After a long day at school, there’s more to do. Before hitting the homework, take a yoga break to refresh mind and body for better focus.
Long days grow even longer for kids when schoolwork piles up. With curriculum to keep up with and cramming for tests, the workload never seems to end. Yoga can help children to pace their study efforts and reduce mental and physical burnout, says Amy Quinn Suplina, owner of Bend + Bloom Yoga in Brooklyn, New York. “From a mental health perspective, getting the blood flowing and the energy back up, improves kids’ ability to focus and regroup,” Suplina says. “Movement breaks help them to return to work in a more effective manner. Instead of turning to social media or television, practicing can enhance focus, clarity, and make them more present in their work and thinking. With a renewed ability to focus on what’s in front of them, they’ll be more efficient about their work.”
When there are hours of homework to tackle, Suplina recommends that kids take a yoga time-out first. “Kids’ heads and shoulders are hunched over their computers and electronic devices all day, which has long-term implications for spinal health. Yoga can help to counter the effect of that forward flexion and return healthy curves to the spine,” Suplina says.
10-Minute Homework Break Yoga Sequence
Wrapping one arm under the other, lift your elbows to shoulder height. Imagine your elbows are the tips of a paint brush and you are painting a horizontal line back and forth across your computer screen. This opens up the space between the scapulae and the musculature of your upper back. Practice on both sides.
Seated Cat and Cow
With your hands in your lap, inhale as you slide your hands back to your hip creases, point your elbow tips back and broaden your collarbone. Gaze up as your chest rises. Exhale and slide your hands down the thighs to cup your kneecaps as your belly draws back to round you in. Repeat for 3–5 rounds.
Simple Lateral Side Bend Using Chair
Hold your left hand under your chair and breathe in to raise your right arm up. As you breathe out, bend toward the left using the chair as leverage to lengthen your right side body and open the musculature between your side ribs. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Spinal Twists
As you inhale, sit tall, feeling a sense of spaciousness in your spine. Exhaling, twist to your right, taking hold of the back of your chair with your two hands, hold for a few cycles of breath. Repeat on the left side.
Seated Figure Four
Come to the edge of your chair and take your right ankle above your left knee. Fold forward from the creases of your hips, lengthening your chest toward your chin bone, elongating the front of the spine. This shape can ease low back pain that results from hours of sitting at your desk. Try on both sides.
To alleviate tight hip flexors from long study sessions, try this High Lunge variation from your chair. Scoot your seat to the right front corner of your chair. Turn your whole body to face the right side of the room, so that your right seat is still on the chair. Bend your right knee over its ankle, toes pointing in the direction you are facing with the sole of the foot grounded. Square your hips and torso, as you slide the ball of the left foot behind you to extend your left hip and straighten the back leg. Rest your hands on your front thigh as you tune in to the length in the front of the left hip and breathe into a tall spine. Take 10 deep breaths then try the other side.
If you need to revive yourself: Breath of Fire
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Draw sharp, short inhales and exhales through the nose of even length, pumping the navel in and out for about 1 minute. This rhythmic breath ignites your energy.
If you need to focus your attention: Viloma Breath
This is an interrupted breathing technique where you take pauses on the inhale and enjoy a nice smooth exhale. Draw in a third of a breath on a count of 2 seconds, pause for 2 seconds, draw in the next third, pause, then completely fill the lungs and pause. Slowly exhale all the breath out to a slow count of 6. Viloma means “against the natural flow” and will release anxiety and enhance mental clarity.
About Our Writer
Erika Prafder is a veteran writer and product reviewer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A long-time yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits KidsYogaDaily.com, a news source for young yogis. The working mother of three resides in a beach community in Long Island, New York.