I was asked by a high school media specialist if I would be interested in helping their students deal with the anxiety of final exams. “Of course I would, that’s what I do” was my response. On a side note: Witnessing students transform fear into freedom in a matter of minutes is something you can’t un see. Nor can you then deny the potential value that even more minutes of yoga on a regular basis would have on these kids. If you want to teach more kids more yoga, volunteering is visible value.
My plan was to teach our Focus Ten: Time and Again series and also base the teaching on their answers to my opening question “How are you feeling about finals?” I spoke about how motion helps us move through emotions and the temporary nature of exam triggered panic. We got real about self care strategies and awareness boosting techniques that help minimize chronic stress so we are better able to handle situational stress. And finally, they felt the instant gratification of a 3 minute Savasana.
I am so grateful to Buffy Hamilton, the dedicated media specialist who shared these photos, vine videos and school newsletter write up with the families and staff of Chattahoochee High School and may it lead to more.
Below is an excerpt from The Hooch Learning Studio
Today’s Winterfest “De-Stress” activity during our lunches was “Yoga and Breathing for Relaxation” with Amy Haysman of Grounded, a group and studio that works with young people. Their core belief is that “yoga can have a profound and positive effect on kids and teens. From our foundation as professional educators we have embraced the principles of yoga to create a program that enables instructors, school teachers, and even kids and teens themselves to “ground” themselves and others through yoga, laughter, and elevation.”
These beliefs were put into action with an overwhelmingly positive impact today in the Chattahoochee High School Library Learning Studio! Amy led students in our 4B, 5A, and 5B lunches through a yoga session that emphasized stretching, relaxation, and stress relief all grounded in a positive framework that she related back to the everyday academic and social challenges teens face, particularly here during finals time. Most of our students were new to yoga, and she did a fantastic job of providing them a great yoga experience at their point of need. We worked through a range of series of gentle movements and breathing exercises. Some students enjoyed the session so much that those with an hourlong lunch returned to do a second session!
Amy’s good humor, her ability to relate to our teen students, and her expert instruction created a phenomenal experience for our students here today. I am so impressed by the reaction and response of our students that I hope to get a grant to provide this kind of yoga experience for our students during lunches on a regular basis. Many thanks to our students who participated and to Amy Haysman for such a positive and energizing day!
We all know through research and probably experience that meditation is a good thing. It’s true that meditation helps children to feel better, know better and do better. That’s because meditators are in touch with their best self. If we’ve neglected to stay in touch with that part of ourselves, then how can we introduce that self to others? When access to our best self is as close as our next inhalation and expressing our best self is as easy as the next exhalation, then showing up to school, tests, parties, conversations, and even to do your chores as your best self feels natural. If your best self feels like a stranger, this meditation will help you tune in to your goodness and integrate that energy into your being. This powerful mantra, mudra and meditation practice prepares children, so when it’s time to show up as their most grounded and elevated self, they can bring it!
Touch thumb to pinky and say One
Thumb to ring finger and say Two
Thumb to middle finger and say Three
Thumb to index finger and say Four
Keep repeating the hand positions (mudra) with each set of words (mantra).
Touching the thumb to each finger creates a specific mudra that stimulates the brain and calms the nervous system.
When we repeat words or sounds, they become our Mantra. Repeating a mantra is a very effective way to direct the mind.
Either hold this mantra (thumb and index finger touching) for several deep breaths or…
Touch thumb to pinky finger. Breathe in, Breathe out.
Touch thumb to ring finger. Breathe in, Breathe out.
Touch thumb to middle finger. Breathe in, Breathe out.
Touch thumb to first finger. Breathe in, Breathe out.
Show thumbs up. Breathe in, Breathe out.
Repeat as many times as needed to result in a balanced body, a peaceful heart, a settled mind and an uplifted spirit.
Variation – Practice saying the words aloud, then in a whisper, then only in your mind, then return to a whisper, and finally once again aloud. Remember to practice the five deep breaths before repeating the mantras.
The words associated with the numbers represent each chakra.
First Chakra- Ground your foundation and steady yourself
Second Chakra – Feel your emotions and honor yourself
Third Chakra – Charge your power and express yourself
Fourth Chakra – Explore your heart’s desires and guide yourself
Fifth Chakra – Truth in what you speak and tell yourself
Sixth Chakra – Wit is inner wisdom and your intuitive, intelligent self
Seventh Chakra – Now exist in the present moment and know yourself
Eighth Chakra – Meditate and all of the chakras align with your best self
Meditate before and after this asana practice for even greater grounding and elevation.
