By Susan (Shuchi) Helene Kramer
Everyone needs relaxation periods to refresh and rejuvenate; kids, too. Did you ever notice how easily a baby can relax into sleep? They naturally know how to and take it when needed.
Here is how to teach kids relaxation meditation when they feel stressed and need a break, or they need uninterrupted quiet time to work out solutions to problems. You are going to be the director for this lesson rather than a participant as with teaching sitting and walking meditation. After all, you would not be able to see how your kids are doing if you were lying down with the group. Provide a quiet area that is carpeted, or has a thin mat or thick blanket on the floor or grass for each child. Preferably kids should remove their shoes. You and the children begin by sitting cross-legged in a circle facing in. This is time to give the kids the philosophy about relaxation meditation.
Philosophy by age group
If your group is school age you could say something like: “Relaxation meditation is a time to rest your body and mind. When your body is fully resting and you are breathing evenly and regularly it is easier for you to work out solutions to problems you may be having a home, school, or with friends.” If your group is preschoolers you can say something like: “You are pretending to rest with a starfish laying on a rock at the sea, feeling so calm and warm. Taking time to lie all stretched out on your back is a way to feel good if you are upset, and need quiet time to think of ways to be happy again with your friends and family.
Begin the Relaxation Meditation
Ask kids to lie back with everyone pointing their toes into the center of the circle, with enough space between them so they are not touching each other. Instruct the kids to close their eyes and let their legs rest about a foot apart and their arms rest down alongside their bodies, but not quite touching their sides. Ask your group to pretend they are lying in warm sand and feeling very comfortable. Clench and relax muscles
Have the kids clench up then relax their muscles in this order: toes, legs, tummy, arms, and to squeeze their face into the expression of “something icky” and then relax it once again. And then roll their head to the right, left and back to center, and now stay still and relaxed. Breathing
Go on to the breathing directions: Ask the kids to breathe in and out evenly in a pattern like breathe in one count, and breathe out one count, and breathe in one count and continue. If your group is too young to count, demonstrate the even breathing and ask them to do it the same as you. Continue the even breathing for 15 seconds to a minute for an older group of kids.
Then ask the kids to just remain lying so still and resting like that starfish on the rock in the warm sun, and to use this quiet time to think about a kind way to act toward someone after the relaxation meditation. To end the session, ask the children to open their eyes, stretch out, sit up, stand up, and go on with their day and the plan each thought about for being kind to someone.
Susan Helene Kramer (Shuchi) has been a devotee of Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda and a Yoga practitioner since 1976. She is the mother of 5 and writes on practical spirituality, dance, family and social issues. Her books are listed at her web site: www.susankramer.com/books.html