Why we need to teach our children how to relax

relaxing - port mac

Childhood has seen a marked change over the past 30 years and so too has our children’s mental and physical wellbeing.

We as parents all want our children to live in emotional balance and to show resilience and stability in the face of life’s challenges. We wish for our children to be happy and well-adjusted and much of what we do is motivated by this desire. Whilst our loving presence, our own example and steadfast support contributes greatly, the levels of stress experienced by children today is estimated to have increased 45% over the past 30 years.

Childhood has changed markedly over this time and so too has our children’s mental and physical wellbeing. There is less opportunity for free, unstructured outdoor play, less time for families to prepare nutritious, home-cooked food, a huge increase in sedentary, electronically-mediated entertainment, and far greater exposure to consumer advertising and adult media.

With these changes come a new range of stressors that children today need to learn to manage in order to experience balance and wellbeing.

Some of these new stressors include:

  1. Overstimulation by online activity, gaming, etc. sees children exposed to more experiences, sensations, noise and activity.
  2. Overscheduling means that children have less down-time in which they can relax and unwind.
  3. Having choice and following their own interests is crucial to a child’s development but with children’s lives increasingly directed by adults they may experience tension around a lack of autonomy.
  4. A sedentary lifestyle which provides little opportunity to release physical tension.
  5. An increase in standardised testing in schools provokes considerable anxiety among students that seems to increase with their age and experience.
Educating our children how to manage the mental, emotional and physical stress they face is an important part of their learning.

It is important they know how to effectively and positively manage their stress before it starts to manage them. Teaching children relaxation techniques provides effective coping strategies.

Relaxation techniques are effective in helping to:

  • ease physical tension and restlessness and calm the nervous system
  • gain power over negative thoughts
  • manage anxiety provoking emotions
  • boosts the immune system
  • helps improve sleep
  • supports children’s minds by sharpening concentration

Relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety:

  1. Meditation gives children of all ages awareness of and power over their thoughts and feelings without supressing them. It aids in developing self-awareness and self-acceptance and in turn builds self-management strategies. The discovery of an internal sense of calm, even amongst the chaos,  leads to greater happiness and wellbeing. Starting with just 30 seconds at a time of ‘watching your thoughts’ and building up from there can be extremely effective.
  2. Yogic breathing exercises help to slow the breathing rate and calm the nervous system. ‘Watching the breath’ and feeling all the sensations in the nose, throat, belly etc or ‘counting the breath’ up to ten breaths and repeating helps to build concentration and can become a complete meditation in themselves. Placing the hands on the belly can also provide a focal point and helps to ensure deep breathing into the belly is maintained throughout.
  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Yoga Nidra both help to release physical tension from the muscles, lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. It is a great technique to use before going to bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Invite your child to close their eyes and breathe slowly as you name parts of the body/muscle groups, inviting each part to tense up for a few seconds before releasing and relaxing. Start with the feet, legs, hips, belly and chest, then move on to the hands, arms, shoulders and neck and then finally the back, neck, throat, face and head. You can also use a visualization of healing, loving light that pours into each part of the body as you name it. This exercise also helps to keep the mind focused and away from negative thoughts and feelings that can cause wakefulness.
  4. Legs Up The Wall pose. Lie down on the floor or on the bed and lift your legs up onto the wall, so your back lays flat on the floor, your buttocks are at the juncture of the floor and the wall, and your legs are up the wall. This yoga pose is known as a ‘cure all’ and is perfect for calming the nervous system, slowing down the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
  5. Hot Water Bottle. Taking a hot water bottle to bed can warm the body and allow it to relax more easily. I also encourage my children to lay it on the belly, encouraging better digestion which can be an issue for nervous tummies.
  6. Visualization. There are some great guided visualizations for kids in the form of books or audio CD’s. Some of our favourite scripts which I love to read to my children before bed have come from the book Nightlights  by David Fontana . The CD Indigo Ocean Dreams by Lori Lite also makes lovely listening for younger children.
  7. Music. Actively listening to or drawing to soothing music helps to focus the attention on the senses and away from negative thinking.
Children who are taught some of the above techniques who recognise that stress is a part of life, and that there are strategies to help them cope with challenges positively and effectively, will develop into healthier teenagers and adults, physically, mentally and emotionally. By teaching them some of the techniques listed above we are setting them up for life.
If you have  a Tween that would benefit from learning some of these skills and so much more you may enjoy the upcoming Resilience For Tweens and their Parents Workshop I am hosting on May 24th In Melbourne, Australia.
Resiliency helps our children navigate the inevitable hurdles, challenges and triumphs of childhood and adolescence. Resilient kids also become resilient adults, able to survive and thrive in the face of life’s unavoidable stressors.
This workshop offers a unique opportunity to connect with your tween and explore resilience together using art and yoga in a fun, gentle, supportive environment. You do not need any previous yoga or creative experience to be a part of this workshop.  You do however need to bring a sense of curiosity and a willingness to spend some precious, uninterrupted time with your child exploring new terrain.
More info over here...
Michelle Seelig is the proud mother of 2 creative, courageous girls and has worked in health and well-being for 25 years. She is a qualified Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and an artist with a Masters degree in Art Therapy. Using art, yoga and coaching practices in her workshops Michelle combines her skills and insights to deliver a unique, creative and transformative experience.