Do Your Chores (both directions)
Cat Scratch Fever
No Whining & Because I Said So (both on one side, then the other)
Down Dog, Straight Leg Lunge, Bring It On (both on one side, then the other)
Serious Crow Playful
Bubble Gum Breath
Baby Got Back
Just A Sip (stay on back)
Do The Twist
Rock and Roll (side to side)
The Element Space & Wait Time from Amy Haysman on Vimeo.
I had an experience this week in one of my yoga classes interacting with a 10 year old girl that could help you see the value in kids who seem to distract everyone else by taking up a lot of room, making noises and craving attention. An intense desire to constantly get filled up by other people’s energy is one way that having an overabundance of the element Space can manifest. Kids who basically claim the whole space for themselves and need constant input can be tricky for a teacher to manage. A couple of weeks into the session I let this girl know with no fuzzy boundaries that she is better than the behavior she’s been bringing and any actions that were unbecoming of her best self, the girl she is when she feels proud and great, will not be tolerated in the yoga room. If she needed to scream,run or fall down, she could do so outside in a place where I could still see her but the others could not. I continued to fill her up with the truth of what she was doing well like showing up enthusiastically, helping others, holding crow pose, being open to new experiences and each class I pointed at the door less and less. She never did go outside; my non-verbal reminder was enough.
Kids who seem to be in a Space all of their own that the rest of us aren’t occupying at the moment need to be taught how to focus, so one pointed focus was my theme for this week. I taught them to use a drisht, to fix their gaze on a non-moving point that shifted depending on the pose. They all worked through a sequence of intense poses to build one pointed focus and when they struggled I asked them to think about what would be better in their life if they actually knew how have keen focus on one thing at a time. Would anything change at school and at home? This one girl wanted it BAD because she is very familiar with the misery that comes from not being able to pay attention.
Intense focus takes a lot of energy, so by the time they finished the sequence they needed a long Savasana to absorb the benefits of the poses. During Savasana I read the story The Three Questions. It is about a boy seeking answers to the questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? It begins with three different characters giving the boy their opinions and the boy deciding to journey on. He winds up asking a wise turtle for the answers and then doing garden work to help the turtle when all of the sudden a big storm comes along. The boy ends up saving the lives of a mother panda and her baby because he hung around to help the turtle. I won’t tell you the answers to these questions but after Savasana I asked my class how this story related to one pointed focus. Many of the girls had great answers such as the boy had to really focus on where the cries were coming from to find the baby panda or if he hadn’t been able to focus on the garden he wouldn’t have been in the right place to even help the pandas. This one very spacious girl who was still sprawled out lying down raised her hand. She began to talk, then laughed, then started to agree with the others and then backtracked and wiggled around. There was around ten or so seconds of silence, and this is where the concept of “wait time” comes in. To allow someone who is very spacious the time to collect their thoughts is very empowering.
As an instructor of kids who take up a lot of space we often have the urge to contain them – to get them to be in the moment with us- so we jump in and prompt their answers. I held in my heart the knowing that she was going to be able to get it together and that she had something important to contribute to the class. That through this practice, she was filled up enough to give. When she spoke, it was an incredibly profound answer. She said something completely different from what any of the other girls came up with about how the story related to one pointed focus. What she had to say was that the boy at the beginning of the story heard three different answers from three different characters to the questions and none of their answers sat right in his heart. He was focused on finding his own truth and not taking someone else’s opinions to be okay for himself. And so by allowing this very spacious girl the time to gather herself, we were all given wise insight into finding our own Truth.
“Whatever follows I AM will find you.” This sentiment can be expressed in so many ways. “Like attracts like,” “Energy follows thought.” However we choose to express it, the belief that our thoughts influence how we feel, act and interact in the world is undeniable. This idea is a rich theme and one I’ve explored deeply in Grounded classes. The following activity can serve as an introduction, a culminating project, or an ongoing art activity throughout a class series. These beautifully telling photos are from a special 3 hour Grounded gathering with some of my long time students and a few brand new ones.
Discuss this concept with your students. Create a list of all the different emotional states they can think of. Share examples from other decks of cards (see resource list). Make sure that the students understand it is natural and important to feel the whole gamut of emotions and that this deck is to serve as a reminder of who they are at the core of their being. A good example to guide this understanding is that the sun is always there, even when it is hiding behind clouds in a thunderstorm. Talk about the power of affirmations. Have the students pick one particular positive heart quality word and ask them to remember a time when they felt that way. When was it? Where were they? How did it feel in their body? Who were they with? Incorporate as many senses as possible into the recall. Repeat this guided visualization often during the process of creating the deck of cards.
