How do you use malas in a meditation practice?
- Help your child understand why they want to meditate, and then help them choose a mantra or affirmation, that best fits their need for the current meditation. Mantras are phrases that kids can repeat silently or out loud as they take a deep breath. Mantras can be very helpful for our children in times when they need to calm themselves. The idea behind mantras is that specific words we repeat over time become part of who we are and reveal truths about oursselves and our connection to a deeper source. Basically, our thoughts and words can shape who we are. What we think, we become. One of the first mantras Indie was taught in a child yoga class was “I am strong, I am powerful, I am brave”. Your child may wish to repeat a mantra such as this, or they may wish to do something as simple as a breathing mantra of “inhale, exhale” as you roll each bead through your fingers. This can be very calming. Or they may wish to make up their own mantra! Other mantras that we like are “I am Thankful” (this can encourage children to think of all the many things they have to be grateful for), and “Be the Pond”. For an explanation of “Be the Pond” (which is really quite great), check out http://leftbrainbuddha.com/mindful-mantras-for-kids/. Another great mantra that may be better suited for somewhat older kids is “ I am Free”, and goes like this:
I am Free
I feel happy. I am not my happiness
I feel sad. I am not my sadness
I am free. I am unlimited possibility!
For more examples like these, check out http://www.yogajournal.com/article/teach/teaching-meditation-to-children/
- Next, help your child find a comfortable place to sit. Many people prefer to use a cushion on the ground and sit in a cross-legged position, but the position does not matter as long as you choose something comfortable that your child can sit in for a period of time.
- Have your child close their eyes and begin to observe their breath. They may just want to stay with their breath, but we have found that most kids do better with a little guidance, like a mantra. If they wish to do a mantra meditation with their mala, they can now begin to focus on their chosen mantra. Help them arrange their mala in their right hand so that it is draped between their middle and index fingers. Let the animal rest between their thumb and index finger. Start at the “guru” or “seed” bead (with Animalas, this is the animal), and use their thumb to pull the first mala bead towards them as they recite the mantra. When they are finished with the mantra, pull that mala bead toward them and move to the next mala bead Do this 108 times (kids will most likely not start with this many, and that is just fine!), and stop when you get back to the animal. If you wish to do another round of mantras, then turn the mala around and go in the opposite direction. Make sure your child has fun with this and don’t force it, as this should be a practice they enjoy as they grow to understand all the amazing benefits they will get with a regular meditation practice!