All posts by Tracy Daniel

Tracy is a trained yoga professional, certified in both hatha and kundalini yoga. She is certified in yoga levels 1-3 from the world-renowned Radiant Child Yoga (RYC) program. She is also certified in brain gym.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Relaxation Training Quickly Calms the Body and the Mind

Applied relaxation training brings together a number of evidence-based relaxation techniques. The combined effect of these techniques helps reverse the effects of stress quickly and powerfully. Mindful Child Aerial Yoga classes incorporate a variety of research-backed relaxation exercises to help children calm themselves, when they encounter a stressful situation. For this blog, we will focus on one of our favorites, progressive muscle relaxation.

What is Progressive Relaxation Training?

The technique of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) was developed by Jacobson in 1944. Yes, it has been around a LONG time. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) consists of tensing and relaxing individual muscle groups. It helps children to develop body awareness and teaches them how to release muscle tension. When your child practices PMR exercises, they may start from the top of the body and progress to the bottom, or vice versa depending on the exercise. Progressing through muscle groups sequentially makes it easier for children to follow along.

What are the Benefits?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation helps your child recognize the difference between tension and relaxation in each of the major muscle groups. This relaxation technique develops body awareness and has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain.

What does the Research Say?

  • After a 12-week relaxation program, researchers observed significant decreases in young athletes confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, and anger scores. (Hashim, Hanafi, & Yusof, 2011).
  • Thayer, Newman, and McClain (1994) found exercise to be the most effective mood-regulating behavior. However, their research discovered the best strategy to change a bad mood is a combination of relaxation, stress management, cognitive, and exercise techniques. Hmmm…sounds like our aerial yoga classes.
  • Lupen and associates (1976) studied the effect of PMR on hyperactive children. Significant improvements were noted in behavior, attention, concentration, and cognition. Frequency of practice was positively linked with improvement. This means the more the children practiced the more they improved.

Kid’s Aerial Yoga and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

At Mindful Child, we incorporate PMR into our ending relaxation story. We do this in our mindfulness therapeutic sessions and in our aerial yoga classes. PMR is introduced in the aerial hammock, which adds an element of fun to the exercises. PMR does not have to be taught in an aerial yoga hammock to reduce stress, all that is needed is a quiet environment and a comfortable position.

References

Hashim, H. A., & Hanafi Ahmad Yusof, H. (2011). The effects of progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic relaxation on young soccer players’ mood states. Asian journal of sports medicine2(2), 99–105. doi:10.5812/asjsm.34786

Lehrer PM. Varieties of relaxation methods and their unique effects. Int J Stress Manage. 1996;3:1–14. [Google Scholar]

Thayer RE, Newman R, McClain TM. Self-regulation of mood: strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994;67:910–25. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Lupen, M., Braud, L., Braud, W, & Derer, W. (1976). Children, parents, and relaxation tapes. Academic Therapy, 12, 105-113

Aerial Yoga Hammock Tips For Home Use

Is your child hooked on our amazing aerial yoga classes?  Are they begging for their own aerial yoga hammock for home use?   If so, this is the blog for you!

Why Buy An Aerial Yoga Hammock?

Aerial yoga gives children the feeling of safe, weightless flight. Participation in an aerial yoga class has a wide range of benefits for children of all ages, such as cognitive, neurological, motor, and developmental.

There are multiple therapeutic and sensory benefits associated with aerial yoga.   Not only is your child having fun, they are strengthening all aspects of their health. Yoga in the aerial hammocks is a great tool to regulate the central nervous system, increase body awareness, and help children become aware of their own social and emotional needs so they can self-regulate their behavior.

What type of aerial yoga hammock is best for my child?

Aerial hammocks are available in single or double point.  Preference is typically individualized as each type of hammock has it’s advantages.

At Mindful Child, we have specially designed our Mindful Child hammocks to move easily from a single point to a double point depending on what poses we are doing. This way we can have the best of both worlds!

Single Point Hammock. The single point allows for lots of spinning and hours of fun and is better suited for children who like fluid movement and spinning.

