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Category Archives: Stress

5 Ways Mindful Aerial Yoga Improves Your Mental Health

Mindful aerial yoga decreases stress, increases happiness, and enhances focus.

If you think you are frazzled by over commitments, multi-tasking, and digital-age stress, imagine how your children must feel. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), teens are the most stressed out demographic in the United States.  Fortunately, teens and children are drawn to mindful aerial yoga and can reap a multitude of benefits from a consistent practice, especially when mindfulness is added in. Hmmm…I wonder what Kansas City aerial yoga studio is known for combining aerial yoga and mindfulness…

Here are some of the recognized benefits that mindful aerial yoga can provide for you and your child’s mental health:

  • Aerial yoga decreases stress. Research on the biological effects of meditation and yoga found that individuals that practiced mind-body activities, such as aerial yoga, had decreased inflammation in the body.  Even just 10 minutes of mindful aerial yoga can decrease stress and be beneficial to you and your child’s health.
  • Aerial yoga makes you happier. Aerial yoga releases “happy hormones.” Happy hormones are neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that play a major role in mood regulation. Science has found that the practice of activities such as mindfulness and aerial yoga triggers neurotransmitter production.  These neurotransmitters reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, while increasing overall happiness and well-being.
  • Mindful aerial yoga enhances focus. When you are in the present moment, you can not dwell on the past (depression) or worry about the future (anxiety).  When children unplug and experience the art of paying attention on purpose, they reap the benefits of the mindfulness and aerial yoga activities—they enjoy being present, aware, and in the moment, which are important life skills.
  • Mindful aerial yoga increases resiliency. Electrical changes have been noted in the left frontal portion of the brain following mindfulness training, which scientists believe is linked to enhanced resilience. Resilience is the ability to cope in challenging situations and bounce back from adversity. Mindful children can deal with difficult emotions without shutting down and are able to bounce back quicker from disappointment .
  • Aerial yoga and mindfulness change the brain for the better! The brain’s ability to adapt is called neuroplasticity, meaning the brain has pliability and can change with experience. A consistent practice of mindfulness and aerial yoga can create new pathways in the brain, resulting in improved mental health, physical health, and well-being. Way to go aerial yoga and mindfulness!

The evidence from science, indicates mindful aerial yoga is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety, and best of all there are not ANY side effects. It may also be considered preventive medicine.  This means, that with practice, mindful aerial yoga is a good defense against stress and mental health issues that may arise as the result of stress. It is highly recommended that EVERYONE, both adults and children, reap the benefits of a mindful aerial yoga practice.

Want to learn specific ways to introduce mindfulness and aerial yoga to your child? If you live near Kansas City, register for a mindfulness-based aerial yoga class.   For those outside of the Kansas City area, buy my book, Mindfulness for Children,  and begin your journey to happiness!

References

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

Krishnakumar, D., Hamblin, M. R., & Lakshmanan, S. (2015). Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective. Ancient Science2(1), 13–19. http://doi.org/10.14259/as.v2i1.171

Kjaer TW, Bertelsen C, Piccini P, Brooks D, Alving J, Lou HC. Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Cognitive Brain Research. 2002;13:255–259. [PubMed]

 

 

Body Sox, Odd Looking, But Fun and Self-Regulating

Body Sox is an yoga experience like no other. Children love to stretch in it as many ways as possible. There are multiple ways to use the Body Sox from games to relaxation.

WHAT IS IT?

Body Sox are fun, therapeutic sacks constructed from four-way stretch lycra.  Body Sox teach both adults and children about gross motor control by providing proprioceptive feedback that leads to a new awareness of the body.

BODY SOX BENEFITS

  • Allows children to kinesthetically feel their body
  • Coordinates movement
  • Enhances creativity and imagination
  • Provides heavy work/deep pressure, which is calming and organizing
  • Provides tactile input

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH YOGA?

Children can play  Yogi Says,  which is just like  Simon Says, but with yoga poses.   Better yet, let them create their own Body Sox pose, crawl, walk, or slither in it.

Body Sox can also be used in relaxation as a calming sensory escape. Put on relaxing music and/or weighted materials to enhance the experience.

What are you waiting for?  Sign-up for a class and try one out!

PAWS and Meditate – Counting Breath

Funny illustration with cartoon red cat sitting on lotus position of yoga.

