Yoga and Mindfulness for Children:
Yoga is an ancient contemplative practice that brings together physical postures, deep stretching, relaxation, and breath control (Peck, Kehle, Bray, & Theodore, 2005, p. 416; Haggins & Rundle, 2016, p. 106), while also incorporating cognitive awareness, or mindfulness. Yoga is a contemplative practice of mindfulness.
The term “mindfulness” can be described as an intentional awareness, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, being in the present moment, being open-minded and accepting towards the experiences and sensations of your mind and body, and understanding why you feel the way you feel or why you are having certain thoughts (Burke, 2010, p. 133; Weare, 2013, p. 141). Mindfulness is also defined by The Mindful Nation. U.K. (MAPP, 2015): “Mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body, and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness” (p. 14).
Both the practice of yoga and mindfulness have many benefits for teachers and students in a classroom setting. Click here if you wish to read a current list of research on the benefits of yoga and mindfulness for children.
 Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness to Children with Hearing Loss by Megan Johnson, Chapter 4.
This spring my sister had her second child – another boy. I had the privilege of spending time with this divine person when he was 9 weeks old.
Theo and I spent time bonding through yoga. Several times over a 3-week period I laid him down on the floor and engaged with him through song, movement and infant massage. Even at this young age Theo loved the attention and made cooing noises and eye contact during these short yoga sessions.
Here are some examples of the benefits that I observed about yoga with a baby.
- After yoga Theo fell into a deep sleep in my arms
- Theo immediately stopped crying after doing Drop Squats
- I felt closer to my nephew because of the touch and eye contact
- Theo enjoyed moving his body and listening to me sing
Theo After the Yoga Session
I highly recommend this experience to all moms and caregivers. Sometimes we forget how to engage with infants except through feeding and diapering. Baby yoga gives us tools for socializing, gross motor skills, body awareness, strength, and language development.
I will be offering Baby Yoga at the South Shore Conservatory this Fall. Click here to register for a class.
It is January part of the darkest time of the year. The sun does not shine for many hours these days. This is the time of year I find myself drawn to lighting candles in my house to counter the lack of sunlight. It is also the time of year that I find more children signing up for my children’s yoga classes. Is this coincidental? This leads me to contemplate the importance of light. The light that shines down from the sun but also the light that is within us all.
I am a certified children’s yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance. I began teaching weekly yoga classes at SSC six years for the preschool and kindergarten children enrolled at SSC in Hingham. I love my job. Each week about 45 children ages 3 – 6 attend a yoga class with me. Their beautiful spirits learn about valuable life skills like deep breathing, cultivating self-love, developing self-awareness, and being compassionate towards themselves and others without competition.
I sometimes ask the preschool children “Do we have light inside of us? Do we have a flashlight in us?” It is difficult to describe the abstract metaphor of the light within us, yet this is an integral concept in teaching the philosophy of yoga. I am reminded of it this week as I am singing and doing yoga poses to the song “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine” in my kids yoga classes. I asked the children ages 3-6 what does this light within mean to them. I relate it to what makes them smile or feel happy – a place, a person, an activity. I heard interesting responses like “It is my happy light”. Or “I feel my light when I swim with dolphins, play hockey, do gymnastics, play with my little brother, and am with my parents.” I am very moved that children as young as preschool and kindergarten can begin to be in touch with the light or spirit that allows them to feel joy in the world. I believe that children who are able to connect to their inner wisdom will feel more comfortable and content in this busy world we live in.
Searching for the light within is a great activity for this time of the year, a time of darkness. In our fast paced society it important for children and adults to take sometime for quiet reflection. Perhaps this article will inspire you to look for your inner light.
Come check out my new children’s yoga classes at Body Strong Boston, located in Jackson Square, Weymouth!
Click here to see more information on the Body Strong Boston website.
During this busy season, don’t forget to breath. Deep conscious breaths can help you calm down and make better decisions. Here is a seated meditation that you can try at home, in the car or out in nature.
Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.
As my in-breath grows deep,
My out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm,
Breathing out brings me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile,
With the out-breath, I release.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
From A Pebble for Your Pocket by Thich Nhat Hanh
Here is an interesting article from the Scientific American about how the brain changes (in good ways) when a person practices yoga. MRIs are really allowing us to learn a lot of about the brain with yoga, meditation, and changing neural pathways.
