Mindfulness and Yoga practices for Children and Adolescents

I hear more and more parents express feelings of concern about their kids not being able to relax. The general feeling is that we are setting up our kids in a very competitive environment from the time they are very young. So much academic, social, and athletic competition.

This competition can send kids a message that they have to fight for being the best or they won’t get into the best college and they won’t be successful in life.

Kids live in a very sympathetic nervous system state.

Sympathetic nervous system is when our bodies are always ready for action and the mind is constantly scanning for possible threats. The fight or flight response which is located in the limbic area of our brain takes care of our survival. For kids whose sympathetic nervous system is engaged all the time they are living in survival mode making it very difficult for them to relax and be calm.

Parasympathetic nervous system is when the body can rest, heal, and grow. The mind can integrate new information and see the bigger picture. How do we get kids to relax?

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.”

Amy Saltsman

Yoga offers a pathway towards mindfulness, grounded in practice and accessible to all.


Tools to help kids relax and be calm:

Start kids off with Connecting

These skills can help children and adolescents connect to their emotional experience, to others in their community, and to their environment.

An example: Use a Loving Kindness Meditation

Have kids say to themselves with their eyes closed if they feel safe

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be safe

May my life be filled with joy

Then have them think about someone they love and have them say:

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May your life be filled with joy

Then have them think about someone who annoys them and they don’t like. Have them say:

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May your life be filled with joy


Next you want to help kids Breathe.

Heart and Belly Breathing

Have kids put one hand over their heart and the other hand over their stomach. Have them close their eyes if they feel comfortable doing that

Say to them:

See if you can find your breath

See if you can make both inhalation and exhalation be the same length

See if you can breath in air around your heart

Langhana Breath is also very helpful. It is a calming breath.

Inhale freely and exhale sloooooowwwlly. Inhale and count 1and 2  exhale 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Alternating Nostril breath is also very helpful.

It is a neutralizing breath.

Next use yoga poses


Grounding poses:

Mountain pose

Frog pose

Child Pose


Strengthening Poses

Moving Lunges

Boat Pose


Balancing Pose

Tree Pose


Next use focus activities

Single Pointed Focus

Glitter Jar is very helpful when working with kids.  Shake it up and watch it settle.

Have them focus on their mind wondering and then bringing it back. Have kids say a mantra during this practice. “I am really strong”


Lastly, Relax poses

Restorative Yoga poses are really great:

Legs up the wall

Yoga Nidra ( Tense and Let Go)

Try and use some of these mindfulness

techniques and yoga poses with children and adolescents. They are exposed to an
overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation, are chronically sleep deprived, and generally have no idea how to calm themselves down. These activities provide an opportunity for them to rest the mind, body, and spirit.


Dr. Melissa Samartano, PhD, LMHC, RYT