12 Sep Never Too Young For Mindfulness
At Montclare, I have loved teaching music to all age groups for well over a decade. However, for the last 5 years I have also had the pleasure of teaching yoga to our 4-year-olds! At the end of each yoga practice, I include a 3-5 minute period of meditation.
I ask the children to rest on their backs with their eyes closed. Then I play a recording of the sound of waves at the beach or birds of the Amazon rainforest while leading them through a guided meditation.
Sometimes the meditation will be a simple body scan: “Feel your toes, relax your toes,” “Feel your legs, relax your legs,” and so on.
Sometimes I offer a visualization exercise. “Pretend you’re going to the beach with a parent and you have a picnic basket packed with your favorite foods.”
Or, and this is my favorite one, we will do a loving-kindness meditation where I will ask the children to focus on one special person. It might be a mother or a grandfather, or one of their teachers, and I’ll say, “Picture your mother’s face, and send loving kindness to her.” Then I sometimes ask them to go home and ask their mother if she felt anything special at, say, 1:45 PM or whatever time we did the exercise.
So many positive benefits result from these exercises.
First of all, the children are learning how to lie quietly and allow the body and then the mind to become calm. Each child being different, this is still something they are all able to achieve to some degree. This is a useful tool for anyone but it is especially empowering for children to recognize that they have the ability to manage what is going on inside them, emotionally.
Secondly, this activity supports developing a child’s ability to focus, helping them direct their attention to one simple task or experience, like “how is your toe is feeling in this particular moment?”
Personally, I have been meditating for years, and the benefits are too numerous and deep to list in full. I’d say one of the most significant benefits is what I’d describe as a calm resilience which has allowed me to better navigate the ups and downs in my own life. Another advantage has been gaining a sense of being present and “in the moment,” a skill which is greatly enhanced by spending time with young children who are in a natural state of presence!
If you have a yoga practice or a meditation practice, I encourage you to share it with your child. Just making them aware of your practice can have a positive effect, and if it becomes a family activity, even better!
Lastly, at the end of our meditation, we put our hands in front of hearts and turn to each other and say, “I see the light in you,” which is a close translation of “Namaste.”
I see the light in YOU,
Noel Cohen is a professional, award-winning musician and songwriter and has been teaching music at Montclare Children’s School for 18 years.