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2/10/2019 “Testing…testing…is this thing on?”

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So, this week was a little more challenging than usual during weekly yoga classes. Some of the school sites were experiencing some changes in staffing and this unexpected transitioning coupled with 70 degree weather (the feeling of ‘spring is in the air’), had several of the students acting out a bit more than usual.

The class I was getting ready to teach had apparently just been reprimanded for poor behavior right before entering the room for yoga and their faces showed it. Many came in with a huge chip on their shoulder, several were angry…frustrated…all were stressed.

Having done this for over a decade now, what was my first thought: “PERFECT!!!!!”. LOLLLLLLLLLL….the yoga instructor/occupational therapist in me was excited for this opportunity……a chance for them to REALLY experience how yoga and mindfulness could take them from their current state (anger, defensiveness, frustration, etc) and transform their inner world into a calmer, more peaceful one.

The lesson plan I had originally intended to introduce went immediately out the window and I opted instead to ask them about/give them time to share what was going on for them….to vent…discuss….dialogue….openly share…..connect.

After leading them all in a movement game to help release the tension/emotional stress they were feeling, I then had them break into partners to do some very calming, supportive partner work.  THEY. LOVED. IT.

Smiles were infectous. Participation went from “I ain’t doin’ yoga today!” to “this is SO fun!”, complete with laughter, silliness and joy.

This all happened within a matter of 10-15 mins.

What a gift to watch this all shift and unfold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

There was just one girl who didn’t appear to feel much better. Her face remained stoic, disinterested. She didn’t smile. She didn’t interact with her partner much. And she definitely didn’t appear to be in a better state than when she came in.

The ‘recovering fixer’ in me felt responsible…”How did I fail her? What could I have done differently for her? Why didn’t this help her?”…etc etc…until I decided to connect with my own breathe and compassionately release those (unfair, untrue and unnecessary) self-thoughts.

A few minutes later, as I sat in the now quiet, empty gym, allowing myself to benefit from my own mindfulness practice…..in she walked.

She came up to me immediately, threw her arms around me and in the most sincerest voice said, ‘Thank you, Miss Amy. Thank you for coming to teach us today.”

I don’t know how I didn’t burst into happy tears on the spot, LOL.

I just hugged her back and said, ‘You are SO welcome, Sweetheart. I’m glad it helped you.”

Sigh.

THIS.

THIS is why I love this work.

It wasn’t my job to fix her or to figure out her expression or to ‘make her feel better’……nor was it my own personal failure if I didn’t.

But despite her outward appearance, she DID indeed benefit from the class that day. She absolutely was internally processing every minute of what she was being taught….it DID sink in and not only that, it helped her.

Reminding myself to let go and trust in the process was  huge. It was a big reminder for me.

I wasn’t the only yoga teacher in the room that day. She was my teacher as well.

I am forever grateful for this work. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/25/2018 Being Present is a Present

Quite an emotional week in the world of YOGA-2-GO on-site school yoga and mindfulness programming!

At one of my schools, I could tell that a student who normally is very happy and excited was feeling quite upset. I initially asked her if she was feeling ill, and when she said she wasn’t, it became apparent that she was quite sad about something that must have happened during the school day.

After emphasizing throughout the class how yoga poses and breathes can help us to feel better no matter how upset we are, I approached her later during relaxation time to let her know that I would gladly stick around after class was over if she needed to talk. She didn’t hesitate to take me up on my offer.

She approached me so heavy-hearted but anxious to unload what was bothering her to someone who would listen and help her through it. She shared her woes of elementary school drama, complete with being ostrasized from her group of friends for not agreeing with them to dislike a fellow student.

My heart broke for her. I’ve been there…..the ‘mean girl’ drama of youth…the cliques, the back stabbing, the fickleness. I did my best to let her know I could relate and to validate her pain. I asked her if she wanted a hug and she immediately laid her head on my shoulder for comfort.

Truth be told, I felt a bit incapable. She wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t happier. She didn’t appear to feel much better at all and didn’t add much to the conversation after I shared my ‘sage’ words of advice with her, LOL.

I just didn’t think I said anything of value or usefulness for this poor girl…..until it was time to leave. As I packed up my things to head out the door, she approached me again and gave me another hug before saying, ‘Thank you for listening to me today.”….Sigh. And there it was……the gift of presence.

What is the number one lesson of yoga? To learn how to be present within yourself, which then inadvertently leads to becoming more present with others.

I didn’t have to solve her problems…I couldn’t. I didn’t have to cheer her up….she needed to just ‘be’ with her sadness for the day. I didn’t have to offer her the ‘right’ advice….she didn’t need me to fix it for her. All she needed was someone to hold space for her to feel her feelings and to listen as she shared her sadness and frustration.

During another class this week, I was carefully eyeing all 25 of my students reactions as I said positive affirmations and then had them repeat each one.

I lead them through the following:

“I am good”  (students repeat)

“I am loved” 

“I am safe”

“I am healthy and growing”

“I am smart”

“I am doing my best”

“I am perfect just the way I am”

“And even if I have a bad day or I make a mistake, I am STILL loved. I am STILL perfectly myself. And I am STILL good.”

