Well-Being

After the Pie, the Breath

December 2, 2013

Golden Sleepy In-the-Keyhole Pie2 Light In-Thought

We gathered this past week with our family and friends, full of conversation, joy, and lots and lots of pie. This is the time where the holidays kick into high gear. The lights go up, the songs are played, and the excitement of what is ahead is always in the forefront of our minds.

It is also a time for rhythm, for balance, and especially for a deep breath. As wonderful as the holidays are, they can also be a very difficult time to balance emotions, sleep and anxiety for children. When we think about how tired we are at the end of the year, one can only imagine how mentally and physically exhausted our children must be. I remember a few years back, after working so hard to create the “perfect” holiday for my boys, Jacob spent Christmas Day with tissues stuffed up his nose, as one nose bleed after another kept coming. I called the doc, and she very simply told me that he was overly excited, and his body was responding. That was the moment where I realized that while the holidays are amazing, teaching our kiddos a few basic tricks to balance their emotions is essential.

Most of you know that I am a yoga and breath work advocate. I think that most of our daily lives could be greatly improved with a few moments of quiet reflection and sacred movement, and children are certainly no exception. For many of us, teaching kiddos yoga is easy and fun, but breath work is a bit more challenging. One of the biggest questions that I get from parents in regards to children is how to teach them to breathe. I think that most of us feel that breathing is a natural response, and that kids already know how to do it. While that is true to some extent, children are notorious for taking quick, shallow breaths when excitement sets in. That only serves to heighten their emotions, not calm them.

I know no young one who will sit for long periods of time and listen or practice breath work, but in my experience, teaching kiddos for a few minutes a day two simple techniques can make a world of difference (and not just at the holidays). The first is to teach them to take an equal inhale and exhale. I encourage my children to count to ten as they inhale through their nose, and to count to ten on the exhale (again, through the nose). This seems to be a good number to start with, and if they are ever in a place where the stress in really hard (think blood draw), I encourage them to extend that time by a few seconds. If they practice just once or twice in the morning, they have that tool at the ready, and when you see the excitement or stress level rising, simply remind them to count to ten and breathe.

The second is to take a full inhale through the nose, and exhale fully and loudly through the mouth with a sigh. I have no idea why this is so relaxing, but trust me, it works. I use it all the time on myself, especially when there is lots of sibling arguments of noise in the house. It is like a quick reset button, and I have yet to see it fail. I have my boys take a deep inhale, and then let out a long ahhhhhhhh. They love the way it rolls off the tongue, and there is always a smile and giggle at the end. This is such a beautiful time of year, and it should be filled with joy and fun. Allowing rhythm and quiet to seep into our days is just as important as the excitement and activities that fill our calendar. A warm bath each night before bed, a cup of mint tea, a story are all great ways to calm children and encourage good sleep and rest.

Wishing all of you a beautiful and magic filled start to the holiday season.

For more info on restorative yoga for children, please visit this post 

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Release and Let Go

September 6, 2012

We store so much in our bodies on a daily basis: fear, anger, sadness, excitement, anxiety. Our muscles hold all of our emotions deep within, and over time we can feel the effects they have.

Yesterday evening, just as the sun was making it’s descent, I headed outside to practice yoga. The feel of the sun overhead and the earth below draws me deep within, and always helps to make me feel truly connected. As I was nearing the end, I heard Jacob snapping pictures below me. He has been enjoying using my camera, and seems to find a good and willing subject in his mama. When I came in he asked, “Why do you always hold your poses so long? You seem to stand there forever.” I hadn’t given it much thought before, but as the evening drew on the question played over and over in my head.

I explained that all that I was “doing” in the pose was letting go. For me, that is the essence of my yoga practice. In the slow, rhythmic movements, in the intentional connection between breath and action, I find the release, and with the release, the strength to go deeper.

When I wake every morning, I fold myself into a forward bend. Feet firmly planted, I drop my head and my arms and sink toward to floor. With each inhale I draw in, and with each exhale my body releases just a little bit more. The feeling is so powerful, as I open fully to what the day ahead will hold. There is no rush in that moment, there is only the sound of my breath. This might last for 30 seconds, or if I am lucky for a few minutes longer. It doesn’t take much more than that to feel the shift.

For me, these small moments in my day where my yoga practice comes off the mat and connects me to what I need to feel centered, that is why I practice. When people tell us to let go of our emotions, that is a lovely sentiment, but what does it mean? When we stand in that forward bend and let ourselves sink deeply into the feelings that come up, when we use the breath to let go of what is holding us back and sink into it just a bit more, that is where we learn what that statement actually means. The release of emotions take practice, letting go of what is holding us back and sinking into things that make us feel uncomfortable, that takes practice. That is yoga.

I never force yoga on my boys, I try and let them be the guides of their own practice, but I hope that after last night they understand a little bit more how it can help them as they face all of the challenges that their lives will give them. My faith guides me in so much of what I do, and my yoga practice enhances my faith by connecting me to the effects that all of my choices, all of my actions have on my physical self. I have to believe that if my children can feel that, even just a little bit, they will remember that in order for their lives to be lived as fully and as deeply as possible, they must first find the release.

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