By Nancy Kane
Yunasa campers have started their day off with yoga for 20 years. Senior Program Coordinator, Qiao Li, has seen the benefits of yoga firsthand on our gifted campers and how it sets them up for success for the rest of the day. Because gifted children tend to receive stimuli more intensely (Pyne, 2015) it is essential to find ways to connect the mind, body, and spirit to help ground them and give them tools to focus and relax. Li says that practicing yoga for half an hour settles the overactive mind typically found in gifted children and helps campers to welcome the day with a balanced mind and body. She says that sometimes they are so relaxed that they fall asleep in Savasana, corpse pose, the final resting posture of a yoga practice.
Yoga means to join, or to yoke, or to unite. Most yogis agree that through yoga, we can find a union of mind, body, and spirit through pranayama, breath, and the asanas, postures. Through this connection, we can calm the active mind and bring peace to the body. Controlled breathing techniques help signal the nervous system to calm down. The inhale is linked to the sympathetic nervous system or our fight-or-flight response, and the exhale is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, our body’s relaxation system.
Consider practicing this simple breathing technique with your child the next time you like them to slow down. While sitting in a comfortable position with eyes closed, inhale for 4 seconds and hold at the top for 2 seconds. Then exhale to a count of 6 and hold at the bottom for 2 seconds. Repeat several times and focus on expanding and emptying the belly with the breath. The circular nature of the technique gives the mind something to focus on, and the longer exhale gives the parasympathetic nervous system time to calm down.
Added benefits of breathing techniques are you are giving your body a chance to recuperate and heal. They promote less stress and better digestion. And deeper focused breathing helps to bring more awareness to the present moment.
We would love to hear in the comments how yoga and breathing techniques help support your child’s ability to focus and relax.