The First Howling Yoga Video has been uploaded!!

Some friends have been encouraging me to create a video about my Kids Yoga classes for a while. Then a friend of mine, who is a videographer, illustrator, video-editor and who-knows-what-else-she-can-do, asked if she could come and film one of my classes. We thought it would also be neat to include an interview with one of my students and her mother. This 10-year-old student of mine, who has been doing yoga with me for more than one year now, agreed to share the benefits she has received from a continuous yoga practice; and you can hear and see her on the video. Meanwhile, her mom does most of the talking from a parent’s perspective.

Here is the link to the video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YPZON1AJlg

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Choosing Breath Instead of Overreacting

One of the teens in today’s yoga class told me about something that happened at school that morning, and how it pissed her off. I was surprised at how the story ended as I saw no big deal on it… But, hey! It all depends on one’s perspective, right? Well… After lots of breathing in class and a long savasana, she came to me and commented, “Now I can see how breathing helped clear my mind to see that I completely overreacted to what happened this morning…”

I wish everyone in the world could learn this. I hold this vision for our future. May we learn to stop before choosing angry reactions that will just make the problem bigger instead of opening up the path to a solution. Imagine how many conflicts would be avoided if we learned this? Yes, it involves mindfulness, paying attention to what is going on inside you and around you, done without judgment. Not easy. But it’d be wonderful to learn to step back while facing some challenging situation, take a deep breath, clear the mind and be capable of making the best decision in the situation you find yourself in. I believe we all can achieve this. And so I encouraged my students in that class to try to take a deep breath before respond to anything another person said to them in a discussion of some sorts.

Another teenager said, “I wish my parents would know this as they yell at me during an argument!” That was a teaching moment since the other students were paying attention when she made this comment out loud. I said, “How about the next time this happens you invite them to stop and take a breath together? Notice I said the word ‘together’, that’s how you get your parents to try your suggestions with you.” She then looked into the distance as if she were imagining the situation in her head. Well, the seed has been planted and I hope she remembers next time some conflict comes up. Just one breath, a deep one taken deliberately; that’s all it takes to remind us to stop and maybe shift our perspective, maybe choose softer words, maybe realize it is no big deal given the bigger picture of our lives. Just one conscious breath to start with.

I have tried this in my own life and it has made a big difference. Let me know if you try it and how that goes for you. I would love to hear your stories too, so feel free to share in the comments section below.

Teaching Mindfulness Within a Yoga Class

In my yoga classes I have always tried to incorporate some mindfulness exercises; sometimes in the beginning, sometimes in the end or even both. Savasana is always a good time to bring them back to the present moment as the mind keeps working, essentially doing its job. Nowadays I also do it in the middle of class, when I sense there is some opening for a short lesson on mindfulness or for introducing some mindful technique while performing a yoga pose. Depending on how open the students are at that moment, they will absorb the new skill right there. If they are not, they might remember what was said in a pose later when it comes to mind or they decide to show someone else (parents in case of little kids) that pose.

The way mindfulness gets explained needs to be tailored to different age groups. Of course I would not talk about the prefrontal cortex or amygdala in the middle of a yoga class, even for adults (I try to keep them present and I believe those words could be an invitation for people to zone out!), but examples according to the students’ ages can be presented and made easy to understand or recreate. Like the yoga poses, as a teacher, we need to drop any expectations that all the students will get it on the first, second or hundredth time… Our job is to present the lesson, and the students take what they are ready for.

I taught a yoga class at an Elementary school on the other day and, toward the end of class, while they were lying on their backs for a pose, I asked them to look at the ceiling and notice new things they had not seen before. We sat down and shared what they noticed. When performing the pose on the second side, I asked them to look at the ceiling again, notice what their friends shared and maybe even notice other things no one had mentioned. We then sat and shared some more, giving a chance to those who did not share anything on the first side. Of course, about two of them never shared anything because they were distracted with their hair or looking at their neighbor during that time. For adults, I tend to ask them to focus on feelings and sensations in their bodies while in the poses. For teenagers, I would recommend something in bICS_WP_20150126_002etween the two examples I just mentioned.

I came across an article today and thought it was worth mentioning here. Check out item #4 suggesting to drop the expectations, just like I mentioned in the second paragraph above. This article is geared toward parents, but I believe it can help kids yoga instructors get an idea or two on how to implement mindfulness in their classes. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/monisha-vasa/teaching-kids-mindfulness_b_6458950.html

“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow