My daughter can get so focused on her drawing that she can't hear me call her for dinner the first four times, until I go whisper directly into her ear. During lots of other less-than-favorite activities, however, she and the rest of our family often have a bit of trouble staying in the proverbial zone. We call it Pinball Disease in our house--bouncing back and forth between tasks or activities, and an hour will pass with absolutely nothing to show for it. (This applies to grownups doing tax preparation as well as to kids picking up toys.)
Like any other skill, focus improves with practice, and balancing poses in yoga are excellent for developing it. And particularly for kids, concentration becomes extremely important when academics get to be the real deal.
These poses are challenging and fun for kids to practice. For all three, encourage kids to find a focal point to concentrate on during the pose, such as a certain spot or picture on the wall in front of them.
- BIRD ON A MOUNTAIN: Have your child stand in Mountain Pose (feet close together, legs strong, arms at sides, body tall and solid like a mountain) while you flap your hands around her and tweet like a bird. Challenge her to stand tall and strong, focusing on her spot, while you do this and not be distracted by your goofiness. Then switch places, and she gets to do it to you!
- FLAMINGO POSE: Begin in Mountain Pose. Slowly, lift your right leg up, knee bent, until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Bring your arms out wide at your sides, and slowly, gracefully, flap your big, beautiful wings. Concentrate on your focal point, hold for a few big breaths in and out, then step down and try the other side.
- DANCER POSE: Begin in Mountain Pose. Bend the left knee and see if you can reach back and hold the inside of the left foot with the left hand. This is challenging enough--but if you want to go further, (your child can hold on to you or have one hand on the wall) see if you can lean forward and kick that foot out and up behind you. Look forward at your focal point as you try a slow count of 5, and next time see if you can make it to 10.
(Please comment if you have ideas of your own--I'd love to hear how you help your kids stay focused!)