Tag Archives: relaxation

Natural Light and Mental Health

Children’s Yoga at Mindful Child

Light is important to learning and behavior. There are many studies that have investigated the relationship between natural light and it’s affect on psychological well-being and children’s academic performance. Light helps regulate mood and affects cognitive performance. Indirect sunlight is best for learning and reading. An aspect of learning is that we learn when we feel secure, calm, happy and challenged.  Natural light boosts mood, which, in turn, increases learning.

Different rooms require different types of light sources depending on their function, but regardless of the function, when looking at lighting, natural light has measurable health benefits. 

What are the Benefits of Natural Light?

Natural light enhances the mood enhancing brain chemical, serotonin. Studies have shown the more sunlight exposure you receive the higher the level of serotonin in the body. This boost in serotonin helps your child feel calm and happy. Additionally, light affects the body’s internal clock thus it can improve sleep, release hormones, and boost overall well-being.

When you look at creating a mindful space for your child, there are aspects of lighting to consider:

  • Avoid fluorescent lights. A study in 2017 examined fluorescent lighting in 90 classrooms with results showing that 80% of classrooms were lit with 100 Hz fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting is linked with headaches and impaired visual performance.  Not only do these lights cause discomfort, but children with sensory needs may experience sensory overload.  If fluorescent lights are unavoidable consider covering them with light covers that filter and soften the light. 
  • Natural light is best. Fielding (2017) reports light is perhaps the single-most important element in the learning environment. Research shows that in classrooms with natural light math scores improve by 20% and verbal scores by 22%.
  • Dimly lit areas help children relax. Mindful Child aerial yoga hammocks filters out light when inside it, creating a relaxing retreat.  If your child is relaxing in a tent, it will also create a dimly lit area to practice mindfulness techniques.
  • Smart bulbs are worth the cost. At Mindful Child, we installed LIFX smart bulbs in our overhead lights. We can easily dim them or change the colors creating a relaxing vibe.  They are a great addition to the natural light we have from all of our amazing windows. At night, the smart bulbs create an ambiance that facilitates relaxation.

At Mindful Child, we have put a lot of thought into our conditions for calm and the optimal environment to help children relax and gain the most benefit from our mindfulness techniques. Light has a biological affect on children and adults, with natural light having brain changing benefits.

References

Boubekri, M., Cheung, I. N., Reid, K. J., Wang, C. H., & Zee, P. C. (2014). Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine10(6), 603–611. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3780

Roenneberg T, Kantermann T, Juda M, Vetter C, Allebrandt KV. Light and the human circadian clock. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2013;(217):311-31. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-25950-0_13. PMID: 23604485.

“Lighting and Discomfort in the Classroom.” Lighting and Discomfort in the Classroom – ScienceDirect. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Aug. 2017. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494408001011>.

Fielding, Randall. “Learning, Lighting and Color: Lighting Design for Schools and Universities in the 21st Century.” DesignShare (NJ1). DesignShare. 4937 Morgan Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55409-2251. Tel: 612-929-6129; Tel: 612-929-3520; Web Site: Http://www.designshare.com, 30 Nov. 2005. Web. 01 Aug. 2017. <https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED497664>.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Story for Kids

Snowball Relaxation Story

In our fast-paced world relaxation is an essential skill. Like any skill is it something that must be taught and practiced. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be taught on the ground with a yoga mat or in an aerial yoga hammock – the key is to a find a place that your child finds comfortable.

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Children and adults do not realize that their muscles are chronically tense. Muscle tension increases during times of stress and can lead to injury. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) teaches body awareness to identify muscle groups and notice the sensations of tension and relaxation.

What are the Benefits?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation has many health benefits including reducing stress and muscle tension. Incorporating it into a story helps to engage children and promotes their imagination. PMR has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, along with improving sleep.

