Dead Bug to De-Stress

Mother with the baby doing exercises over white

Dead bug is a fun yoga pose with multiple benefits. I use dead bug as a wake-up exercise following relaxation. It’s an easy transition since the children are already lying on their backs. Dead bug can also be called octopus or jelly fish and is a great pose to incorporate into an ocean sequence.

BENEFITS

  • Balances brain hemispheres
  • Calms and restores the central nervous system
  • Strengthens the core

HOW TO BE A DEAD BUG

Lie on your back. Lift up arms and legs. Lengthen your arms and legs to build core strength. Breath in and out while making your arms float slowly back and forth making “X’s” in the air.  This locomotor movement crosses the brain and bodies midlines, which balances and organizes the brain’s hemispheres.

BONDING AS A BUG

Dead bug can also be done as a partner pose with toddlers. Parents, lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your child on their stomach on your legs. Hold their hands and sway your feet slowly back and forth. Remember to breathe in and out as you move.

Lying on the floor waving limbs in the air never gets old. It is a great way to de-stress children of all ages.  Try it…

Mindfulness Quiets The Mind

Casa Somerset Yoga-30

I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ — the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

Mindfulness is characterized by stopping, paying attention on purpose, peace, and compassion   Mindfulness is a way of looking at experiences with emotional balance and compassion for self and others.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Mindfulness gives the individual a way to deal with negative experiences. More intimate connections with others are accomplished and regrets are not focused on. Mindfulness enhances physical health by decreasing stress, blood pressure, pain, and improving the quality of sleep. Mindfulness can supplement mental health treatments by improving symptoms related to depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Siegel (1999) reports that the structures and functions of are brain are molded by interpersonal experiences. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve neural growth in the brain. The more you engage in an activity the better the body will become at doing it due to this neural growth; therefore, it is important to engage in mindfulness daily.

Stress comes from contemplating about the past or worrying about the future. Living your life in the current moment and focusing your attention on the activity you are doing at the moment does not leave space for other things to invade your thoughts, such as fears, worries or anything that may be stressful. When meditating, your attention is on the meditation object, which may be your breath or mantra. This focus allows your mind to quiet and to be fully present in the moment. Performing activities such as schoolwork with mindfulness leads to improved outcomes. Not only is stress and worry decreased, focus is improved.

 HOW DO I TEACH IT TO MY CHILD?

Teaching children mindfulness can be tricky. After all the art of doing nothing is hard to learn in our frantic society.  A simple way to demonstrate mindfulness to children is to show them how to check in with their breath. Props such as stuffed animals or hoberman spheres can be used.  Children love to pretend the props are riding the breath on their tummies. Also, there are several books that introduce mindfulness. One of my favorites is “Peaceful Piggy Meditation. ” So spend a few minutes at the end of the day being mindful, and before you know it you will have a mindful child.

References

Boyce, B. (n.d.). The secret of success for MBSR. Retrieved from http://mindful.org/in-body-and-mind/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction/the-secret-of-success-for-mbsr

Helpguide.org. (n.d.). Cultivating mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/mindfulness.htm

Siegel, D. J. (n.d.). The science of mindfulness. Retrieved from http://mindful.org/the-science/medicine/the-science-of-mindfulness

Siegel, D. J. (1999). The Developing Mind. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

 

Eight Essential Oils That Reduce Anxiety

lavender essence

The medicinal use of essential oils can be traced to ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures. Aromatherapy is taught in French medical schools and prescribed by European physicians; however, doctors in the United States typically don’t prescribe or use them. Hmmm…

The sense of smell is linked to daily functions such as relaxation, attention, performance, and alertness and these states may be achieved purposefully with different aromas (Butje, Repede, & Shattell, 2008). Lavender, my favorite, has been linked with parasympathetic stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. Whoa, sorry, I’m starting to sound like a medical journal. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us stay calm and relaxed. Thus, research has associated lavender with decreased anxiety, enhanced mood, and increased sedation.

Peppermint and rosemary have been linked with improved memory and cognition. Lavender and rosemary have been shown to significantly reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that wreaks havoc on the body. This suggests a protective effect that is anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-carcinogenic (Butje, Repede, & Shattell)! Amazing.

Essential oils may be applied in multiple ways; however, the most effective route for reducing anxiety and slowing an overactive mind is inhalation.

