We all need time to unwind – even children

I have been somewhat bemused at the interest the press has taken in our efforts to introduce yoga and mindfulness with the children across the whole of LEYF. Interviews with the BBC and various radio shows have moved presenters from initial doubt to the complete acceptance that small children not only cope with quiet time but actually benefit from it.

The idea of yoga came to me after the first Westminster terrorist attack. As London nurseries we have been through our fair share of incidents including the Edgware Road attack and the second Westminster incident this week. I wondered about helping children to find ways of coping with additional stress. They are already living quite a stressed life, travelling to and from nursery, busy homes, noisy surroundings and then the stress of being in nursery often for 10 hours.This isn’t a criticism of anyone or anything, it’s just a fact. While adults can relieve their transport pain, (and believe me as a Southern customer, I know all about the stress of travelling on crowded and unreliable trains) by having a cup of tea and regaling the office or twitter or whoever will listen to our transport woes, children do not have the same means of expressing their tensions and feelings of negative stress.

It struck me that we would do well to create opportunities both through direct teaching and routine to help them learn techniques to find ways to use their bodies to help them deal with additional stress points.

We have been doing yoga in two ways, one working with yoga teacher Jessica Reece Bloch and also running routine mindfulness activities led by a LEYF teacher who is a champion of the subject. Both approaches are working and include many benefits.

Children understanding how to better control their breathing to manage their reactions to frustration, tiredness and excitement. This has been particularly noticeable among those children who get themselves in a flap more quickly as well as children with additional learning needs and/or language and communication challenges.

Children love their bodies. They enjoy testing their capabilities. And creating good energy. In a world where adults and institutions have closed down so many physical opportunities for children driven not by kindness or understanding but a hugely litigious culture, yoga is a compromise for children to safely spring, stretch, expand, twist and roll with the suppleness and pliability of a cat. Talking of which, read The Purrfect Pawse, a charming book that just makes you want to stretch.

As an organisation, we focus a great deal on kindness. This is hugely important to our values especially now as our public world is riven with toxic divisions and demands for respect and apologies without any responsibility which in turn is firing up a blame and mistrustful culture. Therefore, we have to work hard to extract the kindness in humanity. Yoga is a kind activity. It’s a place where children relax together in a quiet safe space. It’s good for staff too.

As to be expected, we are not alone. Colleagues such as Cheryl Hadland at Tops and Ken McArthur at Polly’s Nursery have contacted me to say they have also been doing yoga and see its benefits.

I bet there are many others out there who also doing this. Who are you?  Let’s collect our views and share it across the sector!

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