The key to overcoming anxiety is to learn to initiate relaxation. Sometimes being quiet and still can be difficult for kids, but for those with anxiety, it can be even more of a challenge. In this blog, I’ll focus on a tool called yoga nidra, which is a deep relaxation.
We start the relaxation response by breathing, as I discussed in Part 1. Movement often helps kids with anxiety. Some helpful yoga poses were covered in Part 2. Relaxation is different from the other meditation we discussed in Part 3. In that meditation, we were trying to help the child to focus, while in relaxation, we’re trying to help the child to let go. Gratitude (Part 4) is both a tool for changing the way the mind thinks and something to focus on, as well. This blog focuses on total relaxation (yoga nidra). Ideally, a person in yoga nidra is neither fully awake nor fully asleep, but it’s really okay if the child falls asleep. In fact, I see it as a compliment when students fall asleep. It means I have helped them to truly relax and that they trust me enough to completely let go.
In order for children to relax completely, they must feel comfortable and safe. Then, they can begin to draw attention to specific parts of their bodies and hopefully relax them. Since the mind is busy concentrating on specific parts of the body, it can’t be worrying. As the body relaxes, so does the mind!
5 Parts of Yoga Nidra
This basic yoga nidra includes five parts: breath focus, body scan, rotation of consciousness, journey, and return. The breath focus is similar to what we did in Part 1. The body scan is a quick release of tension throughout the body. The rotation of consciousness is a fancy term for a very slow, very specific body scan. We ask the child to bring his attention to each part of his body, one at a time. The journey is a description using all of the senses. In our example at the end, we have an open-ended description of a place the child feels safe in. The journey can describe anything, but it’s important that it’s a place the child enjoys and feels safe. The return is when we bring the child back into the room and the present moment. A basic yoga nidra script is included at the end of this post.
Begin by having your child lay comfortably on her back on the floor or bed. If she has an eye pillow, she may want to place it across her eyes or forehead. Her back may feel more relaxed if a pillow is placed under her knees. If she’s comfortable, it’s best not to have a pillow under her head. Ask her to close her eyes or lower her gaze. Remind her that she always has a choice.
Advanced Yoga Nidra
You can extend the length of the rotation of consciousness as the child learns to relax for longer periods of time. You can extend the pauses between body parts by waiting 1-3 breaths before naming the next part. You can also be more detailed with the parts you name. For example, instead of just saying “ear,” you could say, “ear lobe, the folds of the ear, the inner ear, the sounds coming in your ear.” You can also extend the journey to include more detail. For this blog, the script will be basic and best for beginners.
Yoga Nidra Script
Move in any way that will make you a little more comfortable. We are going to start Yoga Nidra. This activity will help you relax. If you can, try to stay awake.
(Breath Focus) Think about your breath. Notice how it feels as it comes in your knows, travels down your throat, and fills up your chest. Maybe you feel your belly get bigger too. Then feel the air as it goes out. Your belly and chest relax as the air leaves your lungs and travels back up your throat and out your nose. (pause) Feel your breath come in (pause) and go out (pause for several breaths).
(Body Scan) Slowly think about each part of the front of your body, starting at the top of your head, and relax it. Your face (pause), your chest (pause), your belly (pause), your arms (pause), and your legs (pause). When you get to your feet, begin think about the back of your body and relax it. Your legs (pause), your bottom (pause), your back (pause), your arms (pause), your neck (pause), the back of your head (pause). Relax your whole body (pause for several breaths).
(Rotation of Consciousness) Think about the top of your head (pause). The spot where your head touches the mat (floor or pillow) (pause). Your forehead (pause), your eyes (pause), your nose (pause), your cheeks (pause), one ear (pause), the other ear (pause), your mouth (pause), your chin (pause). Your whole face (pause). Your whole head (pause).
Think about your neck (pause), your chest (pause), your belly (pause). Think about your upper back (pause), your middle back (pause), your lower back (pause). Think about your right shoulder (pause), your right arm (pause), right hand (pause), your fingers (pause). Your whole right arm (pause). Think about your left shoulder (pause), your left arm (pause), left hand (pause), your fingers (pause). Your whole left arm (pause).
Think about your right hip (pause), leg (pause), foot (pause), toes (pause). Your whole right leg (pause). Your left hip (pause), leg (pause), foot (pause), toes (pause). Your whole left leg (pause). Your whole body (pause). Your whole body together (pause).
Let your body feel heavy like it’s sinking down into the mat, down into the floor (pause). Relax (pause). Feel heavy. (pause for a few breaths)
(Journey) Think about a place where you feel safe and comfortable (pause). Picture this place in your head (pause). Try to use all of your senses to make this place really clear in your mind (pause). Imagine what you would see in this place (pause). Imagine what you would smell (pause), what textures you might feel (pause). Imagine what you might taste in this place (pause) and the sounds you might hear (pause). If you want, you can imagine yourself walking around in your safe place (pause). Maybe you are picking things up and looking at them (pause). Maybe you are just resting there (pause). Whatever you are doing, you feel safe and secure in this place (longer pause).
Remember that you can come back to your safe place any time you need to (pause). It is always there for you (longer pause).
(Return) Begin to take deeper breaths (pause). Bring yourself back into this room, the real room that you are in (pause). Wiggle your fingers and toes (pause). Stretch in any way that feels good to you (pause). Roll on to one side for a moment and begin to notice the light in the room (pause). Push yourself up to a comfortable seat (pause). Thank you for allowing me to lead you in yoga nidra today. The light within me honors the light within you. Namaste.
Have you tried Yoga Nidra before? How did you feel afterwards? Did you try this script with your child? What did they think of it? I’d love to hear from you!