Here’s a quick break for all of the kiddos you know that could use a pause and some sensory input to help them balance and calm their minds and bodies. To introduce this break or for practice, I ask the boys in my group to drop and “be a snake in the grass.” First teach your child the snake pose, more formally known in the yogic traditions as Bhujangasana (boo-jahn-GAHS-uh-nuh) or cobra pose.
After they have done snake pose, I ask them lie quietly in the grass, like a snake looking for dinner. What would the snake see? If they are still speaking, I ask them to lie there quietly and to only make the snake breath sound if they need to make a sound. Breathing in, we are quiet. Breathing out, we quietly hiss our breath out like a snake. Next, I visit each child and put their snake stripes on for the day. I very gently provide a gently pressure as I move my hand down each side of their spine, from just below the shoulder blade to their waist. In this way we are “putting on the snake’s stripes.” Pressing and moving slowly, I speak in a calm gentle voice, letting them know that their stripes are on for the day. I softly count out loud each stripe as I put it on. I ask them what color they would like the stripes to be. To engage their imaginations in the relaxation process, I ask what sorts of things the snake sees in the grass. If they don’t know, I offer suggestions such as “Shhhh, I see a mouse is walking by” or “A butterfly just landed on that blade of grass over there” or “See the bird feather floating down to land right in front of you?” I explain that the more quiet and calm and relaxed they are, the more they can use their imaginations to see what is in the grassy world around them. Their imaginations are the limit during this part of the snake break. Help them to relax into the world of the snake for a moment and really feel relaxed, allowing the ground to hold them up.
Often a student will have such wound up energy, that it takes a bit of time and several “snake breaths” and “snake stripes” to achieve calm, centered presence. I wait. The more you are able to meet the chaotic energy with a sense of presence, using a calm voice to repeat the instructions and waiting with positive expectancy, the more the child will often match the energy that you are exuding. I have noticed that when I am more anxious or have impatient energy when I offer the snake breaks, the less effective they are. Provide wait time. Provide calm energy. And, even if the snake break does not support a return to calm this time, know that you have planted a seed that has the chance to grow at a later date. Practice over time also increases the chances that your child will eventually learn that “snake break” is a time to really calm, rest on the floor/ground and just be there, lying like a snake does in the grass.
If you are out in a classroom or in a grocery store shopping and you need a symbol for taking a snake break, try introducing a “fidget friend.” I bought the snake pictured here for 30 cents at Target the other day. I allow students to take this wiggly snake to class if it will remind them to relax. If it becomes a distraction, then we don’t introduce the fidget snake or the snake has to stay with me and only comes out for “snake break time.” We like to call him “Herbert” at my school :).
So, this week, take a snake break with your child, and have FUN relaxing!!
Photo credits in order of appearance:
photo credit: child snake pose <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/95142644@N00/14500818159″>Cobra fairy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: fly on grass <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68397968@N07/27780960963″>Drying out</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: mouse in grass <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/54278704@N00/185092747″>mouse</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: butterfly in grass <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/13497267@N04/28239262236″>Red Admiral</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>