By Victoria Tso
As a children’s yoga teacher, and experienced classroom teacher, a question I am often asked is “How can I help my child focus?”. What can I do to help them build their attention span? The answer isn’t an obvious one. Where many of us know where to start to help our children learn to read or memorise their times tables, developing focus is much harder. Yoga is a fantastic way to help children, from pre-schoolers all the way to teens, build their focus. Yoga requires a lot of concentration, from physically balancing and coordinating our bodies, to keeping attention on the breath and syncing our movements with its rhythms, and perhaps most importantly – it’s lots of fun!
As a reader of The Natural Parent Magazine, you are probably aware of how powerful the breath can be at regulating our emotions. Our breath is often our body’s first response – step on that annoying piece of Lego left on the floor and the first thing you do is take a sharp inhale. Spend half an hour resting in a sound bath and your breath will have almost certainly become slow, deep and even, whether you were focusing on it or not. Demonstrating, and sharing, breath control with our little ones is a fantastic way to help them find focus. Humming bee breath is one of my favourites here – inhale deeply through the nose and let the breath out with a humming sound, try to keep the sound going for as long as is comfortable and enjoy the vibration it creates. Another great breath when you want to help a child to focus is the woodchopper breath. It’s really energising and simple to do. Simply inhale through the nose while lifting the arm in a karate chop position, and let the breath out while chopping down the arm with a “Ha” sound.
Balancing poses are also a great way to help children to build focus. Try some simple but child-friendly balances such as tree pose, eagle and warrior three to challenge your child’s balance. If they say they’re too easy, challenge them to close their eyes!
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
Find tree pose by beginning standing up tall in mountain pose at the front of your mat. Draw your knee up in front of you and then turn it out to the side. Place the foot either with tiptoes on the floor, against the calf or up against the thigh (avoid pressing the foot into the knee). Keep hands in prayer pose or raise them high above your head for more challenge. To help you balance, focus on a still point at the line of the horizon. Try on both legs and notice if there’s a difference in balance from one side to the other.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
This pose takes the challenge up a notch – from mountain pose, bend both knees, lift your right foot, and slowly wrap your right thigh over your left. Then curl your right foot behind your left calf, and hook it there. If you can’t reach this far or find the balance challenging, allow your toes to find the floor. Reach both arms out in front of you and wrap your left arm over your right, crossing the left elbow over the right upper arm. Slide your right hand toward your face, cross your forearms, and try to press your palms together, raising your elbows in front of you. Be sure to try on both sides and notice any differences.