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Focus Five: Prepare to Thrive and Feel Alive

Written by

Lillarose, Grounded Student, Age 10

(Grounded elevating student since age 3.)

It was a rainy day… A perfect day to do yoga to set my day straight and to breath in my emotions.  Sometimes we feel happiness, sometimes we feel sadness, sometimes we feel joy and even stress.  There is good stress and there is bad stress.  It’s okay to feel these emotions.  Let’s honor them all, let’s talk about it and let them guide us to be the best we can be.  The Focus Five Prepare to Thrive sequence will help anyone who needs to be calm, relaxed or to become more confident.

FOCUS FIVE

I like to think that each finger has an emotion.  Think that the thumb has happiness.  Breathe in happiness and send out light.  The pointer finger has sadness.  Breathe in sadness and allow the light to embrace the darkness, shining out.  The middle finger has joy.  Breathe in joy and send out light.  The ring finger has stress.  Breathe in stress and allow the light to hug the darkness, sending out light.  And, the pinky finger has love.  Breathe into love and send out love to the world.  When you breathe and press your fingers together you are breathing in all these emotions.  Feeling happiness, sadness, joy, stress and love are all natural emotions.  Embrace them all and honor the dark, sending out love, light and comfort.  When you exhale you are allowing them out and they go into other people’s breath and out into the world.

LOTUS BREATH

Imagine flowers… Like a Lotus flower, they are calming.  They grow in dirty waters, but are really pretty.  If you are in a difficult situation remember the Lotus.  You can always rise out of the muck and bring beauty to any situation.

WASHING MACHINE

In this pose, let your head and shoulders relax.  You will go in circles and in different directions just like life will take you.  Try to close your eyes in this pose.  Imagine life taking you somewhere.  Somewhere with a cool breeze and a gentle cycle.  Then, do it one more time with your eyes open and in the opposite direction.  Think about where the world is taking you.  Allow the water to rinse away all the dirt that is holding you back from living your life.

WAKE UP MOUNTAIN

Imagine yourself as a mountain… Strong and with a cool breeze.  Imagine you are that mountain.  You are feeling all the seasons (the spring, summer, winter and fall) in one swoop of wind.  Bring your arms in with an inhale and feel the wind inside you.  You will realize how beautiful it is.  When you move your arms up, exhale and allow the wind to breeze through the world for others to experience.

LEFT BREATH RIGHT BREATH

Imagine on one side you are breathing in your doubts.  On the other side, you are breathing in confidence.  With both sides there is a goodness… even the doubts.  The doubts help us push through to learn how to be more confident.  Stand tall and strong.  You are who you are.

FOCUS FIVE: PREPARE TO THRIVE

These cards are perfect to use on a rainy day, a sun shiny day or any given day.  Color, practice and breathe to prepare to thrive.

The singing bowl is just the thing to help you focus, clear your mind and set the day straight.

Singing Bowl Steps: Inviting the Bell to Sound

WHO

Everyone has the right to invite the bell and invite others to stop and practice.

WHAT

An invitation to sound the bell. Inviting instead of striking is more sacred, more of a nonviolent attention.

WHEN

  1. Beginning of the day, end of the day, and transitions.

  2. Before meals.

  3. Whenever someone doesn’t feel grounded or the atmosphere doesn’t feel peaceful.

  4. Before a yoga practice.

WHERE

  1. Front of the room

  2. Meeting space

  3. Mini centering center

  4. Small room

HOW

1.Sat Nam or Namaste or Hello your singing bowl~ as your friend.

2.Close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart.

3. Tune into your rhythm, your pattern, your sensations.

4. Place bowl in the center of your palm, fingers open wide. {Closing fingers will stifle the sound.}

5. In and out, take two breaths.

6. Gently tap the bowl to “awaken the bell” and let those around you know that soon there will be a full ring.

7. Invite everyone to stop what they’re doing and tune in.

8. Follow your breath for another 11 seconds, 22 if you’re generous.

9. Invite the bell fully. The sound as Thich Nhat Hanh describes it, sounds like a bird soaring up.

10. Take 3 deep breaths and invite the bell again. And again-three breaths and one final invitation.

11. Invite everyone to open their eyes and look at you when they don’t hear the sound of the vibration anymore.

WHY

  1. The sound brings us back to our true home where we feel grounded and elevated.

  2. Others feel they can breathe deeper by being around you.

  3. The deeper we tune in, the deeper our breath, the deeper our nerves, the deeper our thoughts, the deeper our words, the deeper our actions, the deeper our lives..

Please share your singing bowl stories with us..

Sat Nam

 

 

 

 

Moving on….

Our children have an opinion and I feel it is important for them to be heard. In my classes I welcome discussion and I let my students know that their opinions matter. Yesterday’s classes were magically healing. My Thursday morning class at LEAD Homeschool in Avondale Estates started off the day with heart opening poses and balancing poses. My afternoon class at Decatur Yoga was very similar but we went deeper within ourselves while wringing out the muck so we could create more room for positive and clear communication (the perfect way to end the day).

