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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.

Splish Splash, Put Magnesium In The Bath

Magnesium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and peas.  Dietary intake of magnesium is low in the Western diet.  Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions.  This means children need magnesium for optimal brain functioning.

Magnesium may be depleted from the body during stress; therefore, children dealing with chronic stress may be at-risk for a magnesium deficiency. Signs of magnesium deficiency include: anxiety, muscle spasms, constipation, and insomnia. Additionally, Werbach (1991) asserts magnesium has been linked to aggressive behavior.  An excess or deficiency may result in aggressive behavior.  This is hypothesized to be due to magnesium being a cofactor in the activity of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are neurotransmitters, which means they are brain chemicals that regulate mood and sleep.

Magnesium is easy and inexpensive to supplement.  Magnesium may be added to the bath and absorbed through the skin. Consequently, pouring a cup of lavender scented epsom salt in your child’s bath at bedtime is a fantastic way to supplement magnesium.  The combination of magnesium and lavender may improve sleep, especially when combined with calcium. Rub a dub, your child will be relaxing in the tub. Long about a Saturday night, yeah!

Reference

Werbach, M.R. (1991).  Nutritional Influences on Mental Illness, (2nd ed.). Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press.

Introducing JuicePlus +

Food as Medicine, Introducing Juice Plus+

For over 1,000-years it has been established that psychological functioning may be associated with nutritional deficiencies. Yes, seriously, 1,000-years! In Greece, 2,500-years ago Hippocrates described food as medicine. The body and mind are interrelated and good health maintained by an adequate intake of essential nutrients is linked with good mental health.  Consequently, anything that affects the body will affect mind. So the yummy happy meal your child just consumed will not result in a happy affect, but just the opposite! Ironic, right?

Making sure children maintain a healthy diet can be challenging.  Current data from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) on micronutrient intake in children found deficit intakes of nearly all minerals and vitamins. How do busy families insure their children’s nutritional needs are met?  By incorporating the next best thing to fruits and vegetables, Juice Plus+, in their diets!

Juice Plus+ is whole food based nutrition with juice powder concentrates from 25 different fruits, vegetables, berries, and grains.  Juice Plus+ helps busy families insure their children eat the essential micronutrients needed for optimal brain functioning.

Juice Plus+ is backed by research from more than 20 prestigious medical and scientific journals. So put down the hoe, there is no need for a garden, simply click on my Juice Plus+ links below and decide for yourself.

Juice Plus Links

juiceplus.com

towergarden.com

Cariboo Yoga

Cariboo Yoga for Children with Autism

Children LOVE to play Cranium Cariboo.

Teaching yoga to children with autism often requires visual props.  Cariboo Yoga is a fantastic way to incorporate visual supports and take the child on a magical treasure hunt.

Cariboo Yoga for Children with Autism

Before starting the game, I read a simple social story that describes the rules and the number of breaths each pose will be held.  (Unsure how to write a social story? Check out this article.)

I choose 15 poses that I want the child to learn.

  • The child must perform each pose for a specified number of breaths, starting with 5 and working up to 10 breaths.
  • I count the breaths out loud with each pose.
  • Before the child can unlock the door to see if a treasure ball is hidden inside, he or she must do the pose with me. While holding the yoga pose, I state the name of the pose several times so the name is associated with the pose. For example, if we are in down dog, I say statements such as “I’m a happy dog.” or Let’s wag our dog tails.”
  • I constantly repeat the name of the pose.
  • Once the child feels comfortable and knows the names of the poses you can slowly integrate flowing between poses and fade the game out.

This is a great way to not only build rapport, but strength, flexibility, and working memory.  Put in a great sea faring playlist and have a good time. After all a pirate’s life is a happy life.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me!

Fish Oil, Really?

When fish oil is typed into a search engine phrases, including curbs Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms, is the key to unlocking the ADHD brain, and is more effective than Ritalin appear.  But does fish oil really improve attention?  Unlock the brain? Improve autism symptoms?

This is what can be conclusively said about omega-3 fatty acids.  Children with ADHD and autism have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood.  This is believed to be due to an inability to metabolize and absorb some micronutrients. Cognitive and neural growth depends on omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are often lacking in the child’s diet.  A deficit of omega-3 fatty acids may result in not only atypical behaviors, but chronic health problems as well.  When there is an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats the body has increased inflammation and it changes the balance of fats available to the brain and nervous system, which hinders the child’s brain function.  Recent evidence demonstrates that this imbalance may be associated with a variety of physical and mental health disorders, such as ADHD and autism (Montgomery et al., 2013).

So yes, while it may not entirely unlock the brain.  Fish oil can supplement psychotropic drugs and improve brain functioning in children with a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids.  No need for a fishing pole, just head to a reputable source such as Whole Foods.  After all who wants to take rancid fish oil high in mercury? Happy fishing.

Reference

Montgomery, P., Burton, J. R., Sewell, R. P., Spreckelsen, T. F., & Richardson, A. J. (2013). Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behavior: A cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study. PLoS One, 8(6) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066697

Autism and Yoga presentation

Yoga Reduces Core Features of Autism

April is autism awareness month. What better way to spread awareness than sharing great research? I recently presented at the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) conference in Boston, Massachusetts on yoga as a treatment for autism. I was shocked by the warm reception and positive feedback. After all don’t most psychologists prefer to write on clipboards instead of hanging upside down pretending to be a dog?

Recent research has linked yoga with reducing symptoms related to autism. Rosenblatt et al. (2011) conducted a study with twenty-four children aged 3-16 to determine the efficacy of a relaxation response based-yoga program for eight-weeks. All participants had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers found yoga improved behavioral and some core features of autism. The improvements are hypothesized to be due to yoga’s ability to target unique sensory symptoms found in children with autism spectrum disorder. Yoga incorporates the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems through movement and holding poses, which, in turn, calms overactive central nervous systems. Even though additional studies are needed to conclusively provide evidence of efficacy, research is predominately positive regarding yoga as an adjunct treatment modality for autism.

This is OM-azing news to aide in the treatment of autism! So look for a qualified instructor who has worked with children with autism and release your inner down dog. Namaste.

Reference

Rosenblatt, L., Gorantla, S., Torres, J., Yarmush, R., Rao, S., Park, E., Denninger, J., Benson, H., Fricchione, G.,  Bernstein, B., & Levine. J., (2011). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 17(11): 1029-1035. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0834.

Key Terms

Proprioceptive and Vestibular: These hidden senses give children perceptions of movement and speed, pressure on joints and muscles, and position of our bodies.

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children