Manage Stress Responses Through Calming Family Yoga & Mindfulness
We are bringing a series of workshops into family centres and schools for families to engage in mindfulness through yoga poses, fun, sensory play, music, creative mindful activities and relaxations. Our work in this partnership with Family Support, Hammersmith & Fulham, is centred upon the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative which the council help instil within their own work, to ensure better outcomes for all through a greater understanding of how the brain works.
The practices of yoga and mindfulness in themselves are already helping to build happy, strong, resilient brains, but bringing in that extra element of knowledge in each session is really helping our families take the most from the sessions and enabling them to carry it into their ongoing lives.
We have already led our families through the topics of building brain architecture, the importance of serve and return and positive interaction, and also types of stress response which we focused on last week- but how does this relate to practicing yoga and mindfulness I hear you say?
Well to start with, we begin all sessions by informing the parents/carers/grandparents that, should their child wish not to engage in certain activities, or be too young to fully understand it, then the parent themselves engaging in the breathing technique, taking a moment to be still and present, is JUST as important as the child doing the exercise themselves! This is because, not only is the child observing their adult engaging in a mindful practice, but they will feel that from the change in how the parent feels after the session. It is also important that the adults tune into how they are feeling, and accept those feelings, and also the energy or emotional state of their child. This is all part of the practice of yoga and mindfulness.
Note to parents/caregivers: your happiness and self-nurturing is just as important as theirs! This is why the sessions consist of poses and additional information just for us adults to connect with the invitation to try to call on the practices in daily life when we need them most!
With that in mind, we focused on creating a sense of calm last week in the workshop to really help induce that feeling within the adults and children. We never know what sort of night or morning our families have had so it was key for us to allow them to feel the calm energy.
Also, as it is it Mental Health Awareness week I thought it was a suitable time to share this as all of this work we do at HERE is to ensure the mental wellbeing of parents and families, so they can ensure the happy, healthy development on their little ones.
Putting calming techniques into practice
For those interested in trying this at home, here are a few things we did to help promote a sense of calm. You can call upon these methods for those times where stress is amounting to toxic levels and you need to take a moment and recenter, for the benefit of yourself and also to positively model this coping mechanism to your little ones.
We asked the parents with little ones who were small enough to stand tall in mountain pose and hold their little one in front of their tummy- and then practice breathing into their tummy, which their baby would feel too.
Then I started to play the singing bowl, and went round to each child for them to have their special moment connecting to the sound- it is amazing how children of different ages react to the calming sound!
This week, they were also given a ‘Calm mindful family toolbox’ with 7 ideas of ways to engage with their child mindfully. One for each day of the week! We wanted to share this with those who weren’t able to make to, so here it is!
Calming Mindful Family Toolbox
This Calm Mindful Family toolbox include mindful methods such as creative ideas, affirmations, breathing exercises and yoga poses (and there’s one to try each day of the week!). Each one is aimed at a certain part of your child's development too.
Monday Motivation + Gratitude:
Try bringing into your morning routine a moment of reflection maybe just after waking up or before you leave the house on Monday morning-
“I enjoy all the times I feel calm as a cloud”
“Being calm as a cloud makes me feel happy and relaxed”
“I will do my best to be calm as a cloud this week”
Tuesday + Observation
Pay attention to all the times throughout the week that your child shows calm behaviour, or make someone else feel relaxed or calm. You could even create a calmness chart for example making a ‘Calming cloudy sky’- which you draw a cloud to add to the sky when acknowledging a calm moment. There is no point scoring here, it is a family team effort, so no child feels like they have done better than another. You can fill the sky and maybe offer a family reward once completed.
Wednesday + Creativity:
Rest your mind time jar- Find an old jar, a small ish one do. Maybe an old jam jar, and start by cleaning any labels and glue off it so it’s a clean surface. Fill the jar close to the top with water then add some glitter/sequins/sand/food colouring- close the lid tight! Add gems/sequins to the jar/lid (optional) then you’re ready to go!
