Recent research demonstrates that mindfulness training increases health, happiness and life satisfaction. In my kids' aerial yoga classes, mindfulness curriculum is a solid offering. We learn about the functions of the brain, as well as how being mindful makes us happier, healthier and more successful at being ourselves, no matter our differences. We make mind jars, learn relaxation techniques, talk about optimism, kindness, gratitude (all yogic principles too, I might add) and learn how breathing, movement and relaxing helps our brains and bodies feel better.
Mindfulness puts a pause between what we feel or notice and how we react to it. Mindfulness teaches us to respect and pay attention to how we feel in our bodies so we can better know when we need to cope, retreat, press ahead or buckle down. The responses I have received from both the kids and the parents have been overwhelmingly positive.
Initially, I was inspired to teach mindfulness because of my neurologically focused occupational therapy background and because it was what I wanted and needed to teach my own children. With each and every class, I am more and more convinced that absolutely EVERY developing human benefits from this type of education. However, it can be intense and complex information. Presenting it through the play of yoga increases interest and fun, thus creating neural wiring so they both love and remember it!
As a mother, I am grateful my girls learn the mindfulness principles in yoga class. It makes learning more fun, and it teaches them coping strategies when they are calm and happy, which is the best way to teach strategies that most likely come in handy when you are feeling quite the opposite. Additionally, it gives me references for real life. When their self talk is pessimistic (I can't, this is awful, etc.), I acknowledge how they feel, hear them out, and if it's an appropriate teachable moment, I can also cue them to remember what Optimistic Otis or Pessimistic Pete might say about the situation (characters in our yoga classes) or if they'd like to "stop, breathe and move" to figure out what to do with a problem (like the song we sing in the video). This helps get my point across in a more positive way than just correcting them, and allows them to make their own mindful choices about self-talk. Even at 4 and 5 years old, their ability to do so amazes me, which is further confirmation that kids, all kids, inherently want to do their best for themselves and others and will when given the opportunity to learn how to do so.
Mindfulness training and yoga is especially important for kids with any of the following: sensitivity, big spirit, frequent worries, ADHD or sensory processing differences. Studies show that kids with these natural make-ups will shift into fight or flight/stress response quickly without much warning, and they will need coping tools and self awareness training when they are calm and happy to gain better control and self-regulation over their nervous system responses. These kids can take their natural make-ups and use them as the strengths that they are with the gift of mindfulness.
Check out a few examples of how we playfully learn about mindfulness and ourselves through kids' aerial yoga classes:
Lindsey Lieneck, MS, OTR, RYT, is owner of Yogapeutics in Austin, TX where she has developed the Yogapeutics Aerial Yoga & Mindfulness curriculum for kids. She teaches classes, consults with parents & schools and educates other professionals on the Yogapeutics curriculum. Read more about Lindsey HERE.
See the Yogapeutics class schedule and offerings: