Yoga and Mindfulness for children and Teens.
Meditation has a range of scientifically proven benefits but it is not going to help your teen on it's own and here is why....
In my classes, I will often share with my pre-teens and teens about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I have 10 years old's who I am sure could teach a little about it at this point. They love to learn about it because it makes sense to them why we do the things we do and how it helps. Let's look at these in a bit more detail to better understand why meditation alone is not going to help.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
You may have heard of the fight or flight response. This is a response that is triggered by a stressful event (or even the thought of a stressful event). The response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system. It gives us the energy and focus required to escape danger. So while this state is often labeled as 'bad' or that we want to be in our 'rest and digest' state, it has a vital role to play. Just like with our emotions, it all has it's place - it is all valid.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
This system triggers the 'rest and digest' response
Okay, so what does this have to do with meditation?
The purpose of meditation according to mayoclinic.org is to give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that both benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health. Meditation is a practice that originated in India several thousand years ago. When most people think of Yoga, they just think of the movement (asana) practice but actually there are 8 limbs of yoga.
You can read more about the 8 limbs of Yoga in more detail in this great artical from Chopa. I bring this up because I want to talk about Dhyana. This is one of the limbs of Yoga - it is when we are completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation.
Yoga Asana was a tool to help prepare the body for this state. Getting the wiggles out if you will but that is not the only reason why yoga is such a great practice before meditating.
If we are in our fight or flight response and we sit down to meditate, we may feel irritated, restless and even unsafe. If you feel unsafe, you're not going to easily activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Let's look at this a different way. If an antelope is running from a lion and they escape unharmed, they are not going to sit down and rest straight away. They are going to be cautious, scanning the area, making sure that they are safe. Animals also literally shake the trauma off. This is the same for us, no we aren't getting chased by a lion (probably), but the danger still feels very real - even if that danger is a math test!
If our sympathetic nervous system is activated we need to find a way, like Taylor Swift, to shake it off.
Yoga is my favourite way to prepare for mediation even if it is with a few gentle poses, but on days when I feel especially agitated or anxiety is high, I like to practice Hatha yoga, Vinyasa or just dance it out to my favourite song. The main thing is that I move my body before trying to sit with my breath.
Having the Sympathetic Nervous System constantly activated
If we don't take the time to relax on a regular basis, we can stay in this 'fight or flight' response. This can lead to a range of problems including fatigue, low energy, decreased immunity, depression, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, irritability, difficulty relaxing, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, muscle pain and even chronic headaches.
Do I need to move every time before my meditation practice?
Meditation comes in so many forms, including moving meditations! So it really is about checking in with yourself (same goes for your teens) and noticing how you feel. How are your energy levels? Is your mind racing? Do you want to be still or move? Do you feel safe? Do you feel agitated? Is your brain on high alert?
What kind of mediation are you going to practice? How would it feel to move your body first?
Mediation alone may not be enough to help when anxiety is high but if you or your teen was to include something that helps to prepare the body and mind such as Yoga, Dance or Shaking it off, meditation could be a great help.
Does your teen have a practice that helps them to activate that parasympathetic nervous system and help them to manage anxiety and stress? Is this an area they struggle with?
Is it effecting their sleep or making them irritable during the day? You may like to check out my new course - Evening Rituals.
What is your biggest take-away from this post, I would love to hear if you got anything from it. Comment below or feel free to send me a message.
You may also like to check out these previous posts:
Stream of thoughts - meditation for teens
22 mindful practices for stressed out mums
Thought hunter - teens practice
This week I have been singing a lot of fun songs and practicing yoga and breath work with my toddler. Teaching little ones about their emotions is a powerful thing but we must also work to understand our own. Sometimes we try to resist a certain emotion, labeling it bad or negative when maybe we just need to sit with it. Maybe by sitting with it and allowing yourself to feel that emotion, it will pass when it is ready to pass or when you are ready to let it go.
There is much uncertainty at the moment, but then there always was. So what can we do?