MEDITATE

Paying Attention With Senses (PAWS) helps children to regulate their emotions.  Counting breath is a simple way to meditate that can be done anywhere.

WHAT IS COUNTING BREATH?

Counting breath is a deep breathing exercise that uses counting as an anchor to keep the focus on the breath. When children are upset counting breath helps them regain control of emotions and settle the brain.  Counting breath improves focus, creating mindfulness, which leads to feelings of relaxation, clarity, and calm. Counting each exhalation focuses the attention on the breath. It keeps the attention in the present moment. This mindfulness tool can be used when children are feeling anxious, moody, angry or just need to relax.

LET’S BEGIN!

Lie on your back with your right hand on your navel and your left hand on your heart center.  Take a deep breath In through the nose. Feel the belly, rib cage, and heart center rise beneath the hands.  As you exhale, feel your hands fall.  Count one.  Continue counting and breathing in this way until you get to 10.  Still not calm?  Try it again.  Make sure the breath is reaching all the way to the navel.  Shallow breathing will excite the nervous system.

 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Children

Girl playing in the sun

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION FOR CHILDREN? 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teaches children how to self-regulate their behavior through guided instruction. Each session includes mindfulness of the breath, mindfulness of the body (body scan), and mindfulness of movement (calming yoga postures).  Children  learn to identify thoughts and emotions and relate them to experiences. These simple mindfulness practices help children deal with anxiety, improve concentration, and handle difficult emotions.

IS IT SUPPORTED BY RESEARCH?

  • A study at Standford University confirmed that  8-weeks of mindfulness training in fourth through sixth graders led to significant decreases in anxiety and improvements in attention.  The children in this study were less emotionally reactive and better able to handle daily stress (Saltzman, 2010)
  • A study with adolescents under psychiatric outpatient care showed significant improvements in stress, anxiety, and several psychopathological symptoms. The study also found that more time spent in sitting meditation predicted improved functioning and a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms (Burke, 2009).

Sign up for a 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction course at 913-660-8219.

References

Burke, C.A. (2009) Mindfulness-Based Approaches with Children and Adolescents: A Preliminary Review of Current Research in an Emergent Field. J Child Fam Stud. pmid:20339571 doi: 10.1007/s10826-009-9282-x

Saltzman, A. (2010). Mindfulness: A teacher’s guide. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/theBuddha/teacher’s/guide/

Lavender Cloud Dough

Winneconne, WI - 19 February 2015: Bottle of Young Living Lavender essential oil supplement.

What is lavender cloud dough?

A sensory activity to reduce anxiety and stress in children.  It is therapeutic and super simple to make and store.

What does the research tell us?

Lavender is used to treat neurological disorders such as stress, anxiety, and depression.  Research has shown that lavender aromatherapy decreased depression by 32.7% in individuals suffering from PTSD (Uehleke et al. 2012).   Another study found that lavender essential oil reduced anxiety, sleep disturbance and depression when taken as a supplement (Kasper, 2013).

How do I make it?

8 cups plain flour (all purpose)

1 cup vegetable/ olive or baby oil (avoid baby oil if your child likes to taste things)

2 tablespoons purple powder paint

5 drops lavender essential oil from Young Living

Encourage your child to mix the ingredients with their hands. Once it has a wet sand consistency the dough is ready to be molded.  Let the fun begin!

References

Kasper S. (2013) An orally administered lavandula oil preparation (Silexan) for anxiety disorder and related conditions: an evidence based review. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract; 17 Suppl 1:15-22.

Uehleke, B., et al. (2012) Phase II trial on the effects of Silexan in patients with neurasthenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or somatization disorder. Phytomedicine; 19(8-9):665-71.

 

The ABC’s of Yoga

ChildYogaSlider

 

The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids is one of my favorite yoga books to use with children, including children with special needs such as ADHD and autism.  Children with special needs require simplicity and visual support.  This book has both.  Each letter of the alphabet is a different yoga pose.  Children are not only learning yoga, but their letters as well. The children love the colorful pictures and rhymes that describe how to get into each pose.  It takes approximately an hour to read the book if each pose is practiced.  I break it up into three sessions. It’s best to find proper alignment and hold the pose instead of rushing through them.

The benefits of yoga for children include:  balance, flexibility, coordination, and strength.  Additionally,  yoga promotes calmness and relieves stress. This books offers a multitude of wellness and mental health benefits and best of all it’s fun!

