What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of developing focused awareness of the present moment without judgement. It is about noticing your thoughts and feelings with kindness and curiosity. And then, in turn, noticing your body’s responses to these thoughts and feelings. If you notice you are feeling anxious, how does that manifest in your body? Can you notice your heart beating faster than usual, or a tightness in your chest, or sweaty palms? There is no right or wrong. Everything is about personal observation.
How does Mindfulness benefit children?
For most children today, stress is a big part of everyday life as they need to cope with our fast paced, technology orientated world and pressure at school. Along with parental and peer pressure some children burn out.
10% of children and young people (aged 5-16yrs) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (Children’s Society 2008).
Society places more value on “doing” as opposed to just being “present”. Instead of being mindful of what is happening in our lives, we rush around and live life “mindlessly”. As well as going to school all week and the amount of homework with deadlines, from as young as just 3 years old, many children rush from one extra curriculum activity to the next without taking a moment to just sit still and breathe.
The purpose of teaching Mindfulness to children is to give them skills to develop an awareness of their inner and outer experiences. This awareness helps them to recognise and regulate their emotions. They begin to understand how emotions manifest in their bodies, such as being aware of their heart racing when they are anxious or afraid. This gives them the space needed to respond consciously to a challenging situation instead of simply reacting automatically, so it helps with impulse control.
It is not a panacea, and it will not get rid of what is “normal” kid behaviour: like tantrums in young children, loudness, whining, exuberance and arguing (it would be wonderful if it could!). But it will help children to identify, become aware of and accept their emotions, rather than simply be consumed by them.
The focused awareness practised in Mindfulness can also help children improve their abilities to pay attention and in turn help improve their memory. It improves clarity of thought and helps them to make better decisions. In short, it helps children with emotional regulation and cognitive focus.
Why Yoga ?
• Kids yoga helps kids build strength - especially at their core which improves posture
• The stretching is great for maintaining flexibility - it’s a brilliant complement for playing sports or sitting at desks
• It improves balance - we practice balance in a controlled way using the breath and active focus to steady ourselves
• Coordination improves as poses require physical and spatial awareness.
• Actively learning how to relax - as we do in the final stages in every class - which can encourage healthier sleep patterns.
• Confidence increases as kids gain more physical strength and coordination
• Yoga and the stories encourage mindfulness - using the breath to steady emotions, reducing stress and anxiety and being aware of feelings.
• Through regular practice of the yoga and breathing techniques the kids learn how to self-regulate and channel their energy.
• The stories are interactive, calling upon imagination and communication skills.
• The sessions often provoke critical thinking from the children as they make suggestions and have other ideas that build on the story.
• We explore feelings, how to talk about feelings and develop empathy by imagining how others are feeling in our stories.