How Yoga Changes the Brain
The Zen Life – Half-pint Style
Here is an article published in the South Shore Living Magazine in October about my business Yoga Magic 4 Kids and the benefits of yoga for youngsters. Enjoy!
Here are some suggestions from Dr Mercola that I highly support. This is great for parents who are struggling to find the right nutritional balance in their children’s lives.
Teach Your Kids the Basic Tenets of Optimal Health
Leading a common-sense, healthy lifestyle is your best bet to achieve a healthy body and mind. And while conventional medical science may flip-flop back and forth in its recommendations, there are certain basic tenets of optimal health (and healthy weight) that do not change:
- Proper food choices: For a comprehensive guide, see my free optimized nutrition plan. Generally speaking though, you’ll want to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed or minimally processed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, you will want to eat a good portion of your food raw.
- Avoid sugar, and fructose in particular. All forms of sugar have toxic effects when consumed in excess, and drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of chronic disease and accelerated aging.
I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet, and increasing healthy fat consumption. This will optimize insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health. Sources of healthy fats include:
Olives and olive oil
Coconuts and coconut oil
Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
Raw nuts, particularly macadamia
Organic pastured egg yolks
Unheated organic nut oils
- Regular exercise: Even if you’re eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. HGH also helps boost weight loss.
- So along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend that two to three times a week you do Peak Fitness exercises, which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
- Stress reduction: You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease — from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using simple tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden, emotional problems. (I would add that yoga fits in this category too.)
- Drink plenty of clean pure water.
- Maintain a healthy gut: About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and research is stacking up showing that probiotics—beneficial bacteria—affect your health in a myriad of ways; it can even influence your ability to lose weight. A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods is the easiest, most cost effective way to ensure optimal gut flora.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels: Research has shown that increasing your vitamin D levels can reduce your risk of death from ALL causes. Sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels as your body has built-in “fail-safe” mechanisms that prevent detrimental side effects from occurring. For more information on how to safely and effectively optimize your vitamin D levels, please see my previous article, How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help You Optimize Your Health.
- If you opt for oral vitamin D supplements, make sure you use D3, not prescription D2, as the latter may do more harm than good. Also, if you take supplemental vitamin D, you’re creating an increased demand for K2—not K1 that is typically in vegetables as it will not work synergize with vitamin D. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries. Together, vitamin D and K2 help strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Get plenty of high quality sleep: Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss.
Here are seven practices that you can do with young children, to help bring mindfulness into your home.
- Just before leaving for school in the morning, stand together and take three mindful breaths.
- When your child comes home from school, give him or her a piece of fruit and ask them to pretend they are from another planet and have never seen this piece of fruit before. Ask them to describe their experience using all five senses. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Taste like? Does it make a sound when they bite it?
- Take three mindful breaths as a family before eating and try to begin the meal mindfully.
- Go for a walk with your child and pay attention to what you both notice around you, what you see, hear, smell and touch. Share some of the things that you’re noticing.
- Tell your child you are going to ring a bell or a singing bowl. Ask them to listen carefully to the sound of the bell and raise their hands when they can no longer hear it.
- Have your child lie down on a mat on the floor, or on their bed, and place their favorite stuffed animal on their belly. Have them rock the stuffed animal to sleep with the movement of their belly as they breathe in and out. This is how they can begin to pay attention to their breathing.
- Before bed, share something that you are grateful for that happened that day – something that enriched your life. Small things are best! Have your child do the same.
These suggestions come from an article published online. Click here to see the original source of Wildmind – a Buddhist publication.
September is rapidly approaching. I am already envisioning a very busy fall coordinating my children’s school activities, after school activities and my work schedule. It is a good thing that I know some tools of mindfulness and yoga to keep myself focused and in a happy mood. This cartoon above comes from the Boston Globe. To me it is a reminder to stay in the present – NOW.
This is a great challenge in today’s fast paced world. Technology like smart phones, ipads and texting accelerate our communication and create a lot of distraction for us and our children.
Mindfulness and Yoga are two tools that allow me to take a few breath, settle my mind and stay focused with the task at hand.
The next time you or your children find yourselves spinning into chaos. Try slowly breathing in for 5 seconds and slowly breathing out for 5 seconds several times – Take Five.