Double Point Hammock. The double point allows for more stability.  There is a gentle rocking motion, but you do not spin.  The double point is easier to swing in and sway side-to-side.

Swivel. Rotational devices or Swivels are not necessary for Aerial Yoga Hammocks, but they do allow an additional spinning component to single point hammock use.  Swivels also decrease the force placed on the attachment point.

Mindful Child Aerial Yoga uses swivels, while performing single point poses, to allow versatility with hammock use, full movement in all planes, decreased twisting of hammock straps, smoothness with movement and extra fun!   Most kids love how the swivel adds a sense of flow to movement in the hammock and allows a spinning component, but some kids and adults can be overwhelmed by spinning, which can lead to nausea.

Where Should I Buy An Aerial Yoga Hammock?

Not all hammocks are created equal and do not move the same.  We recommend buying hammocks from Mindful Child Aerial Yoga.  Sorry, we are a little bit biased.  Our hammocks are made from the best aerial fabric on the market.  They are strong, soft, and easy to clean!  Mindful Child  fabric has been safety tested to 2,000 pounds.  These aerial hammocks are machine washable and can be placed in the dryer, which is important if you want to kill viruses lurking on the material.

When buying equipment or a hammock make sure you use only high quality, safety rated equipment.  We use Black Diamond safety rated climbing gear.  REI and MooseJaw also provide safety tested equipment.

How Do I Rig A Hammock at Home?

Ceilings vary, which makes it difficult to give advice on how to hang hammocks.  Safety should never be comprised to save a few dollars.  It’s important to have the hammock installed by a licensed contractor that understands aerial rigging.  All hammocks need a strong support beam, a six foot diameter, and padded flooring beneath the hammock.

Once your hammock is installed be prepared for reduced stress, improved happiness and hours spent moving, creating and playing!

 

Four Ways to Reduce ADHD Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex disorder that can affect individuals across the lifespan. In recent years, ADHD has been on the rise in children. Neuroscience has shown us that Dopamine, a neurotransmitter important in mood regulation, is lower in the brains of children with ADHD. Additionally, the brains of individuals with ADHD are structurally different with reduced volume in regions responsible for focus and attention such as the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.

The good news is…

The good news is the brain has neuroplasticity, which means that it can grow and change with stimulation and the right nutrient intake.

Enhance your child’s well-being using these strategies:

  1. Limit processed foods. Children should eat real, whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds.  Whole foods are full of nutrients that your child’s brain and body needs to function correctly.  A whole food diet can aid in neurotransmitter production, cognition, and enhance health.  You do not need to eliminate all packaged and processed foods, but significantly reducing processed foods is the best thing you can do for your child’s health.
  2. Reduce sugar intake. Sugar is harmful to all kids, but it is especially harmful to those with ADHD. Research has found that sugar can dysregulate levels of dopamine, which are already lower in children with ADHD. Added sugar, that is processed and doesn’t occur naturally in whole foods such as fruits, is harmful to the brain and body. One can of soda contains 10 teaspoons or more of added sugar, which is more than the daily minimum, not to mention the other harmful artificial ingredients such corn syrup.
  3. Load up on healthy fats. Healthy fats are good for the brain and nervous system because both, are mostly made up of fats. Omega-3s are an example of healthy fats that reduce inflammation. Healthy fats can be found in nuts, salmon, and avocados. These fats keep your child’s brain healthy by helping neurotransmitters function properly.
  4. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps dopamine functioning. It is not only important for physical health, but mental health as well. Movement promotes the release of “feel good chemicals” such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Our favorite form of exercise is aerial yoga. Other forms of exercise such as running, biking, swimming and karate are also good for the brain and body.
  5. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose. When your child practices mindfulness it trains their brain to slow down and focus.

In Summary,

If your child has ADHD, you can reduce symptoms naturally by exercising regularly, eating healthy fats, reducing sugar, practicing mindfulness, and limiting processed foods.