Judging by her body language and facial expression, I could see that one of the girls in particular was simply incapable of believing any of these things about herself, nuch less vocalizing them.

After repeating the exercise a few times, I looked directly at her while saying to the entire class: “YOU are SMART. YOU are HEALTHY. YOU are LOVED. YOU are KIND. YOU are PERFECT. YOU are SAFE. YOU are GOOD!” …she dropped her eyes and quietly shook her head ‘no’.  😦

After class ended, she walked up to me, asking if she could help me pick up the mats. The next thing I know, she threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug! She thanked me for coming there to teach yoga.

I was so moved by her display of gratitude….so thankful that, despite it looking as if she wasn’t on board with what I was saying, my words to her actually got in and they helped her! ❤

Another boy in that class, one who continually acts out every week and was being so disruptive last week that he actually had to leave class, was there again for this week’s session. I walked up to him during relaxation time and said softly, “Hi. I am SO glad you are in class and could join us today. Last week was rough, but I’m so, so glad you are here and you did such a good job today.”….He looked stunned. I’ve never seen such a ‘deer in the headlights’ look upon receiving a compliment quite like this before. He just stared at me, suspicious, confused, and trying to figure out what was going on, as if my kindness to him was the prelude to some cruel joke that he was being set up for. He finally replied, “Ok”, truly not knowing how to even respond or take in the loving kindness and praise I was expressing towards him.

One has to wonder….How often does he hear anything positive on the rare occasions when he chooses to behave better versus seeking negative attention for himself?

It was truly as if I were speaking a foreign language to the boy. One he maybe could recognize a word or two of, but had no idea what the overall message meant or what I was trying to relay to him.  Nonetheless, I’ll keep showing up each week and helping him translate it.

I am SO thankful to be doing this work. Every week I feel so full of Love, Gratitude, Compassion and Hope. There is truly nothing else I would rather be doing with my life more than this! ❤

 

 

 

 

1/15/2019 “My Brain Doesn’t Feel Sad Anymore”

During today’s middle school class, I had the students draw a stick figure to represent themselves, then add a very simple drawing of their brain, throat, heart and intestines onto the stick figure.
I asked them to close their eyes if they felt comfortable doing so and just to take a moment to really feel and identify what sensations or emotions they were feeling in each of these areas. They were then to draw on those areas of their stick figure any pictures, symbols, colors, or words that expressed what they were feeling in each.
I then led them through several yoga, sensory and mindfulness activities.
They were then asked to draw a second stick figure model and repeat the task, this time noticing any differences in each area.
They were given time to share what they drew or the option to pass and not have me see their drawings….(I feel autonomy and privacy are very important, especially at their age, so students are never asked or ‘forced’ to participate or share if something makes them uncomfortable in any way).
What they expressed brought me to tears later as I drove home from this class, reflecting on it all.
One boy, a student who consistently is making jokes, clowning around, rolling his eyes, and doing pretty much whatever it takes to get negative attention usually, shared what he drew and said this: “My brain doesn’t feel sad anymore”.
The next one said, “My heart didn’t feel like anything at first. And now, it feels SO big and opened…And my brain feels awake”…..

And THAT, my friends, is yoga…..more importantly, that’s why I teach yoga, especially to kids and especially in schools.

That is why I push and push and push and never stop…never quit working, trying, planning, going, hustling, and pounding the pavement…in order to get the doors of more schools opened to regular YOGA-2-GO, LLC yoga and mindfulness classes, programs and staff trainings integrated into the school day and after school….because IT. IS. NEEDED.

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School-Based Yoga + Mindfulness Programs
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(864)300-2152

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12/21/18 Connection and Community

In yesterday’s class, we finished our lesson with the “Circle of Friends”, where we all sit in a big circle, hold hands, and pass a hand squeeze around while saying ‘I’m glad you were here today” to the person next to us as we give them the hand squeeze. The children LOVE this activity because it creates a real sense of connection and ‘community’ at the close of each class.

I had told them that if they weren’t comfortable holding hands, that was okay, that they could just say they were glad the person next to them was here. A few hands immediately dropped and a sigh of relief could be heard, lol.

So I mentioned that ‘even if someone doesn’t want to hold hands or isn’t comfortable making eye contact with you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you….it’s their choice…and they may just be very shy so this activity could be too uncomfortable for them. When I was your age, I was so shy that I could barely speak to anyone I didn’t know well. It’s important that we honor everyone’s feelings in our circle, ok?”

A little boy raised his hand, clearly thinking very deeply about what I was saying, and asked “Miss Amy, what does it feel like to be shy?”…..(I LOVE their questions!)

“It feels…..scary. That’s why it’s important we realize why some of our friends in the circle may not be comfortable making eye contact or holding hands or speaking clearly or sharing their thoughts when it’s their turn. Can we all agree to make sure we feel comfortable and to make sure we are honoring each other’s right to feel comfortable and safe too?”

“Yes!!!”, they seem to all collectively shout out at once, a sea of little heads all nodding in agreement, compassion and understanding for one another.

Sigh. 
SO thankful for this work.

