Meditation, according to Cambridge dictionary means, "the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed."
It is an activity that involves a lot of concentration, focus and patience.
This is the reason many people find meditation the toughest part of a yoga session. If this is the case for adults, is it possible to train children to do meditation?
The answer to this is YES, provided they are taught to do it the right way.
You can't force a child to do meditation. Many parents want their hyper-active or restless children to learn to control themselves via meditation. Some parents want yoga teachers to make their children to sit in once place, without running about and raising a ruckus.
As a teacher, all I can do is make a child sit still, but not force him or her to meditate. However, there are several methods that I use in children's yoga classes to train their minds before engaging in meditation. These pre-meditation techniques can be useful in "softening" kids who are restless or hyper-active.
1) Play Soothing Music, MantraOne of the easiest methods is making children settle down in a sitting posture and close their eyes. Then, play a soothing music or mantra and keep telling them some exciting, but calming stories. Stories related to spiritual awareness will work better, unless the children are too young to absorb the message. For younger children, children with good moral lessons or messages will do.
2) Sit Still Facing the WallMake them sit still while facing the wall. Although this sounds like a punishment, instead, this is a way to keep their mind off distraction. A white-coloured wall or that of soft, calming pastel colour will refresh their mind and give a good start to meditation. Parents can also try this technique at home.
3) Chant MantraChanting mantra is another way to keep children off distraction and train them to engage in one subject matter. Get them to sit cross legged on the floor with their eyes closed. From there, they can take deep inhalation and chant the "aum" mantra while exhaling. By practicing this frequently, children will be able to train their mind to focus on one thing at a time.
4) Yogi NidraYogi nidra is a state of relaxation. Children get easily bored so let's engage them in exciting activities while being silent. Train them to yogi nidra, or the yogi sleep. Use your voice to guide them and hypnotize them to a different state of mind where they can find happiness and relaxation. Use your voice to "show" them their beautiful future, the wonderful world, their lovely family, or portray great things about their studies or ambition. Make them feel that they are treated equally and prioritized by the adults.
5) Jog Their MemoryMake them lie down on the yoga mat, with their eyes closed, and jog their memory back to the day before - where they were sleeping, and how they were woken up in the morning. Ask them to recall everything they saw and met in school. Get them to recall what they had during lunch hour and relate everything that happened until the current moment. This method will sharpen their memory and mind power.
Besides the ones stated above, there also many other ways you can guide children to do pre-meditation, before they get into the real meditation.
Get a qualified teacher or instructor to talk to your kids to see where and how they can fit. Remember that every child is different and it is the responsibility of us adults to lead them accordingly.
Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer