AWARENESS GIVES US CHOICES. Yoga & mindfulness nurture the practice of paying attention to internal and external experiences which cultivates awareness. I often say “we can’t change what we’re not aware of.” Awareness gives us information and then we have choices; we can choose to shift our attention to someone or something, choose to modify our energy level, choose to take a few breaths or take care of our needs. When children are provided with opportunities to tune in, to pay attention to their inner world and experiences, we are supporting the development of self-awareness. With awareness children can learn to harness tools to help manage thoughts, feelings and behaviors and the more opportunities to practice the easier it will be for them to call on these resources, to become more self-reliant when they find themselves distracted, stressed or experiencing strong emotions.
YOUR BREATH IS A POWERFUL ALLY. The breath is a powerful tool, teaching children that they have some control over their own emotional and energetic states. Conscious and full breathing increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain, priming the brain for increased attention and focus. When we teach children to pay attention to their breath, then educate them on how to breathe fully and deeply we are actually familiarizing them with the effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of the autonomic nervous system induces calm and relaxation; it sends signals through the body that all is well and safe. From this place of calm and ease we are better able to access and strengthen connections to the area of the brain that helps manage our emotions and solve problems more skillfully.
YOU CAN FIND SOLACE WITHIN. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and modulate your own behavior, emotions, or thoughts. Stress, anxiety and the pure experience of growing up in our society can take us off the path of self-inquiry. Too often children learn to look outwardly; to compare themselves, learn to believe that something else or someone else is the key to their happiness and wellness. We can support children in building self-efficacy skills by teaching them to seek and find solace within; tuning in and connecting with ourselves is the foundation to building self-awareness, self-management and self-efficacy skills.
CULTIVATING FOCUSED ATTENTION. Children are expected to pay attention for a majority of their school day, though we often don’t teach them how. Focused attention practices teach children how to focus on a particular stimulus. It’s a skill that has to be taught and practiced. The “attention muscle” can be exercised and strengthened; as focused attention increases, wiring to the frontal lobes in the brain occurs. The mindful practice of bring our attention back, over and over again supports brain wiring; neurons that “fire together wire together.” Focused attention practices can also be effective for quieting the mind and research repeatedly shows that quieting our minds ignites our parasympathetic nervous system. With a calm mind and body we have clearer lens on how to effectively handle day-to-day challenges.
THIS IS HOW YOU RELAX. We know from research that many children are chronically sleep deprived, are experiencing stress in their daily lives at heightened levels and are exposed to an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation. Given these facts, we know that relaxation helps reduce stress, however, children generally have not been taught how to relax. When we teach children how to calm their body and mind and provide them with opportunities to practice relaxation we’re communicating that this act of self-care is an important practice. “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ~Aristole
BUILDING CONNECTION. Tuning in and connecting with ourselves is the foundation to building self-awareness, self-management and self-efficacy skills. How often, if ever, do we ask (or teach) children to pause and check in; notice how they’re feeling, to gage their energy, attention or motivation level, to pay attention to their thoughts? In this important work we have the capacity to support children in relearning to trust in their innate wisdom and to foster self-compassion. “When people go within and connect with themselves, they realize they are connected to the universe and they are connected to all living things.” Armand Dimele
BE YOGA The teachings of yoga and mindfulness offer us code for living in harmony and with heart— for ourselves and with others. Yoga and mindfulness are gifts, teaching us how to connect with ourselves, others and the world in a curious, gentle and compassionate way.