When I arrived at LEAD, I saw heads hanging low and felt a shift in the energy inside the room. The girls are usually laughing and their eyes sparkle. Not yesterday. So, like I often do in all my classes I asked the kids how they are feeling and if anyone would like to share. I asked if anyone would like to set an intention so we can go from there.

One very open and honest 12 year old asked if we could focus on GAINING BALANCE. Another, also age 12 wanted to work on FORGIVENESS and HEALING. And, another requested that we work on POSITIVE COMMUNICATION. So, we sat in Easy Seat and honed in on our hearts by beginning our practice with our hands over our hearts and our eyes closed.

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We spent a few moments looking inward by breathing deeply to cleanse away any judgement, frustration or anger we may ofks-nov-2016-blog_7 stored. We exhaled releasing anything and everything that was not serving us at that present moment. We practiced I Am What I Am to celebrate that our opinions matter.

Then, we got to work by opening our hearts in Cat Scratch Fever, Snake, Warrior I Up and Camel. We began smoothing out our edges so we could soften more and respond from a place of love by stretching our side bodies long and revisiting Dark Seed Light whenever we needed to remember our intention and reconnect with the breath.

We gained balance by rooting our feet so we could rise tall, strong and confident in Tall Mountain and Warrior I with Harmony. And, then we did the hardest work of all, we practiced No Table Yes, Calm Down, Hold On a Minute and No Whining to wring out anything holding us back from healing and moving forward.

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We tested our balance, challenged our hearts and began healing through positive communication while we chose a partner so we could check our alignment of our feet and help each other find more space. We ended the practice with Do the Twist, Savasana and Lotus Breath. In Savasana, we studied ourselves by scanning our bodies and asking ourselves how we feel verses when we first arrived to class.

We reconnected with our hearts and our intentions while recognizing that our original intention may of shifted due to our emotions and our thoughts balancing out. We realized that a lot came up emotionally. We learned that when we twist and shine we create more space for love, forgiveness and healing. When we balance, get strong in our legs and connect with the ground below our feet we become more grounded and confident so we can speak easy and lovingly while not losing what matters most – our voice. When we zoom in with our breath like in Lotus Breath we experience breathing and moving in unison.

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The children thanked me, hugged me and each other. One student said it was the best class she had ever experienced and when I asked her why she told me because she needed to work on her stuff, her emotions, her frustrations and find balance.

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Grounding Educators and Kids Through Peace Circles and Yoga

I love using Yoga, especially Grounded Kids Yoga poses in my role as a certified Peace Circle Trainer with educators. It such a natural fit as the philosophies of both are about tapping into that ever present true or best self. Creating a sacred and safe space for participants to practice using their deep and rich reservoirs of wisdom and compassion for self and others is the foundation of both Peace Circle (P.C.) practices and Grounded Kids Yoga.

Let me back up and explain as a semi retired school Counselor of 38 years who has used circles in classrooms and groups for the last 20 years, I now have the privilege and the skills to train any community group in Restorative Practices, especially Peace Circles. Many schools here in western N.Y. and more specifically the Rochester City School District are embracing these trainings and incorporating them into their school environments in an effort to uplift the school cultures for both students and staff. More and more evidence is now available to show that these experiences build relationships, reduce violence, harm and conflict and when wrong doing does happen using Restorative Practices is a humane way to hold those accountable. Harm can be repaired with this process with support instead of punishing and alienating people, most often students. Its an honor to be a part of this cause and using Grounded Kids Yoga in these trainings is extremely helpful and a wonderful tool to use and to teach others to use for themselves and their students.

BettyI am happy to say I when I began working as a trainer 3 years ago I started using the Grounded Kids Yoga in most of my workshops and now many of the other trainers are incorporating some of the poses as well. I always begin first by briefly explaining the philosophy behind Grounded Kids Yoga as we all know there are many different types of yoga. Since doing openings and closing for every P.C. session is an integral part, I teach participants Just Breathe, “I am”, Lotus Breath and Namaste’. (I also add my own success stories using this yoga with kids.) I explain the mind jar when we do JB and have one available to demonstrate. Many educators have since adopted this for their classrooms and counseling groups. Tree Friends is a favorite to use as a closing (as in the picture above with educators from July 2015). If time allows we do Mountain, Tall Mountain, Breath of Joy and Half Lift. I use a chime for some added mindfulness and talk about ways to use this in the classroom. Dark Seed Light might be hard to do in the classroom but having the kids do a quieting, centering breathing pose with the chime is what I teach educators to use as great substitute and a positive way to facilitate kids managing their own behavior.

The list is growing and I find teachers have become more open to all of these practices as they recognize the value of connecting more with their kids, co-workers and themselves. Its exciting that many of our city schools are actually building in time for teachers to this. By the end of a training they all seem so appreciative for the experiential learning process, feel more connected to each other and are encouraged to have practical and new ways to create a more positive atmosphere in their own groups and classrooms. I walk away so grateful that two of my loves have come together to give me such purpose as well as hope for many of our struggling schools.