If you feel uncertain, unsafe, worried or just a little off balance - think of your feet. Feel your feet on the ground, even in your shoes. Bring your awareness to your surroundings, your energy, your breath. Stand in a tall mountain pose or sit upright on a chair with both feet on the ground. Repeat this affirmation "May I feel safe where I am right now. May I inhale peace. May I exhale stress and overwhelm"
You can do this as many times as you need to throughout the day. It is a great way to start each morning. Please know that you can always reach out for support. Some feelings can feel 'a lot' and there is no where that states we have to do it alone.
Yoga means union - it could mean the union of mind, body and breath but it can also mean the union of us all coming together in this human experience. We are all in this together.
So when ever your emotions are running wild, please just stop and think of your feet.
The Importance of Self-Care
As parents, we take on a lot of responsibility for someone else’s needs and happiness. Sometimes we can neglect our own needs because we are so busy looking after our loved ones. Of course, taking care of them is great, and you should do it with love, but you are important too. Self-care should be made a priority so that you are in a good position to help others and you don’t end up burning out, feeling over worked, overwhelmed, and underappreciated. It can be helpful to schedule in time for self-care on your daily planner just as you would an important meeting or appointment. Taking some time for you can make all the difference. I’m sure you have heard the Cliché saying about filling your own cup first as you cannot pour from an empty cup. Cliché it may be, but it is so true.
We cannot teach what we haven’t learned. We can’t expect our children to grow up strong, happy, and carefree if we don’t model that behavior ourselves. Taking this time for you is not selfish. It will make you a better parent. It will allow you to show up at your best, less likely to snap at the smallest thing or to be too fatigued to listen whole heartedly. Taking care of yourself will allow you to recharge and feel balanced again.
What is something that you love doing? Maybe you haven’t done it for a while, maybe even not since having children. If you’re stuck for ideas give this next exercise a go. Have a pen and paper ready to jot down your ideas.
Spark Joy Activity
Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor (you can use a pillow or yoga block to lift the hips slightly) or sitting up tall on a chair with feet firmly on the ground. Allow your hands to rest naturally on your lap or palms open to the sky.
Take between 5 – 10 deep, slow breaths. Allow the mind to clear as you focus your attention on the breath. Any time your mind starts to wonder, bring it back to the breath. Close your eyes if it feels right to do so.
Once you are settled, think about when you were a child. What activities did you really love doing? How did they make you feel? Did you enjoy baking, painting, horse riding, dancing, singing, playing board games, getting out in nature? The sky is the limit here. Think of anything you can.
Once you feel inspired open your eyes and start to write down as many activities you can think of that you once enjoyed.
Now look at the list and see if anything listed would spark joy in your life now.
Another way to add in a little self care to your week...
I have new yoga classes starting next week (23rd September 2020) for parents wanting to connect with themselves and other parents and to move their body in a way that feels good. No need to worry about childcare or traveling as it is all from the comfort of your own home. Click here to book now.
Take the 7 day self care challenge!
Check out my free 7 day self care challenge here.
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Self love, that inner critic and breaking out of comfort zones.
Please comment below what sparks joy for you. Have a great week!
This is a beautiful meditation for children and teenagers that can be done at home. Adults can benefit just as much from this practice so feel free to set a timer and join in. So often people think the idea of meditation is to have no thoughts but actually trying to quieten the mind so that we can allow ourselves to hear our unheard thoughts can be very empowering.
To be able to direct these thoughts, we must first be aware of them. Bring an awareness to these thoughts without judgement, without labeling them good or bad. Each time a thought comes to your head return back to the number one so that you are not 'running away with the story'. One to two minutes is a good time frame for this exercise. You may choose to journal after or to talk to someone you trust about what came up for you.
Did you make it to ten?
Loving Kindess walking meditation
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and meditation. There is no one right way or one way that suits all. You may even just be looking to mix things up a bit. This is a wonderful meditation that both children and adults can benefit from. If you are practicing with a child just guide them through the process.
