With a rising awareness of the benefits of mindfulness for kids, teens, AND adults, we at YoKid are working to incorporate mindfulness activities into our classes. One popular activity that we utilize is “Mindful Walking”, inspired by the walking meditation in the book Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community.
Depending on your space and how many participants, you can choose to walk in a circle (especially if your mats are laid out in a circle), or in a single file down the room or hallway and back.
For Younger Children
This tends to be our very chatty group, who enjoys exercising their developing throat chakra. And my strategy is… If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! For instructors, it’s important to decide beforehand if you will allow this to be an energetic activity or if you’d prefer it to be a quiet one. I tame the excitement by whispering and asking my students to be very quiet and when it’s their turn to “be” something they can whisper to the group what we’ll all “be”.
Lining up behind one another, I tell the students that I’ll begin by whispering out a few things that we’ll “be”, and assure them that they’ll each get a turn to call out a suggestion. I start with examples such as “Pretend we’re giants, how do giants walk?” and after lifting our knees high and stomping we move on to be “soldiers, robots, burglars, elephants, balloons”. It’s so much fun to hear their examples and the creative ideas that they come up with. The other day we walked like “brides, jet fighters, ‘fancy people’, crabs, and my favorite… ‘a pencil’.
In the end, ask the children to walk like themselves, pointing out that everyone has their own walk, and asking them to look at their feet and notice how their arms and legs move as they walk. In the final stretch, ask them to coordinate their breath with movement. Inhaling with one stride, exhaling with the next. Point out the heel of the foot, the ball of the foot, noticing how they shift and how the body balances with each shift. slow walking. Leading them back to their mats, this transitions beautifully into sun salutations.
For Teens (and Adults!)
Teens tend to be a more self conscious group than the younger ones, and more reluctant to fully let go and share their imaginative side in front of their peers. Slow walking provides teens with a comfortable space to to visualize in their minds while participating with subtlety, and still reap the benefits of the meditation.
Parents and instructors can guide the walk by asking them to imagine walking in snow, and leaving deep footprints. Imagine walking on thin ice, a rocky trail, through a cold stream, across stepping stones, on a tightrope. You can ask them to explore walking in long strides, then tiny steps. End with coordinating breath with movement once more, and this will transition smoothly into a resting period where any visualization from the walking meditation can continue into Savasana or corpse pose.
Do you have a favorite mindfulness activity? Please share with us down in the comments section below! And if you’d like to explore affirmations to assist with your mindfulness practice, visit our list of affirmations here.