“Anxiety is extremely contagious. But so is calm.”
I have spent my professional life working with children as both an elementary school teacher and now as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist. I am constantly amazed at how much my ability to be connected to my practice, to be present and grounded, impacts my time with kids. These days, when I teach parents and teachers about sharing yoga and mindfulness with children, the heart of my message is simple but profound: Connection is what makes all the difference.
My observation is that yoga and mindfulness go hand in hand with connection. When we become more mindful, we connect deeply with ourselves and develop a capacity to connect more genuinely with others. Likewise, when we consciously foster connection with ourselves and with others, we naturally slow down and become more present.
This idea of connection is worthy of deep exploration. It seems ironic that we are living in the most connected world in history, and yet symptoms of disconnection are all around us: loneliness, sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration. According to ancient teachings, disconnection is at the root of suffering. To move out of suffering we must develop present moment awareness and a capacity to attune to ourselves and to attune to others. Attunement has been defined in the following way:
“Attunement to ourselves is being aware with caring intent of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Focusing with caring intent on someone else’s body, mind, and spirit is attuning to them” (Witt, 2007).
Learning how to do a Mindful Check-in is one way to attune to ourselves on a daily basis. In a quiet spot, we sit down, close our eyes and take a few deep breaths. And then we simply observe. We spend a few moments noticing the sounds around us. We try not to label them as “good” or “bad”, we just notice. And then we notice our breath and we follow the inhale and exhale for a few moments…letting one breath wave into the next. After awhile, we tune into any physical sensations in our body. We may just notice the feeling of clothing against our skin or perhaps butterflies in our belly or sensations in our shoulder. Again, we try not to label these sensations, we just acknowledge that they are there. We also spend some time observing our thoughts. If we can, we just notice what we’re thinking without engaging in the story line. And then we return to the breath.
To attune to your child, try sitting back to back. Wiggle around until you are both comfortable and steady. Without talking, begin to take some slow deep breaths. Over a couple of minutes, see if you and your child can synchronize your breathing. Sometimes the most powerful moments of connection require no words.
If you would like to learn more about exciting ways to connect with the children in your life, take a look at the Kids’ Yoga Teacher Training coming up at Spynga in November or visit the shop at www.beebirch.com for a guided bedtime visualization and child-friendly body scan.