Oils used by aromatherapists to decrease anxiety, enhance mood, and reduce stress include (d’Angelo, 2002; Lis-Balchin, 2006):

Lavender.
Lemon.
Clary sage.
Roman chamomile.
Geranium.
Rose otto.
Sandalwood.
Jasmine.

Oils that are synthetic and called fragrance or perfume oils will not offer the therapeutic effects pure plant-extracted oils will and should be avoided. Oils need to be bought from a reputable source and no, Walmart, is not a reputable source. I order my essential oils from Young Living and use one of their diffusers in my therapy room. I’m impressed with their seed to seal process.

Like all medicinal products, it’s important to research oils before using them. Essential oils can be toxic, produce side effects and/or cause allergic reactions. Effective use requires knowledge to safely administer oils.

References

Butje, A., L.M.T., Repede, Elizabeth, MS, APRN-BC,F.N.P., C.M.H., & Shattell, Mona M,PhD., R.N. (2008). Healing scents: An overview of clinical aromatherapy for emotional distress. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 46(10), 46-52.

d’Angelo, R. (2002). Aromatherapy. In S. Shannon (Ed.), Handbook of complementary and alternative therapies in mental health (pp. 71-92). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Lis-Balchin, M. (2006). Aromatherapy science: A guide for healthcare professionals. London, United Kingdom: Pharmaceutical Press.

EMPowerplus To Improve Mental Health

apple

Research has shown that adding vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron, and omega-3 supplements to the diets of children with ADHD, depression, and autism, improved their social emotional functioning (Kaplan, Fisher, Crawford, Field, & Kolb, 2004; Shaw, Rucklidge, & Hughes, 2010).  Wait, say what?  How does that work?  Vitamins and minerals are precursors to neurotransmitters ( (brain chemicals that transmit information throughout our body and brain).  If our body is deficient in vitamins and minerals it can’t make neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters regulate our moods so not having enough can affect our mental health.

This is great information, but children won’t always eat their fruits and vegetables. Also, some children prefer a “sameness” of food items that limits their nutrient intake. This is where EMPowerplus can help. EMPowerplus contains 14 vitamins, 3 amino acids, 16 minerals, and 3 antioxidants and has been proven to improve psychological symptoms. And no, I do not work for EMPowerplus, I have just read the research.

The EMPowerplus website lists a multitude of research studies supporting it’s use for different disorders. Since not everyone enjoys reading scholarly research I’ve summarized a couple of the studies for you.

Kaplan et al. (2004) reduced psychiatric symptoms in children with behavioral disorders by introducing EMPowerplus for eight weeks. Six out the eleven children given the broad-based nutrient formula showed significant improvements. The findings of the study demonstrated improvement on attention, anxiety, delinquency, mood, and aggression. However, it should be noted that the sample size was small and parents gave ratings on all the outcome measures.

Rucklidge, Gately, and Kaplan (2010) found similar significant improvements in 120 children (7-18) with both pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) and ADHD, and an alternative sample of 41 children with just ADHD, who were given EMPowerplus for 6-months. The symptom decrease for the entire sample (120 children) was a 59% reduction on the symptom checklist. Wow, a 59% symptom reduction!

As with any supplement if your child is on a psychotropic medication do not stop taking it or start any supplement without first discussing it with your physician. Also, it is best to obtain vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. Supplementing should only be considered when your child will not eat a wide variety of whole foods. The two supplementation solutions that are backed by the most research are Juice Plus+, which is a whole food, not a supplement, and EMPowerplus. Finally, don’t expect results to occur right away vitamin and mineral deficiencies can take months to correct.

Reference

Kaplan, B. J., Fisher, J. E., Crawford, S. G., Field, C. J., & Kolb, B. (2004). Improved mood and behavior during treatment with a mineral-vitamin supplement: An open-label case series    of children. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 14(1), 115-22.

Rucklidge, J. J., Gately, D., & Kaplan, B. J. (2010). Database analysis of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder consuming a micronutrient formula. BMC Psychiatry, 10doi:10.1186/1471-244X-10-74

Shaw, I., Rucklidge, J. J., & Hughes, R. N. (2010). A Possible Biological Mechanism for the B Vitamins Altering Behaviour in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pharmaceutical Medicine, 24(5), 289-294.

 

 

Yoga To Improve Memory, You Betcha!

