When I was asked to be one of the hosts for a mindful parenting challenge organized by Bendi Baby, I knew exactly what I wanted to teach — children’s meditation, specifically the Sa Ta Na Ma meditation. I learned this meditation from Shakta Kaur Khalsa with whom I completed my children’s yoga teacher training over ten years ago. Yes, before I had children! At the time I had been practicing yoga for about five years, taking classes in all styles and traditions available around town. I had experienced profound benefits physically, recovering from dance injuries that I had thought would be with me for life, but even more so, I experienced benefits mentally. I knew I wanted to bring my children into a family that would include yoga at its foundation.
Inexperienced in teaching yoga to children, I expected my children to take greater enjoyment from the physical postures (asana) than from meditations. In my experience, most adults find asana more interesting than meditation. I naively expected the same of children, particularly since children often bear the stereotype of having a hard time sitting still. In practicing with my own children, my experience has been the opposite of my expectation; they most enjoy the meditation part of the practice.
I began practicing yoga with Ro soon after her birth, but I didn’t introduce her to meditation until she was almost three. I began with a simple gong meditation, where she would focus on the sound and observe how long she could hear it. She really enjoyed this, and so I decided to take a leap and teach her Sa Ta Na Ma, which is significantly more complicated for a child of that age. After a few minutes working with her she understood the mudra pattern (hand positions) and was happily continuing on all by herself. At first I felt a little regretful that I hadn’t taught it to her sooner, since she was clearly ready. But then I decided to award myself some “mother’s intuition points” instead, telling myself that I had chosen today, because today was the right day. Until around 4 years of age I would have to remind Ro of this meditation in order for her to practice. Then, without my noticing, there came the day when she started doing it on her own, when she felt a need or desire herself, and I haven’t reminded her since.
I will never forget our first parent-teacher interview, when Ro joined public school in Grade 2. Her teacher couldn’t wait to tell us about how she had observed Ro, more than once, meditating during the chaos of recess. She was rather amused by it. I, on the other hand, felt pride, because she had developed a practice she could go to in times of imbalance and overstimulation.
So how does the meditation work? (Please see photos below for visual aid):
Find a comfortable seated position, crossed legs, lotus, or otherwise. The meditation involves 4 hand positions (mudras) that are synchronised with 4 sounds (mantra). Show your child the hand positions first: thumb to pointer finger, thumb to middle finger, thumb to ring finger, thumb to pinky finger. Do a few repetitions through the finger positions. Next add the sounds. Sa (thumb to pointer finger), Ta (thumb to middle finger), Na (thumb to ring finger), Ma (thumb to pinky finger). Complete a few repetitions of the mudras and sounds working together. Once the child is comfortable with this you can ask them to close their eyes and continue. With children who may have a hard time keeping their eyes closed you can place a focus object in front of them, something gentle and soothing like a flower or a soft toy. Start by repeating the sequence for 2 minutes, then gradually lenghten the time; you will probably be pleasantly surprised by how long children can carry on with this meditation.
One variation of the meditation includes starting off quietly then raising the voice slowly with each repetition, and then declining in volume once the chanting has become loud. Another variation is to begin by voicing the sound, slowly becoming quieter until you are simply saying the sound in your mind. There are a number of You Tube videos that demonstrate the meditation and are useful for hearing the tones for each sound, just search “sa ta na ma meditation.”
There is much written about this meditation, from the Kundalini tradition, that suggests the meditation has a balancing effect. I can’t speak authoritatively about the benefits neurologically and psychologically, but I can tell you that this meditation has been very satisfying for Ro and is a practice she comes back to time and again. I can only hope and imagine how this practice will support her through the teenage years and into adulthood when stress and challenges to our inner balance are a daily encounter.
Thank you very much, Bendi Baby, for asking me to participate in this challenge. Please visit Bendi Baby’s Instagram account to find the other challenge hosts and lessons that were shared or check out the hashtag #MindfulMamaBendiBaby.
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