References

Schnoll R, Burshteyn D, Cea-Aravena J. Nutrition in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a neglected but important aspect. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2003;28:63–75. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Kim WK, Cho S. Sugar and cognitive performance. Korean J Nutr. 2007;40(Suppl):50–65. [Google Scholar]

Christiansen, L., Beck, M. M., Bilenberg, N., Wienecke, J., Astrup, A., & Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2019). Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Children and Adolescents with ADHD: Potential Mechanisms and Evidence-based Recommendations. Journal of clinical medicine8(6), 841. doi:10.3390/jcm8060841

Gratitude Journal

This week our camp theme was gratitude. At Camp Gratitude we made mini gratitude journals. When children think of things they are grateful for it activates the calming part of the nervous system. This helps children to feel not only calmer, but happier. With school getting ready to start, now is a perfect time to make the gratitude journal a healthy habit. Every morning, before school, have your child write or draw one thing he is grateful for in a journal or on the bathroom mirror. What a great way for a child to start, not only their day, but their new school year!

Here are a few prompts to get you started. Ask her to write or draw about:

  • A person you appreciate.
  • A place that makes you happy.
  • An item you love (e.g., backpack, waffles, bike).
  • A skill or ability you are awesome at.
  • A person who makes you laugh.
  • Your favorite song.
  • Something that you accomplished that made you feel good.
  • A sport or hobby you enjoy.
  • A pet you love.
  • A teacher who showed you kindness.

Benefits

Learning to be grateful helps children to develop executive function skills, which are higher level cognitive skills needed to self-regulate. Being grateful increases mindfulness and compassion for others. Being grateful can shift your child’s mood and enhance her overall well-being.

What to Say

  • Did you know that practicing being grateful can make you feel happier and healthier?
  • Each morning think of one thing you are grateful for and write or draw it.
  • Notice how you feel.

Check out our mini gratitude journal from Camp Gratitude.

Want to learn more ways to help children be grateful?  Sign up for  Mindful Child Teacher Training or buy my book, Mindfulness for Children.

Daniel, T., Mindfulness for Children. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2018

Health Benefits of Summer Camps

Kid’s today face daily stresses on the mind and body. Summer camps are a great way for kids to unplug from technology, reduce stress and enhance physical and mental health. Way to go summer camps!

Here are some of the recognized benefits that our yoga + mindfulness summer camps can provide your child:

  • Boosts Brain Power! Science tells us yoga and mindfulness can promote healthy brain development and boost resilience.
  • Builds Life Skills. Yoga and mindfulness helps children learn self-control, kindness, gratitude, patience, and other important life skills.
  • Cultivates Learning. Children need to move to learn. Cross-lateral movements integrate both sides of the brain, which enhances learning.
  • Reduces Stress. Mindfulness teaches kids to be less reactive to daily stressors. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is quick way to calm the nervous system. The best part is kids can do it anytime and anywhere.
  • Promotes Strength and Flexibility. All of your child’s bodily systems are supported by movement. Yoga strengthens and stretches your child’s entire body.
  • Inspires Happiness. Research tells us a consistent yoga and mindfulness practice produces GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that plays in an important part in your child’s mental health. Increased GABA leads to feelings of relaxation and happiness. Yay GABA!

This blog focuses on the benefits of our Mindful Child camps, but camps, in general, are a wonderful way to promote health and reduce screen time. Regardless of the camp you choose, most summer camps have many character building experiences and offer exercises that build confidence and self-esteem. They are also a great way to explore different hobbies without a long term commitment.

Boat Pose

Pretending to be a boat is an amazing way for your child to build strength and stamina. When you add rowing and singing, your child’s brain is being stimulated, too. Want more of a challenge? Add a partner!

What are the Benefits?

Boat Pose strengthens the core, which is fundamental to all movement and to learning, because children will begin sitting up straight at their desks instead of slumping. It stretches the hamstrings and improves digestion. Not to mention that it is also fun to do!

What to Say

  • Did you know your core or tummy muscles are what help you sit up tall so you can learn? We are going to make those muscles strong by making our bodies into boats.
  • Sit with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands underneath your knees. Lift your feet off the floor, like the prow of a boat. Let go of your knees and hold out your arms alongside your knees. Lean backward a bit to find your balance.
  • As you imagine your boat gliding down the stream, place your palms together in front of your heart. Be a peaceful, mindful boat. Close your eyes. What do you feel?

