Who better to share essential tips and insight on how to create calming techniques for children, than Jaime Amor, founder of Cosmic Kids Yoga?
Before taking to the stage to host a live story-telling yoga session at Camp Bestival last summer, Jaime Amor – the genius behind Cosmic Kids Yoga – laid out 50 yoga mats.
“I thought I’d get about 30 people in the crowd because it was 10am… then 700 people turned up!” She laughs, in apparent disbelief.
It’s certainly been a whirlwind two years for the classically-trained actress. A decade ago, Jaime was working as a children’s entertainer, dressing up in character and telling stories at kids’ parties, then after retraining as a yoga teacher, she launched a story-infused yoga after-school club. The uptake was so good that Jaime later rolled the initiative into 14 more schools. Then Jaime’s husband Martin had a brainwave.
At the time, broadband was on the up, and more and more people were creating shared content, so the couple hired a videographer, recorded some yoga stories, and uploaded them to YouTube. Then they watched as, slowly but surely, Cosmic Yoga Kids developed a global following.
By 2020 – and 400 videos, plus a dedicated app later – the brand was achieving 100,000 views daily, then when Covid hit, numbers soared to above a million as thousands of teachers wrote Cosmic Yoga into home-learning timetables, and frazzled parents became reliant on the bumper library of videos to captivate their kids.
“Kids will sometimes do three yoga adventures in a row – that’s an hour and a half’s worth of yoga, which rewards the children with exercise and mindfulness, and gives the parent the space and time to cook the dinner or have a shower. That’s a gift to a lot of parents,” says Jaime, whose blend of cheerily-delivered stories and sun salutations also promotes emotional intelligence by delivering messages of gratitude, empowerment, and self-confidence.
“It’s the stories, the theatrics, the mindfulness, the movement,” she adds. “It’s a fantastic formula for wellbeing, and a lesson about how to live.”
According to Jaime, who felt a deep sense of “responsibility to children during lockdown”, the physical and mental benefits of yoga, the very nature of sitting quietly with their thoughts, help kids to not just process tricky emotions, but also to identify them in the first place.
“Our bodies can teach us a lot about what’s going on mentally,” she says. “The word yoga means a union of body, mind, and spirit, so when you practise yoga, you’ve got a channel between your body and mind, using your breath to notice what’s going on. When you’re feeling challenged in a pose, if you use your breath to become calm, you’re building resilience in motion in that moment because you’re calming yourself down in an uncomfortable spot. It’s about getting comfortable in the uncomfortable.”
She adds: “Kids need space sometimes to process their emotions, build awareness, and get to know themselves. Life is about understanding yourself, and that time to reflect really only happens when we’re in calm, in silence.
As well as building core strength, supporting and strengthening the immune system, and improving balance and posture, yoga helps rebalance energy levels, and is proven to benefit sleep patterns, increase confidence, and improve memory retention. It’s no wonder Jaime has been labelled a modern day Mary Poppins, such is the magic of what she does with children.
Here, Jaime Amor shares her guide to creating calm for kids…
1. Create a worry box
Take an old tissue box and make it your own – paint it, put on some googly eyes, make it look like a monster mouth. Then take some paper and encourage your child to write down things that might be worrying them. Once they’ve popped the paper in their monster worry box, they can go back the following day and ask themselves: “Am I still worried about that?” Putting the worry in the box is like a bit of mental housekeeping. It removes it from them. For kids who don’t yet have the language, they can get out their crayons and let their worries out through drawing and colour.
2. Make a mind jar
This is a bit like a snow globe. Squidge glitter glue into a jar with some water, mix it all up, then put it down and watch it settle. It’s like a metaphor for your child’s mind. All those little flecks of glitter represent the thoughts and feelings whizzing around in their brain, but if they settle down and are calm and still for a while, the thoughts and feelings slowly sink. Then they can see through the glass again, because it’s clear.
3. Petal breaths
When a child is in a ‘whoosh’ of emotions, if we reflect their energy we can get into a bit of a tangle. If we go to the opposite extreme, and approach the situation from a grounded place by breathing calmly, it diffuses the negative energy. Petal breaths are very grounding and good for both children and adults.
Draw all your fingers up together and as you breathe in, open your hands out really wide then as you breathe out, draw them back up together again. The physical action of opening and closing your hands in time with your inhale and exhale – a long deep breath – will settle any turbulent emotions.
4. Ring that bell
Bells are a great way of training your little one’s attention. By tuning their listening sense, they’re focusing on one thing, so all thoughts trickle away and they reach a place of stillness. Doing this regularly, helps train their attention so they’re better able to concentrate at school, or listen when they’re being spoken to.
If you have a bell and so does your child, encourage your child to ring their bell whenever you ring yours. It’s a call and response action that says, ‘we’re both here’. If you don’t want to use a bell, find a word or a signal to bring your child into the moment.
5. Pose like a pro
Absolutely cracking for helping kids feel long, tall, and strong in their spine. It also practises their sense of balance so when real life wobbly moments happen, they can use this pose to feel more capable and confident.
Do it by… Standing tall, place the heel of your foot on top of the other. Use your toes for balance, so your knee sticks out to the side. Bring your hands together at your heart, and grow your branches (your arms) up tall.
By feeling their feet on the ground and lifting the top of their head towards the mountains, the child fills their space and uses their physical power to power up internally.
Do it by… Stand tall, feet hip distance apart, arms relaxed by our sides. Roll the shoulders back and down and clear your mind completely, like you’re on top of a mountain, breathing the freshest air. Totally powerful in complete stillness.
A go-to pose post lunch if your child is feeling a bit sleepy. After getting upside down with the heart above the head, more oxygenated blood runs down into their brain, which revitalises and refreshes. In the pose, they’ll feel a stretch all the way down the spine and legs.
Do it by… From all fours we tuck the toes and press our feet and hands into the floor. We lift our hips to the sky slowly, stretching our legs long, letting the head and neck be loose. Spend 30 seconds to a minute in the pose to feel energised.
6. Brain Breaks
A five to 10 minute movement-based sequence – a dance or twisting and turning all parts of the body, patting the body, or doing a little sequence of yoga poses – to refocus your child after they’ve done something a bit ‘thinky’. Physically moving gets the body oxygenated, and gives their brain time to refresh and reset for the next activity.
Find out more about Cosmic Kids Yoga on their website cosmickids.com where you can download the Cosmic Kids App for hundreds of ad-free yoga and mindfulness videos for kids. Or head over to YouTube to explore the Cosmic Kids Yoga channel.
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