With the weather a little warmer it can be quite nice to take our meditation practice outside and I know for us, we have really needed it. A chance to unwind, process emotions and come back to ourselves.
This meditation is quite a well known for improving wellbeing, reducing stress and for practicing self acceptance. It can also be a good one for improving our relationships with others, allowing us to be compassionate and choosing love.
You should allow ten minutes for this meditation. I love practicing this when I am walking out in nature, whether its a park or a beach but you can practice anywhere, just be sure to keep a safe awareness around you i.e. watch out for traffic etc.
Start by bringing an awareness to your body as you walk. How does it feel? How does it move? Is your breathing fast or slow? Next, repeat these loving kindness phrases as you walk:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I experience ease.
If your inner critic makes an appearance, practice self compassion. Gently but firmly close the door on that mean voice and come back to repeating the phrases. Repeat these five times and then move on to the next part.
Now, start sending out this loving kindness to someone you love, whom you think might need it right now.
May they be safe.
May they be happy.
May they be healthy.
May they experience ease.
Silently repeat these phrases five times
Next we focus on sending love to someone we don't know. Maybe you see someone walking past you, or off in the distance.
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you experience ease.
Now imagine all of you together. Yourself, your friend/person you love and the stranger.
May we all be safe.
May we all be happy.
May we all be healthy.
May we all experience ease.
After repeating this five times, bring your attention back to your breath. Notice any sensations or feelings that have come up or any insights that you may have gained through doing this meditation. You may even like to set an intention to bring these feelings of love, kindness and community with you into your day.
This is such a beautiful practice, maybe now more than ever. We are all connected and one and going through something so surreal. Let us do what we can to look after our own health and wellness while hoping it for all around us too.
Please let me know if you try this out and share any experiences you would like to in the comments.
The Stream of thoughts
What is on our minds? Often a whole bunch of things. It can get very overwhelming. In this practice we look at slowing down. Letting go of our thoughts, even just for this moment, to come back to ourselves. We begin to notice feeling emotions, questions, sensations, worries and thoughts. Taking the time to do this can allow you to release nervous energy and of what is troubling you and allows you just to take the time to breath. This exercise is great for teenagers and adults. It can be practiced together or alone.
It can help to have someone guide you through this or you may like read this in full and then set yourself a timer of 10 to 15 minutes to practice this activity.
Take a cross legged position on the ground or sit up nice and tall on a chair. You may like to close your eyes, or take a soft gaze in front of you. As we start to still ourselves, we may notice a lot of thoughts running through our minds. Notice this, and then bring your attention to your breath.
Take five long, deep breaths to help calm and settle you into this moment.
Now imagine yourself sitting on a grassy hill, Maybe you are sat up against a tree or on a nice blanket. Feel the warmth of the sun shining down on you as you breath in that nice fresh air. Next to you is a stream. Notice how the water is flowing. Is it flowing quickly or slowly? Does it seem calm or hurried?
As you sit here, bring your awareness back to your thoughts. As a thought pops into your head, notice it. Notice if your body reacted to it in anyway. Notice if your breath changed at all. Now take this thought and place it on the stream. Watch as the flowing water takes it away, Do this as many times as you need to do. Some thoughts may be harder to let go, they may find their way back but just repeat the process.
Now bring your focus back to your breath. Can you keep it here or is there a thought that keeps popping up? Acknowledge it and send it down the stream.
When your timer goes off, take a few deep breaths, wiggle your fingers and your toes a few times and gently come back to the room.
You may choose to journal after your experience. Did any thoughts keep coming up? Had you been aware of them before? Is this something that you can ask for help with?
You can repeat this process as often as needed. Practicing regularly will help you to calm your mind for longer periods. It will also help you to check in with your body and mind and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system (a rest and digest state). We switch from worrying to nurturing our bodies systems for long term health including digestion, repair and immunity.
You may like to visit this blog on Self love, that inner critic and breaking out of comfort zones: Click Here