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids can be ordered online through Amazon.  Ready? Find your center, breathe, and soar.

Reference

Power, T. A., & Rietz, K. (2009). The ABCs of yoga for kids. Pacific Palisades, CA: Stafford House.

Child’s Pose Press

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Child’s Pose Press is one of my favorite yoga techniques. It is very calming and helps to center children when they are having a bad day. Best of all it can be done anywhere.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Relieves stress
  • Eases back strain
  • Centers the child
  • Reduces excess energy

HOW DOES IT WORK?

At the base of the spine just above the sacrum, there is an area where several nerve endings come together. When you apply gentle pressure to this area it has a calming affect on the nervous system.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Have the child go into child’s pose. Sit behind him and firmly run your hands up and down his back from top to bottom. This will stretch and open up the vertebrae in the spine. Rest your hands one on top of the other at the base of his back. Breathe in together and as you exhale press into this area with your hands. As you apply pressure, also pull back energetically. Breathe with him for five breathes. If the child is upset this can be extended. While breathing visualize calm positive energy coming out of your hands. Draw the hands firmly up and down the back one more time then release them from the child’s back. Resume your yoga routine. This can be done several times if the child is having a bad day or displays excess energy.  If you are not trained in yoga it is best to seek a yoga professional and receive hands-on training before attempting this at home.  Namaste.

Green Tea; A Cup of Calm.

Green tea

Did you know the calming effect of green tea actually comes from the amino acid, theanine? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins help the body grow, breakdown food, and repair body tissue. Good stuff.

HOW IT WORKS

Theanine increases the brain’s levels of alpha waves, which, in turn, produce a combination of relaxation and mental sharpness, almost like a meditative state. OM.

HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Mental sharpness. Alpha waves, which theanine increases, have been linked to mental acuity and improved learning.
  • Stress protector. Studies show college students who took 200mg of theanine before tests had significantly less stress than those who didn’t.
  • Relaxation. Theanine leads to more alpha waves, which leads to relaxation and best of all no drowsiness.
  • Insomnia. Theanine can improve sleep quality – while keeping the mind sharp and energized.

Sensational. Green tea increases mental sharpness, relaxation, and helps with insomnia. Put the kettle on the stove – let’s drink to that.

Reference

Challem, J. Brechka, N. (2007). L-theanine the calm in your cup of tea, Better Nutrition, 32, 34-35.

 

 

 

 

Fun Ways to Teach Breath Control

Casa Somerset Yoga-29

“Breathe in,

Breathe out,

Release the stress; just let it all out.”  -MC Yogi

Some say yoga is breathing.  Breathing is what sustains life so that makes it pretty important, right?  Taking 9 deep inhalations will not only calm the parasympathetic nervous system, but supply oxygen to muscles and organs.

Babies fill their bellies with air completely every time they inhale and exhale, but somewhere along the way this calm, healing style is lost and shallow breathing is substituted.  Shallow partial breathing can result in decreased focus, low energy, and heightened anxiety.  Ugh! Lucky for us there is yoga.

BREATHING PRACTICE

Have children sit up tall in Easy Pose, lay down in Corspe Pose, or stand up tall in Mountain Pose.  It may be helpful to have them breath while slumped forward at first.  Then push the shoulders back and down, discussing the difference.  Here are three of my favorite ways to teach breath control:

  1.  Use cool props.  Children love props.  My favorite prop is the hoberman sphere, which is pictured above.  Not only does it glow in the dark, but it is also a great way to show children how the belly needs to fill with air on the inhale and be completely empty on the exhale.  Turn off the lights and put on the Star Wars theme.  Before you know it children will be using Ujjiya breath to sound like Darth Vader. KSSSSH KUHHH
  2.  Play games.  Have children start at the back of their mats.  Give them a wide straw and have them blow a cotton ball to the front of their mats.  After a couple practice rounds have a race.  Remember to emphasize long inhalations and exhalations.
  3.  Use aromatherapy.  Check for allergies before using this technique.  Also, some children with special needs can be sensitive to essential oils so when in doubt go without.  Name it something fun like “jungle juice” and spray it on their hands.  Have them slowly lower their hands to their nose at the end of a jungle themed practice and breathe deeply 9 times. They will love it!

I teach breath control in every yoga session, but I do it in a fun way so children enjoy it.  This is the only physiological system we have conscious control over so why not use it to be calm and happy?

Namaste.

 

 

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children