A new venture- Children and Family Yoga

In November 2017 I completed my 95- hour Yoga Alliance children’s yoga teacher training in India with a wonderful woman called Teressa Asencia, who has created an amazing teacher training based on her ‘Yoga in your school’ project, which was formed upon the five elements and partner poses (see link to her books here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Teressa-Asencia/e/B001JS7K82 )

The way in which Teressa taught me was through the Five Element stories she constructed.  This included some partner poses from her ‘playful family yoga’ book. I was lucky enough to receive this training one to one, so was able to share experiences with Teressa, some more on the personal side, and she was able to conduct the training with my needs and interests in mind.

We read through stories, shared experiences, and views of how we both see ourselves within the world of children and family yoga going forward.  She taught me songs, activities, sun salutation chants, partner poses, alongside the main 5 stories each focusing on one element.

After the morning’s session on my first day, Teressa then told me that there would be a class this afternoon with a mother and daughter and that she would like me to assist with the class.  Initially I was dubious about this having just been taught the class that morning, but Teressa made me feel so at ease, as she does in her classes evidently, that I wanted the challenge to involve myself on the very first day.  Happy I did it? Absolutely!!  It was a great experience with a lovely French mother and daughter who were very open to this method of yoga and seemed to enjoy it and have a great laugh while doing it.  The sense of unity in the room and thanks they gave at the end of the class was very rewarding for me, and I can already see the great benefit this type of family yoga could be for the whole family as it is an experience of them coming together.

I have been writing my own yoga stories which I feel could greatly benefit children and families with a specific need, such as a child that won’t go to sleep, stick to a routine, or simply a family who just want to have more fun together!  I love the fact that I can write stories and class plans which are bespoke to each child/family, depending on what they would be hoping to gain from the practice.

‘where there is darkness, bring light’

Jen x

Mindfulness in schools- whats the big deal?

So as an individual, or parent, interested in the education system or child development, it is likely that you may have come across the concept of mindfulness based interventions and how they are having a positive impact on children’s well-being and behaviour in schools.  There are many methods in which schools are employing people externally to run programs, or they are providing training for the teachers themselves to implement mindful methods into the daily teaching schedule.

From my past experience of working with children I was particularly impressed with one organization The Special Yoga Foundation which is based in London.  This is a small charity with big aspirations, and they provide yoga for children and adults with special needs alongside those who don’t have special needs.  I met the founder and course creator, Jyoti, who is an amazing person with big ideas of how she sees the charity developing and spreading the mindfulness based interventions far and wide. Jyoti compiled a training program for teachers which equips them with a variety of tools they can use at a click of a button or with just two minutes to spare.  These include tools such as a 2 minute relaxation within the classroom or a few yoga postures and stretches- see the link to their website here- https://specialyoga.org.uk/. It was exciting talking to her about the program especially due to its focus on making these methods so easily accessible and workable for teachers to integrate into their daily work in schools.

Mindfulness is spreading around schools across the world, and there are a few organisations in America whose successes have been shared widely on social media in recent times.  One of these is a school in Baltimore where they have introduced a ‘mindful moment’ room.  To put this into context, the school is in a highly unsafe area with many vulnerable children who routinely engage in criminal activity and who regularly abscond from school.  As a consequence there are high rates of students with emotional problems causing daily conflicts between students in the school leading to a pattern of low achievement rates.  This was the reality of this school, and being a student there pretty much meant that your prospects for achieving well and integrating well into society were quite bleak.  That was …. until they introduced mindfulness into the school.  Aggression rates in the school have now reduced hugely which has lead to 100% of all suspensions being abolished.  This school’s ‘mindful moment room ’ has served to replace detentions, and by teaching the students that when they feel they can’t concentrate, or they are getting themselves riled up and into trouble, they can go and calm themselves down in a safe quiet space.  Someone is always there to support them and help them with techniques if necessary.

