Separation anxiety is common at different turning points in a child’s life. Try preempting it with yoga to help them cope and transition to the next phase with ease.
Anxiety can look like many things in the body—especially in a child. Often, there’s a shortness of breath or butterflies in the stomach and the fear or stress felt can overtake their mind, disrupting a sense of stability. Turning kids upside down like in Down Dog can help shift their perspective—and the way their body feels and functions. This pose is not only fun but grounding, with both hands and feet touching the floor, providing a sense of support and stability. Bringing the head lower than the knees also changes the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, improving brain function, which is often interrupted by anxiety. It’s also a wonderful place to practice deep, slow breaths, which calm the nervous system.
Come to hands and knees on the floor with spread fingers. Push your palms into the ground while lifting your hips (or “tail”) into the air and straightening your legs. Let your head hang and gaze between your knees. Feet don’t have to be flat on the floor but should be about hip-distance apart with heels comfortably aiming for the ground. From here wag your tail and pedal your feet, and be sure to take at least 4 long slow deep breaths in through the nose.
Practicing Tree Pose in moments without anxiety can help create confidence and balance that will translate to more anxious moments. The ability to be still and find a focal point can become a tool when life feels rocky and unfocused. Getting an anxious child into Tree Pose will help to shift her focus from stress to calm and stillness. Tree feels like strength in the body and mind and this reminder can help kids approach their lives or uncomfortable situations with the same qualities and abilities.
Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart. Slowly lift one foot up placing it either on the ankle or thigh of the standing leg (never the knee). Bring your hands to your heart and find something that isn’t moving to look at. This is called your drishti. When you feel still and balanced try bringing your hands to the sky like branches of a strong sturdy tree.
Mountain Pose lets a child experience the feeling of stillness in the body—without orders to stop moving or shame for their behavior.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Roll your shoulders back and down, palms facing forward. Imagine the top of your head reaching to the sky. Feel your entire foot on each side connecting to the ground like the strong base of your mountain. Close your eyes and imagine you are strong and sturdy. Animals may climb on you, the wind may blow, but you are unmoving except for your breath in and out slowly through your nose. You are a strong and beautiful mountain.
Practicing simple breathing exercises as a family gives kids a tool they can use in any anxious situation. Belly breathing not only physiologically slows them down and calms the nervous system, but it gives kids something to focus on so they can let other things go, Verde says. “It’s empowering for kids to know they have this tool and don’t have to call mom or get upset,” Verde says. “No one stays in a heightened state of anxiety all the time, but when experience it, we’d like it to pass with ease and with some acknowledgement and sense of being in control.”
Take 10 slow, deep breaths, breathing all the way down into the belly. Put your hands on your belly and notice the rise and fall. Notice what you are thinking. Don’t tell yourself “I should” or “I shouldn’t have these thoughts.” They are normal and your brain is meant to have thoughts. Watch them like they are bubbles and then imagine them popping and those worries and thoughts disappear. Feel your hands going up and down with your breath and when you have a thought let it pop and go back to your breathing and its rise and fall.