Meditating teenager

Yoga typically involves physical postures, breath control, and meditation. However, meditation can be hard, especially when offered in the traditional manner, which consists of remaining still and seated for a long period of time. OMMMMMMMM.

There is good new for those of us who find the traditional practice of meditation difficult. Researchers discovered that moving meditations are just as beneficial. Subramanya and Telles (2009) conducted research on a yoga practice that involved cycles of yoga postures and supine rest (lying with face up), which is referred to as cyclic mediation. This was compared to a simple meditation in corpse pose or shavasana. The cyclic meditation or moving meditation subjects demonstrated improved memory scores following the yoga practice and a decrease in state anxiety.

Similarly, researchers examined the relationship between yoga, relative to aerobic exercise and found that performance after yoga boosted accuracy and reduced reaction times on inhibition and working memory tests more so than aerobic exercise (Gothe, Pontifex, Hillman, & McAuley, 2013). It is hypothesized that this increase in cognition is due to yoga’s practice of combining specific postures with regulated breathing and meditation. The combination of these techniques initiates active attention or mindfulness, which is linked to increased cognition.

This is big news for children with ADHD and learning disabilities who struggle with working memory. Before starting homework or taking a test hit the yoga mat and jumpstart the brain. Actually, a mat isn’t even needed. A child can do simple seated poses while staying at their desk. Voila! Your child is set for success.

References

Subramanya P, Telles S. (2009). A review of the scientific studies on cyclic meditation. Int J Yoga, 2, 46-8

Gothe, N., Pontifex, M., Hillman, C., & McAuley, E. (2013). Acute effects of yoga on executive function. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10, 488-495

Want to Improve Your Child’s Learning and Focus? Drink This.

Children portrait

It s odorless, tasteless, and colorless, but makes up eighty percent of our body weight at birth. Need more hints? The brain has more of it than any other organ in the body with estimates as high as ninety percent. Last hint. It is essential to life.  Yep, you guessed it, the secret elixir is water.

Okay, we know it is an essential substance for life, but why learning? Our bodies are electrical systems. Water is essential for electrical transmissions, which distribute oxygen and nutrition (Hannaford, 2005). Electrical transmissions in the nervous system help children use their senses, learn, focus, and act.

Water is emphasized in Brain Gym, simple exercises that increase blood flow and aide in learning. Drinking water during school will help with learning and keep dehydration at bay during stressful situations such as presentations and tests.

Children should drink water and avoid drinks such as soda, fruit juice, and milk. These drinks have sugar and salt in them, which binds  water in the body, leaving less available for electrolyte levels in the nerves.

It is advised to start the day with a glass of water for digestive and liver support. Efforts should be made to keep children hydrated with at least 2 quarts of filtered water daily and more if they are in sports or very active. Try water with lemon or orange slices to give it a bit of flavor. Most importantly drink it yourself, children learn through modeling.

Reference

Hannaford, C. (2005). Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head. Salt Lake City, Utah: Great River Books

Try this for Breakfast to Boost Mental Health!

Spinach smoothie

Super Quick and Tasty Smoothie

Getting children to eat a healthy breakfast can be challenging. This green chocolate smoothie is loaded with nutrients and best of all it’s quite tasty!

Spinach is considered to be a super food, which means it is loaded with vitamins and trace minerals.   Research has shown children with ADHD and autism have deficient iron, magnesium, and zinc. Iron and magnesium are important for mood and sleep regulation. Good news is spinach is a great source of both iron and magnesium!

Apples are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. Vitamin C helps block damage from free radicals (damaged, problematic cells) and enhances the immune system. B-complex vitamins help keep us calm and are good for the nervous system.

Bananas are high in potassium and contain tryptophan. Tryptophan, an amino acid, improves mood and memory. Additionally, the London Imperial College found that children who ate a banana a day had a 34% less chance of developing asthma. Wow, improved mood, memory, and ability to breathe all by eating a banana!

Start your child’s day off right by giving them a green smoothie. Remember to buy organic to avoid pesticides. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, think of what an apple, spinach, and a banana can do!

