Updated: September 13, 2023
By Anjana Chennagiri, Pretzel Kids teacher and blog contributor
It’s back-to-school season again! Summer went by so fast, right?
While each school year ushers in excitement, many kids also face stress and anxiety. New grades and new academic challenges, coupled with high expectations and peer pressure, can lead to quite a stressful start for parents and students alike.
“It takes a lot of energy to adjust to a new routine and get to know new teachers and classmates. As one of my favorite kindergarten teachers reminds families, it takes most children six weeks to adjust to a new school year,” says Deborah Farmer Kris, child development expert and author of the All the Time series.
“Those after school tantrums are normal and don’t mean they are having a terrible time at school!” says Farmer Kris.
While you’re dealing with the back-to-school adjustment period, you can turn to yoga and breathing techniques to help you take a pause, connect with your thoughts, acknowledge your feelings, and find clarity. Coupled with the physical benefits of yoga, learning to relax will help your whole family find more peace.
Read on for our top yoga tips to help kids with back-to-school anxiety.
Learn Why Yoga for Anxiety is Important
While stress and anxiety is common is sometimes inevitable during the back-to-school season, staying in a constant state of worry or anxiety is detrimental to mental and physical well being.
“Kids often hold in their emotions during the day. Undoubtedly, at least one thing happens every day that makes them feel worried, sad, or confused. Those feelings often come spilling out in the safety of home. And when your child does have a meltdown, stay close and stay calm. The storm will pass, and then we can help them work through the emotions behind it,” says Farmer Kris.
She recommends the following to alleviate stress: “Create a predictable after-school routine, including a snack and some downtime.”
What Happens to the Body Under Stress?
Under stress, the autonomous nervous system goes out of balance and puts us in the flight, fight or freeze syndrome.
Many kids may experience the symptoms but may not be able to articulate it with adults. But this can show up in many different forms like tantrums, digestive issues and breakdowns. Kids also may withdraw into a shell when they experience overwhelm.
Practicing yoga and calming breathing techniques, however, can help calm the autonomic nervous system. It helps kids focus on the present moment and calm their rushing thoughts. It also helps children recognize big emotions, and learn to self-regulate.
Yoga Tips to Ease Back-to-School Stress
As stated above, kids yoga is a great way to get in touch with your feelings, recognize them and manage them in a positive way. Here are just some of the ways in which yoga can help with anxiety and stress management.
Yoga Helps You Connect with Breath
The breathing techniques in yoga can bring your awareness back to the present moment as you stay connected with the breath.
It Helps You Stretch and Release Stress
We hold a lot of stress in our bodies without even being aware of it. Yoga teaches us to let go of those stressors by stretching and relaxing our bodies in a mindful way.
Moving Increases Endorphins
Endorphins are the happy hormones. They are released with movement and exercise. Big movements like sun salutations can help release endorphins.
Staying Still Helps Calm the Mind
Lot of the yoga poses are about staying still. And, holding a pose a little longer may help you feel more calm.
Easy Yoga for Kids
Making yoga practice a part of your daily routine can help you manage stress and anxiety. Follow these simple tools to add yoga to your kids’ everyday life:
- Starting the day with a simple mindful meditation for 60 seconds. This can work wonders for the rest of the day.
- Sun salutations can be a great sequence to practice in the morning as it gets the energy flowing and uplifts the mood.
- Breathing exercises like Belly Breathing and Humming Bee Breath can be great tools to practice anytime of the day.
Top Kids Yoga Poses for Anxiety
Simple soothing yoga poses may help children manage their anxiety levels. The following poses are great postures for children to practice on their own or with an adult.
Easy pose with belly breathing
This is a simple pose to stay calm and grounded. Sit in Pretzel Pose (criss-cross legs) with your spine straight. Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths. Fill up your chest and your belly with long inhales and empty your belly and chest with longer exhales. Repeat.
This is a beautiful pose for kids to feel a sense of security and shelter. Start on your hands and knees and slide back to rest your buttocks on your heels. Bend forward while bringing the chest towards your thighs and forehead towards the ground. Take your arms back towards your feet. Rest in this pose for a few breaths.
Legs up the wall pose
This is another resting pose which can be practiced throughout the school year. Start by sitting with your body close to the wall. Lower your back and shoulders on the floor and lift your legs up the wall. Spread your arms in the shape of T. Stay here for three to five minutes.
The “Do nothing pose”
This is a great pose to unwind and rest after a long day. Just lay on your back and spread your arms and legs like snow angels. Ask your child to “freeze” and visualize “melting like snow.” This pose helps with deep relaxation. Try staying here for five to 10 minutes
A Good Yoga Sequence for Anxiety
A simple yoga sequence like this one allows students to move their bodies and connect with their breath. Give these four postures a try:
1. Cat cow pose
Start with your hands and knees in a table top position. From there, as you inhale, drop the belly and lift the chest and head up towards the sky. On an exhale, round your back and pull the navel inwards and drop the head towards the chest. Come back to hands and knees. Repeat a few times.
2. Downward dog
From a table top position, curl your toes under. Press your palms firmly on the mat and lift your knees off the ground, sending the hips high towards the sky while pressing down on the heels. Push your chest and head inwards towards the thighs. Stay in downward dog position for three to four breaths. Return to table top.
3. Child’s pose
From a table top pose, draw your hips back and rest them on your heels. Extend your arms forward and rest your chest on your thighs and allow your forehead to come to the mat if possible.
4. Alligator pose
From child’s pose, slide down onto your belly for the crocodile pose. Cross your arms and let your forehead rest on your arms. Allow your whole body to relax.
Stay in each pose above for at least five breaths. Repeat this sequence a few times.
Bedtime Yoga Poses for Anxiety
“Routines give us predictability and structure. The National Institute of Health suggests that teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per night and younger kids need even more,” says Alyson Nerenberg, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and author of No Perfect Love: Shattering the Illusion of Flawless Relationships.
“Make sure that you are getting enough sleep so that the transition back to school will be easier for you. Also, eat well with regularly scheduled meals and healthy snacks that energize you and make sure to participate in regular exercise so that you have a healthy stress outlet,” she says.
Indeed, bringing yoga into a child’s nighttime routine is a beautiful way to bring peace to the end of the day. It also helps kids unwind and sleep better, which is very crucial for little minds.
Here are some great nighttime yoga poses for kids.
1. Butterfly pose
A simple butterfly pose can be very soothing after a long day. Flap the butterfly wings (your legs) slowly and relax with your child.
2. Build a bridge
Laying on your back, have fun with this very relaxing pose. Lift your hips and back up while keeping your feet, head and shoulders on the ground.
3. Happy baby
This is another relaxing pose to help unwind after a long day. Be silly with your child in this pose. Lay on your back and reach for your big toes with both hands. Slightly bend the knees and rock side to side.
Meditation to Ease Anxiety
Simple mindful meditation practice is a great way to relax after a stressful day. Here are two of our favorite meditation techniques that are easy to practice with children.
Have your child sit in an easy pose. With eyes closed, have them imagine a beautiful rainbow on top of their heads. They can paint the colors of the rainbow by bringing their palms up and down.
Body scan meditation
This is a great way to bring awareness to the body and release some of the hidden tension. Have your child lay on their back and close their eyes. Starting from the toes and moving upwards, prompt your child to soften each and every part of their body, one area at a time.
Yoga Helps Back-to-School Anxiety!
Anjana Chennagiri is a Pretzel Kids teacher and blog contributor.
Every child can benefit from adding a little yoga practice into their daily lives.
We hope you will use the tips in this article to manage and cope with your child’s emotions, as well as navigate the school year with ease and confidence.