Top 10 Anxiety Reducing Poses for Kids (and Adults)
It doesn’t seem so long ago when children were entertained by long days outside—their imagination spurred by things like beach coves and cloud-gazing. Play is medicine to the mind and body, for adults and kids alike. In today’s hustling, busy world, play and imagination couldn’t be more important to nourishing soul, mind and body. One way of embracing and encouraging play with our kids is through movement.
I love helping parents and children find calm and connection amidst the pressures of our modern-day world, through movement. Today, so many children (and parents) suffer from anxiety. Kids are under pressure to achieve more, do more, and compete more. Somewhere in this mix, kids still just need to be kids!
The good news, is that yoga is a fantastic anxiety reduction tool that can help kids reclaim their experience of “just being kids.” New research is actually finding that yoga helps empower kids with life skills they need to navigate our busy world. As a result, it’s becoming more common in schools. Plus, it’s a great stress outlet and a productive way for kids to channel their energy.
When we move our bodies in gentle, focused ways, we quiet the mind. We bring the mind into alignment with the body. This is essential for children—and us as parents! So, even if your child’s school doesn’t offer yoga classes, there are many simple anxiety reduction poses your child can do at home. Plus, doing these poses at home with your child gives you both the opportunity to de-stress and connect.
In this post, we’ll cover some basic tips for keeping calm. We’ll also talk about some key signs of anxiety to look out for. Next, we will go through 10 easy anxiety reduction poses you can learn at home with your child, before wrapping up with some helpful anxiety reduction resources.
The connection between our minds and bodies is complex and intimate. Our emotional health, and our children’s emotional health, directly impact physical health. The wonderful thing is, yoga targets both!
When we breathe and concentrate through different poses, we rekindle a vital connection between our minds and bodies. This is why the physical work we do during yoga calms our nervous system. The busier we and our children become, the more we need the anxiety reduction benefits yoga offers.
How to Know if Your Child is Experiencing Anxiety
Kids don’t always experience anxiety in the same way that we do as adults. For example, stomach aches, headaches and emotional outbreaks can all be signs of an anxious, upset mind, in children. So, if your child often complains of a tummy ache before school, don’t be afraid to look dig deeper to find out what could be causing the problem. Their stomach may very well be upset, but stress or worry could be the culprit.
Ask your child about their day at school. Notice the non-verbal signs he or she shares with you. If your child regularly complains of aches, pains or headaches, and is experiencing pressure or stress at school, try some stress reduction techniques.. The poses we’ll cover below are great anxiety reducing techniques to start with.
10 Best Anxiety Reduction Poses to do with Your Child
Whether you, your child, or both of you are struggling through stress and anxiety, try these poses for anxiety reduction kids can easily do too. They’re simple and easy. Plus, they can be done first thing in the morning, or before bed. Some, like belly breathing, can be practiced almost anywhere.
Child’s pose, or resting pose, is definitely at the top of my list for anxiety reduction poses. It’s a pose that feels nurturing, calming and comforting for children. For adults, child’s pose can help ease menstrual cramping, calm insomnia, and even lower blood pressure. Physically, it’s a great pose for releasing back, neck and shoulder tension—all areas where we tend to dump and store stress. Child’s pose is also a comfortable pose to breathe deeply in, which helps calm the nervous system.
To practice child’s pose:
Begin by touching your big toes together while on your hands and knees.
Keep your knees and your hands hip distance apart, and aligned under your hips and shoulders.
Next, exhale, bow forward and rest your torso on your thighs. Allow your forehead to touch your mat while keeping your arms extended.
Stretch your torso long. Press your hands into your mat, and rest your sit bones on your heels.
Breathe deeply into your belly, and focus on letting all tension go.
2. Tree Pose
Tree pose is a great strength-building and anxiety reduction pose. It works the shoulders and legs while lengthening the torso. Lengthening the torso is critical when it comes to anxiety reduction.
A long, healthy spine promotes healthy circulation in our bodies. When our circulation is strong, nutrients and oxygen are able to nurture our cells so that our body can maintain physical and emotional balance. Also, tree pose requires coordination and balance, which gives the mind an opportunity to connect with the body.
When practicing tree pose with your child:
Begin in mountain pose.
Shift your weight to one leg, keeping both flexed and strong, before drawing one leg up alongside your inner standing leg.
Use your hand to draw your leg up, if needed. Remember to keep your core strong.
Keep your hips aligned and inhale as you raise your arms, palms together, towards the sky.
Keep your sternum lifted and your standing leg rooted into the ground.
3. Down Dog
Down dog is another great resting pose that is a bit more active than child’s pose. It also stretches the spine, which counters many of the forward motions we do during the day. It’s a fun one to practice with kids. Plus, it compliments play and imagination.
To practice down dog:
First, begin in table position. Spread your palms wide. Curl your toes under and walk your palms in front of the shoulders.