What to Say

  • Imagine you are surrounded by snow.  The snow is gently falling all around you. Make your body into a tight like ball of frozen snow.  You are a snowball.
  • Picture a snowball fight. Your snowball is floating through the air.
  • Tighten all of your muscles.  Glue everything together and squeeze.
  • Don’t let you snowball fall apart.
  • Breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Notice how you feel. This is what happens to your body when you are mad or nervous. Your body tightens up like it is frozen.
  • Your snowball has landed on a soft patch of snow. Feel the soft snow below and around you like a big fluffy bean bag.
  • Now imagine that sun has come out and you are starting to melt.
  • The sun feels warm and it begins to fill you with light.
  • 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 they are melting. Puddles 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 puddle of water.
  • 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. Imagine a warm sun on your face. Breathe in. One, two three, release your breath and let your face relax.
  • Let your body feel heavy just like water. Imagine a forests of pine trees all around you. If you would like to smell the trees raise your hand, I will put a cotton ball with pine essential oil in it.
  • Continue to relax and breathe.
  • Slowly come up to a seated position. Notice how you feel.

At Mindful Child…

Progressive Muscle Relaxation at Mindful Child

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is just one method we employ in our classes and therapy sessions to help children relax. It is an evidence-based approach that children enjoy. When you add movement and the senses the child is using more areas of their brain, which enhances the benefits. Want to learn more ways to combat stress? Check out our Mindful Child Yoga Teacher Training or sign your child up for an aerial yoga class.

Create a Chill-ax Space at Home

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, but creating a mindful “chill-ax” space at home may increase the benefits.

Mindfulness at Mindful Child

Even though mindfulness is easily practiced anywhere and at anytime, the benefits may be enhanced by designating a place where your child can “chill-ax” or take a brain break. The space doesn’t need to be large – just offer enough room for your child to be able to sit or lie down.

Here are few helpful tips when setting up your child’s chill-ax space:

  • Lighting. Light is important to learning and behavior. It helps regulate mood and affects cognitive performance. Indirect sunlight is best for learning and relaxing; open the blinds and let the light shine in. But not too much, dimly lit areas are best for chill-axing. If you don’t have a room with natural light, try using a fiber optic lamp. At Mindful Child, we love our LIFX smart bulbs in our overhead lights. We can easily dim them or change colors creating a relaxing vibe. 
  • Essential Oils. Unpleasant odors make it difficult to relax.  Essential oils can boost your child’s mood and create a relaxing spa-like atmosphere.  An easy way to use oils in is by using an essential oil diffuser which will disperse oils throughout the room.  You can also buy inhaler sticks and place them on a shelf with your child’s favorite calming scents.  At Mindful Child, we only use therapeutic grade Young Living essential oils.  Our favorites are Peace and Calming, Stress Away, and Lavender.
  • Cleanliness.  Reduce clutter and keep the space organized.  Too many choices tends to  overwhelm and distract children.  Having a limited choice of organized mindfulness tools will promote relaxation. 
  • Comfort.  Being comfortable is an important component of relaxation.  Bean bags such as Targets sensory friendly Cocoon Seat are perfect for breathing and practicing mindfulness. 
  • Small Space. Children enjoy small enclosed spaces.  It helps them feel safe and reduces visual stimulation.  A Teepee or space created with the Nugget (original play couch) is perfect for mellowing out and finding inner peace, tranquility and calm. 

Your child can learn lots of evidence-based ways to practice mindfulness by joining us for an aerial yoga camp or class. We infuse every activity with movement, breath and mindfulness.

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

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!





A Mindfulness Activity to Improve Your Child’s Well-Being

What is Take Flight?

This mindfulness activity requires visualization and a good imagination.  Have your child imagine they are bird in flight.  As he is flying over the earth, ask your child to look down on all the things he is grateful for.  Next, have your child draw a picture of the bird flying over all the wonderful things he has to grateful for in his life. 

What are the benefits?

Visualization coupled with gratitude is a powerful combination to shift a negative mood to a positive mood.  Take flight is relaxing, enhances well-being, and encourages mindful reflection. 

