Relaxation for Toddlers
Savasana (pronounced shah-VAHS-anna) is a pose usually done at the end of yoga classes. Practitioners lay flat on their backs with eyes closed, palms up, and heels spread. Savasana is translated as "Corpse Pose" and as the name tells us, the goal is total surrender.
Savasana is essential to practicing yoga. Although it may seem like it is just laying passively on a mat, there is so much going on inwardly with this pose. It is a time for the body to absorb the benefits of the poses (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama). It is also an opportunity for the mind to settle which is the entire purpose of yoga. Many yoga teachers will tell you savasana is the most important and challenging of all the poses.
With all that being said, how on earth can you translate this pose to toddlers who are always on the go?
Even in yoga for the littlest ones, it is important to include the concept of savasana while also holding realistic expectations of what it will look and feel like. So, to start, rather than using the word savasana which sounds very confusing, I call it "relaxation time." I reserve about 3-5 minutes at the end of class for this special time.
Here are a few tips for setting up a successful relaxation at the end of a toddler yoga class.
1) Turn off the lights and play calming music.
Dimming or turning off the lights and play a soothing song helps create an energetic shift from play time to quiet time. I like to use songs that caregivers and children are familiar with such as "You are my Sunshine", "This Little Light of Mine", "This Land is Your Land" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." I find when I play these the grown ups begin to sing along which is soothing to the little ones.
Elizabeth Mitchell has some awesome versions of these songs. Check her out here! http://youaremyflower.org/
2) Set realistic expectations.
I like to be clear on what I am expecting during relaxation time so parents and caregivers can relax and not feel self-conscious when their toddler decides to start drumming on a table rather than get quiet! I say something like, "It's relaxation time. Let's try to find quiet and take deep breaths. Grown ups, if you're little one wants to join you and lay down go for it. If they'd rather wander and explore, that is perfectly fine too. We may not have total quiet, but we may get a few seconds of it and that's awesome."
3) Bring awareness to the breath.
Even if the room is loud and the kids are mostly wandering I like to give cues to put hands on the belly and breathe. Relaxation time is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that deep breaths help us to find calm.
4) Speak in a calm tone.
When you change the tone of your voice this signals to everyone that this is a different part of class. Even if the kids are racing around and exploring you could say, "I see you all investigating what's in the room today" in a quiet and calm voice. This will contrast with the enthusiastic and energetic tone you speak in for much of the class.
5) Remember, toddlers are like sponges taking it all in.
Even when it seem like they aren't learning, they are. Set the tone for relaxation and then surrender to what happens knowing that on some level the children are absorbing the energy of savasana.