Mindfulness Challenge

For an extra challenge, make it a partner pose. Partner boat is great for enhancing social skills and teamwork. If partners don’t work together to create a strong boat it will sink!

Mindfulness Variation

For young children or children with special needs, play a recording or sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Tell the children, “As you sing, paddle your boat down the stream by bringing your arms to one side and then the other. Sing the song as many times as you can!”

Want to learn more? Join us this summer for our mindful child yoga teacher training!

Do It Yourself Shuffle Bubbles

Shuffle Bubbles are bubbles made from a solution that is stronger than typical bubble solution so it doesn’t pop as easily! Children can actually catch and pass the bubbles. Parents can make the solution using the recipe below or buy an inexpensive Shuffle Bubble set online. Shuffle Bubbles is also a good lesson in self-control. Children love popping bubbles, but in Shuffle Bubble we want the bubbles to last as long as possible, so they must demonstrate impulse control and not pop the bubbles.

Bubble Materials

  • Bubble Catching Gloves
  • 1 cup Dish Soap (Dawn Original Dish Soap works best for bubbles)
  • 1/4 Cup Glycerin Oil (can buy this at Amazon or Hobby Lobby)
  • 2 Tablespoons White Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 Cup Bubble Solution

Bubble Blower Materials

How to Make a Bubble Blower

  • Bunch up five straws.
  • Hold them tightly.
  • Wrap decorative tape around the straws at the top, middle, and bottom.

Benefits

Blowing bubbles helps children relax. Catching the bubbles and shuffling them to a friend increases focus, social skills, and enhances cooperative play. Shuffle Bubbles develops executive functioning skills, which help children to self-regulate and show self-control

What to Say

We are going to wear magic bubble-catching gloves so that we can catch bubbles. Remember the goal is to catch the bubble, not to pop it. Let’s take three deep Balloon Breaths before we get started.

Slowly and mindfully blow a bubble. Catch the bubble in your hand and shuffle it to a friend. Be mindful when handling the bubbles because they will pop if you aren’t very gentle with them. Now let’s see how many times we can bounce the bubble back and forth before it pops.

Mindfulness Challenge

For an extra mindfulness challenge build a bubble tower in your hand! Hold your gloved hand out in front of you. Position your bubble blower so your hand is below it. Slowly let the bubbles drop onto your gloved hand. TADA! Behold your bubble tower.


Curious George Yoga

Books are a great way to teach children yoga and mindfulness. Children love Curious George because he is always on the move and getting into mischief. Read a short story such as Curious George by H.A. Rey and infuse it with yoga, breath work, and mindfulness. At the end of the story give your child a “pop quiz” on the content. Have them show you the yoga poses, breath work, and mindfulness activities they remember, as they explain what happened in the story. 

For inspiration, here is a list of ideas from my book, Mindfulness for Children, to incorporate into Curious George:

  • Butterfly Breath (page 4)
  • Fruit Roll-Up (page 10)
  • Boat Pose (page 12)
  • Eagle Pose (page 16)
  • Fish Pose (page 22)
  • Cross Crawls (page 22)
  • Mummy Pose with Counting Breath (page 28)
  • Child’s Pose (page 38)
  • Cat/Cow Pose (page 42)
  • Balloon Breath (page 44)
  • Down Dog (page 44)
  • Tree Pose (page 54)
  • Lion’s Pose/Breath (page 54)

What are the Benefits?

Curious George Yoga enhances creativity, focus, and attention. It builds working memory and concentration, development of logic, and mindfulness. Reading Curious and doing the above poses promotes yoga pose practice and review. 

What to Say.

We are going to read a story about Curious George.  Curious George is always very curious and sometimes it is hard for him to stay out of trouble.  As we read the story we will engage in mindfulness and movement activities.  Sit up tall in Easy Seated Pose.  Ready?  Let’s begin.

Brain Challenge

After children have reenacted the story have them take it a step further by asking them what they think happened after the story.  Have your child show you what happened next with movement, breath, and mindfulness.

Mindful Nature Walk

What is Mindful Nature Walk?