What to Say.

Lay down in a comfortable position such as Corpse or Mummy Pose.  Close your eyes.  Let’s take a couple Elevator Breaths.  Imagine you’re a bird.  Think of what your bird looks like.  In your mind, form a picture of your bird.  Is he a small bird or a majestic eagle?  What color is your bird?  Now imagine that your bird has taken flight and is flying over the earth.  Your bird looks down and sees all the things you are thankful for.  Breathe in and out through your nose.  What does your bird see?  Picture the things that you are grateful for as your bird fly’s high overhead.  Remember to keep breathing in and out through your nose, as you picture your bird flying.  Slowly open your eyes and come to an Easy Seated position.  We are going to draw a picture that shows what your bird saw when he was flying. You can even add your bird flying over ahead.  Ready?  Let’s draw!

Want to learn more ways to help your child be mindful? Sign up for a workshop, yoga teachertraining, or buy my book, Mindfulness for Children.

Daniel, T., (2018). Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Mindfulness Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Kids Avon, MA: Adams Media

Top Five Ways Aerial Yoga Decreases Children’s Anxiety

The combination of breathing, movement, and mindfulness is a powerful way to help your child de-stress.  Aerial yoga like all forms of movement moves emotions. The mind, movement, and breath are all connected to the relaxation response.  Children can reduce their anxiety through aerial yoga poses, breathing, and focus of the mind.

Here is some of the recognized benefits that aerial yoga at Mindful Child can provide for your child’s mental health.  Aerial Yoga:

  • Activates the quieting reflexes of the brain and nervous system. At the end of every mindful child aerial yoga class, children lay in fish pose. Fish pose provides sensory input in the form of tactile (touch), proprioception (deep pressure), and vestibular (movement), which, in turn, reduces stress and tension.
  • Encourages deep breathing. Using language that resonates with kids, incorporating the senses, and making breathing part of a story or obstacle course motivates kids to breathe deeply.
  • Enhances the relaxation response through movement and poses. Going upside down, when supported through the aerial yoga hammock, is calming to the central nervous system.
  • Introduces children to mindfulness. Simple mindfulness activities, in the aerial yoga hammock, provide children with tools to assist them in counteracting stress and anxiety in their daily lives.
  • Builds adaptive skills such as self-esteem and confidence. Aerial yoga requires strength and lots of practice to climb to poses.  When children see their effort pay off by being able to climb up the hammock – it teaches them that with persistence and effort they can achieve any goal!

If you want to learn more ways aerial yoga can decrease anxiety and enhance your child’s well-being sign up for a free trial class at Mindful Child Aerial Yoga.

Shift Your Perspective With Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations help children to think positively and believe in themselves.

Materials

Affirmation coloring book or coloring page
Colors, colored pencils or markers
Ambient music

What is Positive Affirmation Coloring?

Positive Affirmation Coloring is a simply buying or downloading an affirmation coloring book and coloring with your child. These can be purchased inexpensively online at Etsy or at local bookstores. Coloring can have therapeutic benefits and be a fantastic mindful activity for children. When coloring is combined with the mood-changing powers of positive affirmations it doubles the calming effects.

What are the benefits of affirmation coloring?

Coloring books with positive affirmations are uplifting and can shift your child’s perspective, creating a positive mindset. Coloring coupled with ambient relaxing music can help your child de-stress and relax.

What do I say?

Let’s sit up tall and practice mindful listening before we begin. While we listen to the relaxing music we are going to color an affirmation page. Affirmations are short positive phrases that focus on what you want out of life. I’m going to pass around the coloring book and I want you to pick an affirmation that means something to you. Tear out that page. As you color, breathe in and out through your nose. Think about the words printed on the page. Say the words in your head as you color. Notice how you feel.

If you are wanting more ways to include positive affirmations in your child’s day or even a children’s yoga class, buy my book, Mindfulness for Children, it is full of simple activities to enhance positivity and mindfulness in children.

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…