INGREDIENTS

2 bananas, cut up and peeled

1 apple, cubed and cored

1 tablespoon flax seed

1/3 cup coconut water

2 tablespoons cacao powder

½ bunch spinach, rinsed and stems removed. If you have a Vitamix blender include the stems for extra health benefit.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add bananas and apples to the blender first.
  2. Next add spinach and flax seed, pushing it into the bananas and apples.
  3. Finally, add coconut water, cacao powder and a few ice cubes, blend.
  4. Optional. Drinking a thick smoothie is good for oral motor sensory input. To thicken do not add coconut water. Drink through a straw to maximize sensory input.

Reference:

Okoko, B., Burney, P., Newson, R., Potts, J., and Shaheen, O. (2007) Childhood asthma and fruit consumption. European Respiratory Journal, 29 (6), 1161-1168.

Mindful Child Wellness, LLC 2014, All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means: electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Be a Cobra to Relieve Stress

Casa Somerset Yoga-5

 COBRA

 Children love to slither on the floor and pretend to be snakes, but what parents do not realize is being a cobra has multiple benefits. Slithering around on the floor builds upper body strength and coordination.   Exhaling out a “hisssss” releases tension and coordinates breath with movement.

Cobra is a great pose for all children, including those with developmental delays, ADHD, and autism.  Cobra integrates the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, which is a primitive reflex that has a role in development.  This means it has an important therapeutic role.  So by all means have snake races with your children!  Not only are they  fun, but it’s an aiding in their development.

 BENEFITS

  • Relieves stress, tension, and fatigue
  • Strengthens back and spine
  • Integrates primitive reflexes
  • Opens chest and lungs

HOW TO BE A COBRA

Lay on your belly with your legs together. Put your hands under shoulders and elevate your head and chest. Exhale out a “hisssss” then lower down to rest in the grass. Try it again. This time move your head from side to side as you hiss. Try it a third time. This time slither forward only using your hands and arms to move (works best on slippery flooring). Teach cobra to your friends and have a race!

 SHOW  US

Post your best cobra on Mindful Child Wellness Facebook page for a chance to win the pose of the month contest. Ready…

Sensory-Based Space Yoga Sequence

Blast Off
Blast Off

Sensory-based Space Yoga Sequence

Ages 5-10

55 minutes

This is a great routine for children with sensory processing disorder.

Before starting the space adventure to the galaxy of calm. Have children put their mats in a circle. Start class with yoga rules, terms, and discussion of breathing through the nose.

Mountain Pose – Take a deep breath sweeping arms up as you inhale and slowly bring hands together at heart center while exhaling (Repeat x 3)

Climbing Space Ship Ladder. Cross crawls from Brain Gym – lift left leg and tap it with right hand. Now lift right leg and tap it with left hand. Cross crawls balance brain hemispheres and are great for neurological growth. If this is too difficult either help the child cross midline or have them tap right to right then left to left. Continue for 1 to 2 minutes.

Blast Off. Rev up the engine of the space ship – run in place and then sweep the arms wide while inhaling, as exhale bring the hands to the heart center and sit back in chair pose. Next, jump up as if blasting into outer space. Oh we didn’t quite make it – let’s rev our engines and try again. This time have children run to the back of their mats and then up to the front (Repeat x3)

Crescent Moon – We finally made it to outer space. Lets circle the moon. Inhale as lift the left hand toward the sky keeping right hand on thigh. Switch sides after 3 breaths.

Hello Mr. Sun (Sunshine stretch). Start in mountain or standing position, bend forward with arms hanging down. Shake head yes and no. Shaking the head relieves tension. Plant hands, take right foot back, then left foot for plank, pull elbows in and slowly lower to floor. Inhale as lie on belly with your hands on the floor under your shoulders. HISS on the exhale as you push up to cobra x3, tuck toes and push up to down dog, wag your tail, you’re a happy dog (Repeat entire stretch x3)

Space Suit – Bring hands overhead and interlace to make space helmet. Firmly plant right foot. Bring left foot up with knee bent. After finding balance have leg make figure 8’s in the air to insert it firmly in the space suit. Repeat on opposite leg.

Land on Saturn – Remain in standing position, plant feet with arms straight at sides twist from the waist to make Saturn’s rings.

Warrior II –The aliens are coming – Step back wide, with arms floating down to shoulder height, gaze out over front fingers, while keeping the front knee bent, make sure you can see your big toe.

