Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breath, Mama - Yoga for your kids, and you

Are you over the excitement of "back to school" and are now facing the prospect of slogging through months of homework, soccer, drama, karate, Lego-club, speech therapy, tutoring, flash cards, dance class, how am I supposed to get you there and you over there at the same time, will you guys please be quiet I'm trying to finish something, no you can't turn on the TV, don't ask me - use the dictionary, 5 minutes at the piano is not that much to ask, choose a healthy snack please, and I have no idea when dinner will be ready? Yeah.  It's stressful.

Today I am sharing a fun, gentle way you can reduce some of the stress.   It's yoga practice you can do with your kids in 15 minutes. It comes from Jill Miller, a yoga teacher based in Studio City, CA. Jill is the creator of The Yoga Tuneup. You can talk your kids through the meditation - and I would suggest doing that, at least the first couple of times - then purchase Jill's  CD and do the meditation too. I don't know Jill and have no connection to her products. I have done the meditation (in fact, one component of it is standard actor preparation and I have done it many, many of times. It's fantastic for releasing held tensions, both physical and emotional) and the whole thing was wonderful and effective.  I pass this along from one mom to another.

( Update - I just did this meditation with my 10 year old after school.  He giggled and he flinched but we kept going. "I felt good and powerful" he said afterward, eyes shining.)

The following is reprinted from Stream Of Consciousness, a healthy living blog from Gaiam -

Michael Phelps’ Olympic swimming success has made him the supernova of the swim world. Part of his winning came not just from his supremely fine-tuned physique, but also from a wise coach who taught Phelps as a child to fine-tune his mind through relaxation, meditation and visualization.
At age 12, Phelps’ coach introduced a “structured relaxation” program based on the recitation of certain cues. At night, his mother sat with him in a dimly lit room and systematically had him relax different parts of his body. The effect it had was tremendous, and eventually Phelps could self-induce this sense of deep relaxation at will and no longer needed his mother’s help. His next step was to then visualize himself swimming his races. The rest is history!

Yoga Nidra

Yogis have been inducing tranquil states for millennia, and the meditation practice of Yoga Nidra sounds a lot like what Phelps practices. Yoga Nidra roughly translates as “yogic sleep.” Sleep scientist Roger Cole calls it “quiescence.” Yoga Nidra clears the mind, and can re-pattern thoughts, memories or the anticipation of future events.
Kids of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, athletes and the physically impaired alike can all benefit from the anxiety-reducing practice of yoga and especially Yoga Nidra. When kids are less stressed, they learn better. Kids seem to love Yoga Nidra because it is soothing, expands their imagination and places them in an inner space of calm. Many kids have difficulty “sitting still” as you might see in “classic” meditation. But Yoga Nidra is done while you are lying down … so it’s very comfortable.
Childhood is stressful even if you are not training for the Olympics, and while TV, web surfing and handheld electronic devices have become commonplace distractions for kids, it seems that these things only serve to perpetuate our “short attention span” culture. Yoga Nidra involves several stress-reducing elements that have been proven to eliminate loads of negative behavioral patterns in kids.

Yoga Nidra with your kids

The whole process should take 10-15 minutes. It’s appropriate for kids of all ages. Feel free to substitute your own words.
1. The Set Up: Have them lie down in a comfortable, quiet environment. Ask them to “keep your eyes closed and follow the sound of my voice.”
2. Breathing: Instruct them to “breathe in and out through your nose like you are blowing up a balloon in your belly.”
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Ask them to “relax every muscle in your body by squeezing and releasing them.” Then lead them through the relaxation, focusing on each muscle in turn, like this: “Tighten your hands as much as you can, tighter, tighter … and now release. Now tighten your shoulders as much as you can, tighter, tighter … and now release.”
4. Counting Breaths 40-1: In a soothing voice, ask them to “breathe in while mentally saying the number ‘40’ in your head, then breathe out and mentally say the number ‘39’ in your head. The next inhale is ‘38,’ and the next exhale is ‘37.’ Keep counting backwards all the way down to ‘1.’ If you lose count, begin again at ‘40.’”
Say positive, encouraging things to them, such as, “There’s no need to rush. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a number. Be friendly to your mind if it wants to fall asleep or forgets to count. Take a break and begin counting again when you hear my voice.”
5. Revolving Awareness: In a soothing voice, guide them on a full body tour. Pause for 3–5 seconds between naming each part of their body. Here is a sample script:
“Now I will ask you to move your mind to different parts of your relaxed body. When your mind moves to each part, it’s as if it touches it with a golden light. There’s no need to move that part of your body; simply move your imagination and that golden light there. We will move from relaxed part to relaxed part. Begin with your left-hand thumb, index finger, third finger, ring finger, pinky, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, all filled with golden light. Move to the right-hand thumb, index finger, third finger, ring finger, pinky, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, all filled with golden light. Move down to the left big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, pinky toe, top of foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip. Then over to the right big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, pinky toe, top of foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip, all filled with golden light. Move the light to your lower back, your upper back, neck, head, top of head, right ear, left ear, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, right eye, left eye, nose tip, upper lip, lower lip, jaw, tongue, throat, all filled with golden light. Then down to your chest, belly, heart, all filled with golden light.”
6. Expanding the Light: Now instruct them to share the wonderful light in their hearts. “Think of all the people in the world that you love, and imagine sending them the golden light that you have pouring through your heart. Your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your friends, your teachers, everyone you know. Now think of all the people in the world who could use some extra light in their lives, and send it to them. Now imagine all of the world sending light back to you while you send it to them.”
7. Closing with Breath: “Now breathe into your belly and feel that light moving out and coming in. Feel your belly ballooning out and in. You are a wonderful, loving child. I love you and the world loves you. Slowly roll to your side, respecting the warm, loving, relaxed feeling you’ve created, and open your eyes.”

1 comment:

  1. I have been practicing simple and effective modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’ and teaching them to adults and children.
    To better anchor the mind on breathing without wandering as it loves to do, I developed some modes using the fingers as props. One such mode useful any time for all ages, to calm the mind and relax the body is described below.

    TIP MODE: Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Breathe in and out three times normally, counting in the mind, every time you breathe out. During the first out-breath, count ‘one’, second out-breath ‘two’, third out-breath ‘three’. Repeat the 3 breaths, at each of the next 3 finger tips. When you are at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and breathe 3 times. Now switch to the other hand and repeat the same practice. Continue practicing switching the hands. (Works for Preschool children also at bed time and any other time)

    This web page explains all the six modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’, when to practice them 16/7 and testimonials from all age groups offering several benefits for the mind and body http://countingbreaths.com/fob/.

    Practitioners reported relief from problems like - Anger, Anxiety, Asthma, Lack of concentration, Chronic pains of Arthritis & Fibromyalgia, Difficult relationships, Grief, Hypertension, Job stress, Migraine, Obesity, Panic attacks, Smoking, Stuttering, Worry….etc . Detailed reports can be seen in this page - http://countingbreaths.com/fob/benefits

    After I practiced this technique for a few years, I had enough concentration to practice sitting meditation for extended periods with benefits I never even dreamed! Now I feel like I got a new mind and new body

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