12/18/18 Validation

A boy continued to interrupt relaxation time during class today with talking…laughing…hitting the floor to make noise…making sounds….anything to draw attention to himself by being disruptive.
I walked over to him and calmly but very directly said, “It looks like it’s REALLY hard to stay quiet and still right now. I’m going to ask you to move over to that mat away from your friends so that they can rest and you won’t feel so tempted to keep talking. I know its so hard to not talk when we’re by our friends, so let’s make it easy on everyone so that none of you get in trouble and lose recess time.”
BOOM.
Defiance…gone.
Disruptions…gone.
Attention seeking…gone.

All he wanted was to feel heard and seen, just like everybody else. He just didn’t know a better way to ask for it.

Validate. Validate. Validate.

12/14/18 I Am…

Thinking today about how I end one of my children’s yoga meditations with the students during relaxation time….

We go through positive “I AM” statements, reciting one for each color of the rainbow, that I say and they then repeat siliently to themselves.

Two of the ‘I Am”s that I use are “I AM GOOD” and “I AM LOVED”…..

Lately, I started to intuitively add “And even if I have a bad day….or even if I got in trouble today….or even if I’m in a bad mood today…I AM STILL GOOD and I AM STILL LOVED” at the very end for them to repeat.

I’ve been really contemplating the power of this today. So often we focus on the important task of building children up by having them identify their positive attributes and unique qualites, having them identify what makes them special, and having them resonate with their own goodness in an effort to increase their sense of self esteem, value and self love.

But as anyone who has done ‘shadow work’ knows, it is in learning to LOVE our ‘bad’ sides…thoroughly, compassionately and unapologetically…that REAL self love has the acceptance and space to be born in!

That last message that I leave them with to repeat for themselves allows them to recognize: Even if I’m not doing or being or feeling good…I AM still GOOD….I AM still LOVED…I AM still PERFECTLY ME and it’s a beautiful thing!

It teaches them that their worth, their value….these aren’t conditional. These aren’t available only to the ‘perfect’ sides of them but to ALL sides/parts of them.

Too often shame/blame/fear/guilt messages are instilled in children as a form of discipline and control. And while these may work in the short term, sadly these children will usually grow up into adults who use these hurtful strategies in their own relationships with others, creating more unnecessary pain and suffering.

I feel BEYOND blessed to be working with children today, having the opportunity to instill in them the much needed concepts of TOTAL self love and acceptance while they are still young.

As cliche’ as it is, the saying “You can’t truly love another until you love yourself” certainly applies.

SELF LOVE = More Love to share with the world

12/7/18 Lucky Coins

During yesterday’s yoga class, I had the joy of handing out another round of ‘lucky yoga coins’ to my 50 students thanks to the kindness of Rick Huffman, who has cut out hundreds of wooden coins for me to soak in essential oils and give to the kids as a visual/olfactory reminder to BREATHE when they are upset. (Thank you, my brutha, Rick Huffman!)

This time the scent was peppermint and they LOVED it! So invigorating!

Only during yesterday’s class, they had to tell me what positive “I AM” affirmation they were going to tell themselves each time the sniffed their coin.

OMG..what a blessing to hear them each proclaim their worth, their value, their gifts…..their SELF LOVE!

Naturally, as with any group class, there were a few who needed some help and a few who absolutely could not think of ONE positive thing to say about themselves (tears, I know)….Luckily, we were able to talk through it and figure out what was so incredibly special about them until they could come up with at least one.

Gratitude for this work 

12/6/18 Attention

I had a little girl trying to be so defiant and non-cooperative in yoga class today. She does this same thing every week and I haven’t addressed it yet…only observed her in an effort to figure out 2 things:
1. What is she needing?
2. How is she acting in order to get what she needs?

So as class went along and all of the other children happily did all of the mindfulness exercises, yoga poses, games and breathes, she sat on her mat, refusing to move and rolling her eyes a lot or trying to distract the other kids.

Finally, I went over to her and asked her directly?
“Are you not comfortable participating?”….she was a bit thrown off and said, ‘no’.
I replied, “Ok, I won’t make you do any of these activities, but what about this pose…do you think you could try this one I’m showing you?”….She shook her head and went right into it.

What did she need? What was her weekly poor behavior meant to acquire for her in her mind?…..Attention. If she couldn’t get the amount of attention she needed for being ‘good’, she was going to get it for being ‘bad’. And it worked….she could easily rope other kids into her antics.

Seeing how much she changed the minute I gave her undivided attention and inquired about her (rather than reprimanding her) was really interesting! 

Later she got up to use the bathroom and I sat on her mat. LOL. When she got back, I engaged her in conversation by saying, “Oh, I”m sitting on your mat! I’m so sorry! Will you sit on this other empty mat next to me instead?” (she did so instantly with no refusal)….”Hey, are you feeling okay?”, I asked her. She quietly shook her head yes.

It was amazing to me how much she sought negative attention at all costs and yet when one on one positive attention was given to her, she almost didn’t know how to interpret it. She would get calmer, quieter and instantly stop misbehaving.

My plan for next week: Put her mat right next to mine and give her lots of positive attention