 

For more information on Restorative Practices and Peace Circles:

http://www.pirirochester.org/

http://www.iirp.edu/

 

How Yoga Can Help Children Cope With Bullying

Bullying seems to be out of control within the younger generations. They seem to be getting it harsher than any other generation. Children need to learn the necessary tools that will empower them to feel good about themselves. One of my favorite quotes is ‘When you feel good you act good, when you feel bad you act bad.’

Yoga teaches us to look within and to have a better understanding of the self. Yoga also teaches us the powerful tools of how to tap into the inner source of light a.k.a the heart, which then leads to finding true peace from within.

As a kids yoga instructor, I have seen the positive influence that yoga can have on a child who has been bullied. I’ve seen kids between the ages of 4 & 12 walk into my yoga classes with fear written on their face, which are often the result of the emotional scar that was left after being bullied. Some of these kids have pulled me aside and opened up about being bullied and how it has affected them emotionally.

heart1       My heart aches with sadness when they tell me how hurt and uncomfortable they feel within themselves. My own memories and terror of being bullied as a child still stick clearly in my mind. I can still clearly remember getting punched in the nose on the school bus at the age of 7 for laughing at a boys funny joke. I also remember being afraid at a slumber party because a bully showed up with a dictionary planning to hit my sister and I on the head.

It’s not to say that I am perfect or that I haven’t been mean to someone, but yoga has given me the tools to cope better by accessing my heart, which is my safe haven or my inner sanctuary.

When one of my students showed up to yoga class, she was very upset and emotional because she had been bullied on her bus ride home from school. While in savasana, I rubbed her feet with a lavender scented lotion and spoke about finding your inner light. I spoke about the heart and how through the heart we are able to find true peace. As I spoke, I noticed her become more relaxed. A few hours later, her mother emailed me and wrote ‘Emma told me that she almost cried in savasana because your words touched her so much….’

By teaching children about non-violence we are planting the seeds for a more peaceful and loving world. This includes non-violence towards not only other people, but ourselves as well as the plants & animals.

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Once I started to see the impact that yoga can have on a child who has been bullied, I decided to plan and theme one of my classes around learning to be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others. I wanted to teach the children to open to grace by leading them through a whole class that would show them how to access their greatest source of power; the heart.

We practiced the following sequence, which was meant to empower the students to feel good about themselves, but to also feel the connection with others.

 

Grounded Yoga Class Sequence

*Dark Seed Light

*I am What I am (adding phrases like ‘I am so kind’ and ‘I am so good’ or ‘I am so loved‘)

*Just Breathe

*Cat scratch fever

*Solid Ground Flow

*Go to your room

*Warrior 2 decide

*Triangle with wisdom

*Solid ground flow

*Root tree rise

*Tree Friends

*Solid ground flow

*Energy circuit

*Bridge

*Fish

*Savasana (with a guided visualization)

*Just breathe (with a singing bowl)

Throughout the class I was able to weave in the teachings of the yamas and the niyamas. I discussed non-violence (no bullying), non-stealing (don’t steal others people love of themselves), saucha (self-care, being kind to yourself), santosha (contentment), and lastly, tapas (self-discipline, showing up on the yoga mat). Having this discussion empowered all of us. I especially remember another student of mine getting really excited that we were talking about being kind. This kindred spirit spoke with excitement about how that very same day the well-known Kind Campaign came to talk to the girls at her school about being kind to each other. The women who lead this campaign travel around the country to various different schools and speak about their personal experiences of being bullied in school. These assemblies are known to empower young children (not just girls). They speak about the importance of being kind to others as well as the power of forgiveness. My student that day opened up to me at the end of class about the struggles she had gone through with her best friend and the ways in which they had treated each other in not so kind ways.

Bullying of any kind is damaging. It violates our self, which is the safest place we have. This is the worst kind of home invasion there is. I believe yoga has the power to change this. I believe that by offering children the gift of yoga we can teach the potential bullies of tomorrow to lead with their hearts instead. The practice of yoga is powerful in how it always leaves a person feeling good about themselves and more at peace. In other words, yoga has the power to make each and every one of us a better person than we were the day before.

Guided Visualization for accessing the light within, which opens the channels of the heart to forgive and to feel safe all at the same time:

As you lay on your back, close your eyes and allow yourself to become completely relaxed. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then open up your mouth and let it go. Ahhhhh….

(repeat 3 times)

As you lay there with your eyes closed, imagine a white light in the center of your heart. Begin to focus in on the light and feel its radiance surrounding your whole being. As you breathe in feel your heart fill up and silently say to yourself ‘I am filled with love’ and as you breathe out feel this light pour out of your heart and silently say to yourself ‘I am safe.’

It is through the heart that we are able to love and forgive others. It is through the heart that we are able to go within and find that safe cocoon that exists inside each of us.

How does it make you feel to know that you can always go inside and breathe into this safe space?

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