Explain to your little one that when you shake the jar, the glitter and sand/sequins moving about inside represents your mind feeling busy. If they are a little older you may be able to explain that it reflects actual feelings such as stress, worry, anxiety or just too many thoughts racing round your mind. Whatever their age, you can then explain that when the glitter and sand/sequins settles, this is your mind calming. You can instruct your child to breathe deeply and slowly while they watch the contents of the jar to settle.
Thursday time in + developing relationships:
Take some time to ask your child what makes them feel calm as a cloud, and you do the same for yourself. You want to try and focus on ‘time in’ here, so making them think about things they like to do together such as snuggling up with mum with hot chocolate and a favourite book, or giving each other little hand massages, baking some healthy cookies, extra snuggles before bed etc..
Whatever they (and you!) come up with, try and do one of those things during the following days, it can be their ‘Special Calm Time’ with you. Make your time together about quality not quantity.
Friday breathing exercise + emotional resilience:
Calm as a cloud breath- laying on your back, with your legs bent and soles of your feet together. Imagine you are looking up at a beautiful blue sky, now with one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest, breathe in nice and slowly and as you breathe out of your mouth imagine you blow the fluffiest white cloud away from you and into the sky. Watch it float up slowly and calmly into the sky- your breath in the calming wind carrying the cloud into the sky.
Saturday yoga poses + strength and flexibility:
This can be part of a morning or evening routine to book-end the day with a bit of positivity or calming. Also, if you toddler struggles with bedtime, it can be incorporated into that routine as a method of calming before sleep.
1. Easy pose
This is just a simple seated pose with crossed legs, and can be done either on your own or sat together back to back in the partner pose variation.
Easy pose story: Sit up tall, close your eyes, and place your hands on your knees. As you breathe in nice long deep breaths imagine you are both blowing up a big bubble of love and happiness, and every time you breathe in more, and more again, it gets bigger and bigger still… until it pops! Remaining still and breathing out a nice long slow breath, enjoy imagining the warm feeling of shared love and joy raining down on you.
2. Crescent moon pose
This is a side bend pose which can be done either stood up, or may I suggest lying down in this case. This can be a nice pose to do on the carpet/mat before getting into bed, and you can also do this one together!
Crescent moon story: Imagine you are a little moon raising high into the sky as you lift your arms above your head palms touching. Imagine that as you are raising your arms into the air you are reaching higher and higher into the sky, and then bend your body over to the right as you try to touch a star on your right and then the same on your left side (although maybe this time you can tickle the other crescent moon laying next to you :)…) After, maybe head to your window and see if you can spot the moon to wish it a good night before getting into bed yourself.
3. Rock pose
This is the kid’s version of child’s pose. Still the exact same pose that we do in adult yoga but you can add a little story to it. This is a good one before bed to help totally calm and relax the body and the mind and prepare for sleep.
Rock pose story: Imagine you are a little tiny rock at the bottom of a river. You sit there quietly and peacefully all hunched up in a little ball and sometimes you can feel the ripples and current of the water washing over your back (this is where you can get their blanket and waft it over them to simulate the water). Sometimes you feel big waves washing over you, and then slow calm waves. But the river always calms as nighttime draws in, and slowly slowly comes to stillness.
Sunday night affirmation + self-concept:
“I am a calm cloud”
“I bring calm and happiness to those around me”
“I am loved”
Take time to try at home
Try to implement these methods in your home and you’ll find that you can call on them in times of need. during real life situations is an important extension of this, so remember to call upon your toolbox of calm for when you or you child need it most.
We are loving seeing our friendly families each week, being able to provide them with this special time to spend with their little ones, and also to have for themselves. We have been able to connect adults with themselves and with each other which has been so wonderful to see.
Love, Jen x
Our Om:Pop series with Family Support Hammersmith & Fulham is brought to you by HERE in partnership with Bubble + Sprout, where we bring bespoke mindfulness, yoga and brain building sessions to families. Family Support, backed by the H&F Council, has an incredible mission, which is to help families in Hammersmith & Fulham thrive. This includes their “Brain Builders” initiative with activities and resources to help build your baby’s brain!