Another school in the USA introduced a ‘calm down beanbag’, which has resulted in young children taking themselves over to it during a class, and taking a minute to breathe slowly and calm themselves down before returning back to their desk and to the task at hand.  Unlike traditional time out methods – the child, in this case, has learned to take control themselves and thus has a feeling of achievemnt.  I find this a very exciting concept, that young children are learning to recognize their emotions and are taking it upon themselves to calm down and breathe for a moment, without being instructed to. This is something that all children need, especially following the Ferrell and Barrett claim in 2007 that ‘numbers of children being diagnosed with anxiety and depression is increasing at an alarming rate’.  So 10 years on from this, the problem remains on a rapid increase, making it evermore important for us all to act now because, should we leave it to fester any longer, the problem will only get worse, and it will affect not only these children and their families, but subsequent generations in the future.

‘Remember, balance is key’

Jen x


Self concept- a shift from negative to positive

Mindfulness is something that has really helped me as an individual who spends most of her time, as many of us do, worrying about some insignificant thing that is coming in the future, or might have happened in the past.  Of course, some of these things we need to address as if we don’t, we might make those mistakes again, but many of the things we worry about are things we conjure up in our heads and through thinking about them we exacerbate them to a staggering degree.

Going back to my studies of social psychology, and the psychology of identity and knowing oneself is a good place to start.  I learnt a lot during the time I spent studying for my masters.  We develop a self-concept of ourselves, and are constantly trying to ensure that, in our minds, we are the person who we believe we are. This is an ok concept in isolation, however, when your self-concept is a negative one, this can be a very self-destructive process.

There’s that typical saying ‘we are our harshest critics’.  This is true and very relevant to this point because of the need for our own selves to ensure we are constantly bettering ourselves.  The way to do this is to consistently hone in on the negatives we view within ourselves.  It's almost like trying to hate those things in order to ensure we expel them from our existence and reality.

The way I think of it is that we have two sides of our brain, which are separated simply into the positive and negative brain.  I think that every time we do/say something negative, or have a negative thought this allows a big tick to appear on the negative side of our brain, which tells us 'yes I am that negative, thoughtless, stupid, ugly etc.. person that I always thought I was'. This continues the downward spiral of the existence of a negative self-concept.

But returning to the issue of a negative self-concept, the problem is that we are always trying to better ourselves, which is or is not a healthy process.  We are also telling ourselves that these negative thoughts are within our reality, which then makes them become our reality.

We force ourselves to become our negative self-concept.

So how to overcome this?

Being mindful and aware.  Enjoying the things around you that you won't have noticed before.

Although it might sound a bit airy-fairy and hippy, but, for me, I have never enjoyed the sound of the birds like I do now, or seeing someone help another human being when its not totally necessary…they could always ‘walk by on the other side’ -metaphorically speaking.

Looking out a window of a bus and just observing life go by. The sheer diversity of us all is a beautiful thing

Music is also a massive mindful practice for me.  It’s a great method as it's not always easy to get yourself into the mindful, 'just being in the present' mind-set, but music has helped me a lot to induce the feeling.  If you think in terms of Sound being one of the 5 Elements then this is not at all surprising.

Smiling at things, seeing children making mistakes while they learn.  Smiling at people, looking down and not conversing is not natural to the social beings that we are.  No one is going to hit you or be angry with you for simply acknowledging them and saying hello, it will only make you and them feel better.

Look at someone's face sitting across the tube from you and wonder, what is their story?  I wonder how they are feeling right now or where they are going.  Approach them if you feel comfortable to. If you want to compliment someone or say something nice, don't hold back, even if it is a stranger, what is there to loose? 

Positive thoughts and interactions with others are so easy to come by.  Make them your reality. As the more positive thoughts you have about yourself, the more you will build a positive self-concept, and reverse any prior negative self-concept and identity you may have believed about yourself.

'Positivity breeds positivity'

Jen x