prescribed to help them focus. It’s a short term solution to a long-term problem.
Signs that your child might have anxiety are:
~Always assuming the worst
~Complaining about physical symptoms like headaches or bellyaches
~Throwing tantrums because they can’t verbally express their feelings
~Overly dramatic and over-generalizing – everything is always or never
If your child has any of these symptoms, try a couple of these yoga poses with your kids. (Yes, you can do them too! And it may lessen your anxiety about dealing with an anxious child!)
Pose #1: Sit on the floor in criss-cross applesauce (Easy pose) or with your legs out in front, with your hands touching the floor. (Touching the floor helps with grounding and centering)
Close your eyes and start to noticing your five senses.
~Hearing – What sounds do you notice outside the room, then inside the room?
~Touch – Do you feel a hard wood or tile floor that is smooth and cold? Do you have carpet that is soft and warm?
~Taste – Is there a taste in your mouth?
~Smell – What can you smell?
~Sight – Do you see any colors or do you just see dark when you have closed eyes?
Pose #2: Staying in a seated position, begin to connect your breath and some movements.
~As you inhale, raise your arms up towards the sky and look up. Imagine all your worries gathering in your hands.
~As you exhale, lower your arms while shaking your worries away.
~Repeat this up to 5 times.
Pose #3: Come to tabletop position (hands and knees) and move back and forth from cow pose to cat pose (Sounds are optional – but kids LOVE them!).
~Cow pose – Inhale, look up, and drop your belly towards the floor (maybe a MOO here!)
~Cat pose – Exhale, relax your neck down, and arch your back like a cat (maybe a MEOW here!)
~Repeat these 2 poses up to 5 times.
Pose #4: Come back to tabletop position and walk your hands forward about 6”.
~On an exhale, shift your shoulders forward and drop your hips towards the ground.
~Stay here in Cobra pose (HISSING optional!) for 3-5 breaths (If there is any pain in your back, please move back to tabletop.)
Pose #5: Come back to tabletop position and let your hips come towards your heels for Child’s pose.
~Relax down to the floor, feeling the support you have under your body and breathing 3-5 full breaths.
Pose #6: Try Lizard on a Rock if you are doing these poses with your child.
~Grown up stays in childs pose.
~Child sits on grown up’s lower back and lays back.
~Stay here for 3-5 full breaths.
Pose #7: Have your child stand up for Warrior pose.
~Keep the right foot forward and step the left foot back about 12”-24” depending on your child’s height.
~The right knee can bend, raise both arms shoulder height like you have a big shield in front of you and imagine yourself as a BRAVE warrior
~Then practice Warrior pose with the left foot forward.
Pose #8: Find an open space on a wall for Legs Up the Wall pose.
~Sit with one hip pressing up against the wall.
~Swing your legs and body around so that your back is laying on the floor and your legs stretch up the wall.
~Click here for some modifications
Pose #9: Grab a favorite stuffed animal and lay flat out on your back for Savasana.
~Place your stuffed animal on your belly and start to breathe slow, deep breaths.
~See if you can make the stuffed animal move up and down with your breath, but not let it fall!
~Stay here for 10 full inhales and exhales.
These poses can be done in any order, or just by themselves. The important thing is to have your children concentrate on long, slow, deep breaths, because shallow breathing just exacerbates the anxiety. Talk to your kids after they finish the poses and just let them know that it’s safe to share whatever they are feeling.
In the comments, please share how these yoga poses worked for your kids. Let me know if you are interested in more yoga poses for kids!