Nature Walk is taking a walk with your child; however, he pretends he is walking in the wilderness. While on the walk your child will notice all the wildlife on the walk. The goal is to notice as many details about the birds, insects and other animals as they can. Giving your child a magnifying glass or binoculars really allows them to see bugs and birds up close and notice details they may have missed in the past.

What are the Benefits?

Nature Walk builds visual memory and visual observation skills. It helps children focus their attention and concentrate.Wildlife walk promotes mindful awareness and mindful movement.

What to Say.

  • Let’s go on a wildlife walk! As we walk through the wilderness we want to remain quiet and mindful. We will walk slowly so we don’t miss anything.
  • Turn your senses on high and notice all the birds, bugs and wildlife that you can. Remember we are always kind to our environment. Just notice the wildlife, don’t interact with it.
  • Use your magnifying glass or binoculars to watch the wildlife in silence and notice what it sounds like, how it moves, and what colors you see.
  • Afterward we will draw what we’ve observed so really pay attention and watch all the insects, animals, and birds that you find. Reflect on the Wildlife Walk by asking, “Was it hard to focus on just one thing? Which details were easier to remember? Did you notice something that you haven’t noticed before? What helped you keep your focus?”

Mindfulness Challenge

For older children, search for objects in nature to explore as well. Have them notice what it looks like, smells like, how it feels, and if it makes a sound. Ask them to remember as many details as possible. When you return from the walk ask your child to write down all the details they remember and reflect on the experience. Discuss ways mindful seeing connects to real life. You may ask, “How does mindful seeing help someone who has seen an accident? How does being mindful help you at school? What are jobs that require mindful seeing and memory skills?”

Want to learn more? Join us for our kid’s yoga and mindfulness teacher training this summer!

Reduce Stress with Spaghetti Body

What is Spaghetti Body?

Spaghetti Body is a relaxation technique known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation . Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups. In this activity, kids tense and relax muscles while pretending to be uncooked and cooked spaghetti.

What are the benefits?

Spaghetti Body teaches children how to relax their muscles when they are tight. Research shows progressive muscle relaxation can reduce anxiety and stress. Additionally, Spaghetti Body helps improve attention, mindful awareness, concentration, and self-concept.

How to practice Spaghetti Body at home:

  • Make you body straight and tight like a piece of uncooked spaghetti. Glue everything together and squeeze.
  • Breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Your belly should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out.
  • Notice how you feel. This is what happens to your body when you are mad or nervous.
  • Imagine that your uncooked spaghetti noodle is being placed in a pan of hot water. The noodle is wet and it begins so soften.
  • Breathe in as you curl your toes in and scrunch your feet. Hold for one, two, three. Breathe out as you start to wiggle your toes and let your feet begin to soften just like a wet, warm, noodle. Wet noodles are relaxed and wiggly – not tight and stiff.
  • As you breath in tighten your legs. One, two, three. As you breathe out start to wiggle your legs and let them relax.
  • Take a deep breath in and make your hands into tight fists and your arms straight and tight. Hold for one, two, three, now let all the air out as you relax your fingers and arms into a wet wiggly noodle.
  • Take a deep breath in as you bring your shoulders up by your ears. Scrunch your shoulders. One, two, three. Breathe out as you let your shoulders begin to soften and relax down your back.
  • Close your eyes and scrunch up your entire face. Breathe in. One, two three, release your breath and let your face relax.
  • I like to squeeze a fresh lemon on cooked spaghetti noodles. If you would like lemon squeezed on your noodle raise your hand I will put a cotton ball with lemon essential oil in it.
  • Ta-da – you are a cooked spaghetti noodle! Scan your noodle to make sure all the tightness is gone. Let your body feel relaxed and calm. Breathe in and out through your nose slowly. Notice how you feel.

At Mindful Child, we like to pair Spaghetti Body with Spaghetti Pose, which is an activity from Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Kids, by Dr. Tracy. This adds extra benefits such as deep breathing, tactile discrimination, and flexibility.

If you’d like to learn more activities for home or the classroom sign up for the Mindful Child Teacher Training and become a kid’s yoga teacher!