What You’ll Need:
- Index Cards – 11 or more per person.
- A box to hold the cards. I used a small gift box typically used to hold jewelry.
- Watercolors & Paint. I included metallic paint.
- Markers & Pens.
- Examples of affirmation cards and a word bank of heart qualities for inspiration.
- Paper for brainstorming.
- Time & space to create.
What To Do:
After brainstorming on paper, write or paint the “I AM” statements on individual index cards. Illustrate and write a sentence that further explains the statement on the same side of the card. Design the other side of the all of the cards alike.
If you’ve never used an affirmation deck or angel cards, I suggest doing so before leading this activity. Then you will be able to incorporate your own experiences and lessons and teach from an authentic place. There are many ways to use the cards. Some people pull a card each morning as a message for the day. Others use the cards to help tune inward to find answers for specific questions.
These Create Your Own Deck of Cards are intended to empower kids with the knowledge that they are in control of their thoughts and innately good, worthy human beings.
How To Use:
Shuffle the deck until you have the urge to stop. Turn over the top card, read it and contemplate the message. While shuffling, if a card happens to drop from the pile, take it as a sign that it is meant to be your card. You can’t make a mistake with these cards because they operate with the law of attraction. This means that you will always pull the card that is right for you at that moment in time. The cards validate what you already know to be true and help you manifest the awesome life you were meant to have.
Music: “I Am” sung by Guru Singh. Album, A Game of Chants
“I Am The Light Of My Soul” & “I Am Happy” & “Sa Ta Na Ma” sung by Snatam Kaur. Album, Feeling Good Today
“I Am Happy, I Am Good” by Shakta Khalsa. Album, Happy.
“I Am What I Am” Grounded Pose (click for ideas)
I Am: Why Two Little Words Mean So Much by Wayne W. Dyer, Kristina Tracy and Stacy Heller Budnick (Mar 15, 2012)
I Think, I Am!: Teaching Kids the Power of Affirmations by Louise Hay, Kristina Tracy and Manuela Schwarz (Oct 15, 2008)
Manifest Your Magnificence (64 Affirmation Cards for Kids 6-12 Years Old) by Susan Howson and Mike Polito (2002)
For many of us, a new year represents a blank slate, a Tabula Rasa. Imagine being able to “refresh” any or all areas of your life. Now visualize this table with two columns, Yes and No. You create your truest life by thoughtfully choosing what goes in the No column and what is a Yes. Everything you say YES to and everything you say NO to matters. What if your yes’s and no’s were tabulated and at the end of a day, week, year, lifetime, you could see how the data, otherwise known as your life, balanced out?
Think of it like playing a game. Each morning, start with a wide-open YES in your heart and make room on the table. As you go through your day making decisions, interacting with others and living your life, be aware of what you say No to and what Yes is automatically created out of that No. Conversely, what do you say Yes to and what is the No side of that decision? Before you go to sleep, check in with yourself and see if you feel balanced. You already posses the winning pieces of confidence, clarity, and integrity, so use them as you play.
No Table Yes is a pose we use to teach kids these concepts to kids. It is on the fourth floor, Balance Beam, of our Elevator Series. This floor represents the heart chakra. Balance begins with centering and softening the heart. Winning pieces in the game of life are cultivated in the heart. Courage and determination can’t be found in a textbook. Compassion and connection grow from the inside and only then can be expressed outwardly. When our heart chakra is open, these qualities can inform our mind and through our Yes’s and No’s, we create and live our truest life.
Prepare to find freedom within boundaries. Say yes to life by breathng fully and expansively. Exhale and come on to your hands and knees shoulder width apart. Ground your clawed hands and your left shin to the earth. Inhale and curve your spine, bringing your right knee and forehead together. Hug into your basement. Say “No!” to your fears, doubts and old habits that are not serving you well. Exhale “Yes!” to something new as you stretch your head up and lift your right leg straight behind you. Keep your hips level. Inhale an bring your knee to forhead. “No!” Create boundaries. Establish confidence in what you believe. Keep the sides of your neck long. Exhale “Yes!” as you kick back. Feel free and expansive. Open to your possibiities. Your spine arches and curves as you continue with the right leg three more times. Try it fast, slow, soft and loud. Repeat five times with your left leg.