Lift your body so that your hips are in the air and your chest is downward.
Keep your knees bent if needed, in order to ensure your spine stays long and straight.
Focus on drawing your shoulder blades close and externally rotating your forearms, to bring space into your chest and heart space.
Breathe deeply, from your belly.
4. Warrior 2
Keeping our legs strong is key to maintaining a healthy back. Warrior 2 is a great hip opener and leg strengthener. Also, since we tend to store stress in our hips, keeping our hips open, and children’s hips happy, is a great stress management tool.
Here’s the basics of warrior 2:
Start by stepping your feet wide and aligning your heels, with your front toe pointing forward and your back angled at 45 degrees.
Bend your front knee while keeping your back leg strong.
Raise your arms parallel to the ground, shoulder height.
Keep your core perpendicular to the ground and gaze out over your outstretched middle finger. Remember to breathe!
5. Legs up the wall
This is a perfect calming bedtime pose for kids and adults. Try it to wind-down during story time or while catching up about the day. As a simple pose, it can tremendously improve sleep for overworked parents and little ones alike.
As a passive anxiety reduction pose, it offers a relaxing opportunity to give your legs (that work hard all day) a break, gently stretch the hamstrings, and bring circulation back to the upper body.
It’s as simple as it sounds:
Using pillows to support your neck and low back, lie with the back of your legs almost touching the wall, and elevate the legs.
Keep the knees slightly bent, if needed, to avoid straining the low back.
6. Dancer Pose
Dancer pose is fantastic for opening the hips, chest and whole upper body. It also strengthens the legs and core, promoting a healthy spine and healthy joints. If your child endures long days sitting in class at school, dancer pose is a great practice for improving posture. This can also subconsciously improve confidence and keep stress at bay.
Here are the basics:
In dancer pose, you or your child will be standing strong on one leg, with the other stretched back and clasped by your back-stretched arm.
Your forward stretched arm will reach skyward while your flexed core supports your arched upper and lower back.
7. Chair Pose
If you are suffering from back pain, chair pose is a gentle exercise that is wonderful for healing low back issues. Plus, it is a great practice for your child to learn in order to keep their back healthy from the start!
Remember these key takeaways when you practice chair pose with your kids:
During chair pose, the back should be neither rounded nor arched, but should stay straight, supported by a strong core while the knees are bent.
Sit back, as if about to sit in a chair, letting your weight settle in your heels.
Reach skyward, keeping the sternum raised. If reaching the arms up is too much on the upper back, try keeping your arms stretched back, aligned with your torso.
8. Eagle Pose
Because eagle pose stretches the spine and upper back while also curling the legs and arms into an inward twist, it builds strength and calms the nervous system. Eagle pose requires focus and balance. It gently encourages the mind to concentrate while the arms hug inward, sending comforting signals to the mind.
Follow these basic steps for eagle pose:
Begin in mountain pose, before shifting your weight to one leg, bending the knees slightly.
Lift the other leg and cross it over your standing leg. Hook your lifted foot around the calf of your standing leg.
Next, extend your arms and cross one arm over the other. If your left leg is standing, cross your left arm on top. If your right is standing, cross your right arm over your left.
Then, bend your arms as you exhale. Bend your knees and sink your hips lower.
Keep your hips square, quads strong and your back long. Breathe.
9. Belly Breathing with Breathing Buddy
Perhaps the most important aspect of any pose, when it comes to anxiety reduction, is the breath. When we breath from our upper chest, we encourage the body’s fight or flight response, which promotes anxiety. But, when we relax our belly and focus on diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing, we calm our system. This slows our heart rate, blood pressure and minimizes the body’s stress response.
You and your child can practice belly breathing alone or together, lying or standing:
One way I like to practice this with children is by lying down, and having your child place a favorite stuffed animal on his or her belly. You can place your hands on your abdomen.
As you both breathe slowly, for at least five counts in and five counts out, you should be able to see your hands rise and fall.
Your child should be able to see their teddy bear slowly rise and fall.
The key is to focus on filing the belly, rather than the chest, with slow, steady, deep breaths.
10. Seated forward bend
Seated forward bend is perfect for many situations—whether your child is struggling through an anxiety attack or simply needs to take a calming time-out. It’s a great break pose for parents too, especially if you’re working long hours at a desk job. It releases neck and back tension.
Simply exhale as you fold forward, resting your core and belly on your thighs.
Clasp opposite elbows with your hands and let your upper body hang.
Breathe out as you focus on letting all tension go.
When we practice yoga, it’s important to be sure our bodies are in proper alignment. Practicing with proper alignment helps ensure poses are effective, and it helps you and your little ones avoid injury.
Start by trying some of the anxiety reduction poses above. If you would like more guidance or information about these poses, check out Lil Village Yoga classes to experience the benefits of yoga.