Falling Stars (Moon flowers) Spread feet wide with toes out and heels in, as we come into a squat. On the inhale will shoot the stars (hands) up into space. On exhale, the stars (hands) will fall, draw elbows into ribs while in a squat. (10 breaths)

Warrior II – opposite side

Moon dust to hide from aliens (Sunflowers) Take a deep breath while sweeping arms up, slightly hinging while exhaling and moving arms toward the floor to pick up the space dust and throw it over our heads. (10 breaths)

Fold forward, step back to down dog, child’s pose – need a break to calm the nervous system after dealing with aliens, (5 breaths)

Star – Interlace hands on top of head elbows spread wide. Lets be a falling star, slowly bend forward.

Superman- lets fly through space with our rocket packs.

Rocket ship home – (camel) with palms of hands together to mimic a rocket ship.

Need to wash the space suit due to all the moon dust (Washer). Sit up tall in easy seated position, bend forward placing hands on the ground to put the suit in the washer, then place hands on shoulders and twist from waist with tail bone remaining planted. Make washer noises.

Dryer – Easy seated position , roll hands in front of chest and make drying noise.

Do a seated twist to squeeze out the remaining space dust.

Oh no! A meteor followed us home! Have children lay very still, eyes closed, on their stomachs, breathing deeply from the belly. Roll over children with exercise ball while slightly applying pressure. This provides proprioceptive input and is very calming. I play the “Star Wars” theme song during this time. Little boys love it!

Have class roll over to back for 1 minute and continue to breath deeply.

Wake up Sequence

 Meteor roll –grab behind knees and gently rock side to side.

Space stretch – pull knees into chest, then let fall to right, hands stretched out wide in T position. Repeat on opposite side.

Cricket – rub hands and soles of feet together to wake up nerve endings. Have children place hands over their eyes to feel the good energy created.

Space Juice (sesame or jojoba oil, lavender, tea tree oil) – Ask about allergies. Lavender is calming to the central nervous system. Have children sit with legs crossed and palms of hands facing up. Squirt space juice in their hands and have them rub their hands together. When everyone has space juice have class take a deep breath together while sweeping hands up, exhale while slowly lowering hands in front of nose. Inhale several times before dropping hands to heart center and ending with the magic yoga words – Namaste.

Pranayama practice – with the lights off have the class lay on their backs. Give each child a hoberman sphere that glows in the dark. Have children practice making their bellies get big on the inhale as they pull the sphere outward. On the exhale have them shrink the sphere. Do this for several breaths. Next have the children put the sphere on their bellies and see how many breaths they can keep the sphere on before it rolls off.

Yoga game

  • Musical mats – place mats in circle, take one mat away. Place yoga cards in front of the mats. When the music plays have children dance and walk in a circle, when the music stops they must find a mat and complete the yoga pose on the card on both sides. The child who didn’t find a mat becomes the yoga assistant and starts the music for another round. One of my favorite songs to use is “Hip Hop Yoga Bop.”

Snack

  • Make rocket ships out of popsicle sticks, watermelon (in triangle at top), and bananas (at bottom). Kids love them and they are easy to clean up.

 

 

 

Stop and Smell the Flowers, Lavender Calms the Mind

Essential oils reduce stress and calm the mind.

Aromas act directly on the brain through nerve receptors in the nose.  Millions of nerve cells in our nasal passageways send impulses to the hypothalamus and limbic area, which are the brain’s emotional centers. Aroma of certain oils is linked to the amygdala and pineal gland in the brain, which are also associated with emotion, thus it can help the mind and body by reducing emotional trauma.

Lavender is associated with relaxed brain waves.  Thus, when a child is upset, deep diaphragm breathing coupled with lavender, will have a calming affect on the central nervous system.  Research demonstrates breathing exercises have been successful in reducing anxiety related to attachment disorder, agoraphobia or general anxiety disorder.

Children often need visual reminders to breathe, especially when they are upset.  I make bracelets with lavender scented flowers.  When the child is upset and breathing shallowly, I provide the cue, “Stop and smell the flowers.”  Nine deep breaths are needed to calm the central nervous system.

Additionally, I use essential oils when teaching kid’s yoga and mindfulness. When mixing essential oils, always use oils that are pure and from a respectable source, such as Young Living.  Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil such as sesame or olive oil in a specific ratio. So if you can’t find a flower to smell, make one.

References

Di Ciacco, J. A. (2008). The colors of grief: Understanding a child’s journey through loss from birth to adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Overholser, J.C. (2000). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of panic disorder. Psychotherapy, 37, 247-256.

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children