how to keep your cool this summer

summer port mcquarie

As temperatures begin to reach well over 40°C here in Australia  the joys of summer begin to fade. The simple pleasures of juicy summer fruits, swimming in the ocean and outdoor gatherings are overshadowed as the fire element makes its presence felt and we all run for water and sunscreen.

Ayurveda , the ancient Indian “science of life” and a sister art to yoga, is based on practical principles that help you maintain balance in accordance with the seasons. During these summer months that translates into practical ways to avoid the symptoms of overheating.  Excessive heat brings with it dehydration, skin rashes, sunburn, lethargy and irritability. So whether or not your constitution is governed by Pitta ( the fire element), we all need to find ways to cool down – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Staying cool is not just about staying comfortable. It is about staying balanced during the warmer months.

COOLING DIET

One of the most important tips to adhere to during the summer is to stay hydrated. Coconut water, with its high mineral and electrolyte content, as well as water served at room temperature and herbal teas are great hydrating summer beverages.. Aloe Vera juice or gel added to your water is another cooling option. Be sure to avoid the stimulating and dehydrating effects of caffeine during these warmer months.

A cooling Ayurvedic diet in summer includes a lot of fruits and vegetables that are sweet, juicy, bitter and astringent in nature. Choose fruits such as melons, pears, cherries, mangoes and grapes. Vegetables to include are cucumber, broccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Fresh, homemade vegetable smoothies are a good inclusion.

Avoid hot, spicy and sour foods. Instead use cooling spices such as mint, coriander/cilantro, fennel, anise and cardamom in your preparations. You should also avoid foods with heating properties such as tomatoes, hot peppers, radishes, onions, garlic and spinach.

Eating more lightly is also encouraged. Avoid deep fried foods and minimize the consumption of red meat and excessive amounts of alcohol.

COOLING YOGA AND EXERCISE PRACTICE

Any form of exercise should be done in the cool parts of the day. Try rising early and going for a beach walk, a swim or practicing some yoga, or get to a yoga class later in the evening. Avoid running or vigorous exercise in the middle of the day.  Whatever your choice of exercise, practice non-competitively and without force or aggression in order to prevent overheating. Cultivate a sense of calm and serenity to help cool the mind and body.

 Your yoga practice at this time should be slower, less vigorous and more nurturing, in an attempt to calm the nervous system. Including poses such a seated or lying twists, supported back bend or shoulder stand, seated forward bends or any wide legged poses will cool the body and help it regulate naturally.

COOLING LIFESTYLE PRACTICES

The mind is susceptible to overheating which leads to both mental and physical symptoms of irritability. To reduce the activity and stimulation of the mind avoid overworking and too much activity. Maintain balance with relaxation practices. A regular meditation practice or at least space for quiet time each day will help to quiet and still the mind.

Bathe in some moonlight to balance the sun’s energy. Take a walk after dark or practice yoga in the garden.

Cool your skin with unrefined coconut oil. Try a daily massage  before your shower allowing the warm water to help it penetrate the skin. This helps to protect against dryness whilst also cooling the skin.

Favour aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile are all recommended.

Remember that summer is a time to slow down and take it easy. So relax in the shade, read something for pleasure, swim in  cool waters or do whatever you love that is calming and cooling. By taking action to keep your internal cooling system working at its best you will notice a real difference in the way you cope with the summer heat.

Kids Yoga

Drawing with feet

Drawing with feet

 

I take an experiential approach to learning and incorporate many diverse experiences into classes. We have had fascinating discussions, moved our bodies in wonderful ways, experimented with asanas (postures), breathing techniques and guided relaxations that have helped the children to understand their own bodies more fully.

Art is an essential ingredient in these classes and helps stimulate creative and lateral thinking. This week we looked at legs and feet and made a mural drawing using our feet. Besides being a great way to use the little muscles and joints in the feet that dont get much opportunity to move when they are locked in shoes all day, it was so much fun. I highly recommend it as a school holiday activity to try with your own children. They will never know they are refining their fine motor skills.

This term for Kids Yoga we have been looking at ‘Our Bodies’ as a way of exploring yoga principles.

To make a class booking go to http://thelivewellplayground.com.au/childrens-yoga/