With flowers blooming and leaves budding, it's a good time to re-evaluate our habits, sweep out the old, and incorporate the new! Spring cleaning doesn't have to be limited to our physical space. The seasons' change is an optimal time to reinvigorate our motivation to live healthfully and wisely. Whether your goals are a more consistent yoga practice, better eating or sleeping habits, or more time for yourself, spring clean your daily routine with this mindfulness journey.
You might think mindfulness and meditation are only for adults, but kids and teens can also experience great benefits from these practices. All you need to teach these skills are an appropriate approach and a patient attitude. Parents should practice these exercises with their kids. This helps them see that even adults need to work on calming down, and reinforces that this is a life-long practice. Practicing together also builds a deep connection between you and your child.
Most of these exercises are done sitting and preferably with the eyes closed (except for the raisin and walking meditations). In each of these exercises, start by preparing your child to relax. Depending on your child's age and ability, a few gentle stretches can make the body feel more comfortable. Make sure where you are meditating is free from distractions and feels cozy. If it's appropriate, dim the lights. Ask your child to come into a comfortable position sitting, standing or lying down, depending on which meditation you are practicing. Almost all of these practices are appropriate for both kids and teens.
As with all mindfulness exercises, it is best not to practice with expectations for how (or how long) your child will meditate. Let them develop their practice gradually - start with a few seconds for young or restless kids, and encourage them by praising what they've accomplished. Eventually, they will come to enjoy the peaceful feeling and will meditate longer, naturally. At that point, you might encourage your child to describe how they feel after meditating.
If your child gets frustrated, let them know it is normal for thoughts to wander away from where we want them. You might even throw in a personal example. That's what meditation is all about. It's why we practice! To learn to bring our thoughts back under control.
Exercises adapted from Yoga for the Special Child and Yoga for Teens.
Five Keys Yoga is participating in #MindfulMarch again this year! We'll be offering donation-based classes, with proceeds going to the Love Your Brain Foundation. The LYB Foundation provides yoga and guided mindfulness meditation to survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury and their caregivers. Both of our #MindfulMarch classes will include yoga and a mindfulness meditation. Beginners are welcome!
#MindfulMarch classes at Five Keys Yoga
March 10th, 10-11am
March 28th, 5:30-6:30pm*
*Class on the 28th includes complementary chiropractic adjustment with Dr. Taylor Clifford
But you don't have to wait for March to get started on mindfulness. There are oodles of guided meditations on Youtube, the Headspace app, etc. (not to mention some on this very blog...) to give you a sense of the various ways of meditating. You might feel ready to start right now, but aren't sure what to expect or don't know how mindfulness is different than meditation. Never fear! Mindfulness is just a type of meditation. All you need is a relatively quiet space, where you can remain undisturbed for a few minutes. Once you're ready to give it a go, here are four tips.
Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 program begins in Evanston in just over a month! This week-long training is taught by Sonia Sumar, creator of the Yoga for the Special Child® method. Sonia has been teaching this method to kids for over forty years and now brings her training to all corners of the world. We are so lucky to have her in our own backyard.
YSC Basic 1 is for anyone who has an interest in learning to teach yoga to kids with special needs. You do not have to be a yoga teacher. This program is especially useful for parents, teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, and yoga teachers. Participants will receive enough hours to become accredited as RCYT with Yoga Alliance (if already a yoga teacher), after completing Basic 1 & 2. But you can start teaching kids up to age 12 right after you finish the program.
Participants will learn from Sonia herself - how to engage and focus students through yoga chants, breathing exercises, yoga poses, and guided relaxation, as well as how to evaluate students and utilize appropriate exercises for their condition. A very special part of the program is the opportunity to see Sonia teach demo classes with children, which gives participants the chance to see the method in action. You will leave feeling prepared to apply yoga techniques to a wide variety of "limitations" and "needs". And best of all, you will have the chance to deepen your own yoga practice, under the guidance of this living yoga legend!
Register here (or below) to reserve your spot. Any questions can be directed to the program coordinator for Evanston, Erin. More info here.
I'm going to be honest, I'm not a natural at self-care. Oh sure, I'm pretty good about meditating, doing yoga regularly, and eating relatively healthfully; but all of those things I can easily justify as "business-care". I can't be a good teacher if I don't maintain my own practice. It's only recently that I've noticed how essential self-care is within my practice, as both a person and a business-owner.
As you'd probably expect, I'm a pretty bendy person. This has always been the case. But this flexibility comes with a dark side, as I easily injure my ligaments and tendons, and have a recurring thing where my knee cap pops over to one side. Once, a doctor even cautioned me to wear orthotics to prevent the collapse of the arches of
This short meditation for kids is very relaxing. It's great to do before bed, before school, or anytime you just need a break! Find a comfy place, close your eyes, and get ready to relax...
Yoga for Kids starts October 4th. Register here.
As you may know if you've been in for a class or Yoga Therapy session recently: our home base, Urban Escape Healing is closing. Unfortunately, the building UE has been renting from was bought and the new owners are re-purposing the space. It's been an unexpected change that we all - 5 Keys' teachers and students - had to adjust to quickly. I'm so grateful to our community for the expressions of concern and excitement for our future. Never fear, Five Keys will continue on. It's time for us to start a new chapter!
We already have several plans on the books and in the works. Part of running a business requires me to keep changes for the 5 Keys' community as smooth as possible. For this reason, we aren't releasing information about our new classes until all our "t"s and "i"s have been crossed and dotted. But keep an eye out on the website and on social media this week, as we'll be posting more information about our new classes at Tribe, which will begin October 4th.
We'll continue to update you as more classes are confirmed. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive info about our new classes as we announce them.
Autumn is around the corner! Even if we're not in the "Back to School" crowd, the approach of Labor Day has us all wrapping up summer projects and launching into the fall. It's easy to lose step with practices that support our well-being. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities, I tend to have a harder time convincing myself to meditate. I find guided relaxations are a great way to jump-start my practice when I'm struggling to motivate myself.
I hope you enjoy this relaxation, called Yoga Nidra in the Integral Hatha Yoga lineage. You can practice it in a chair or lying down. We start with a progressive muscle relaxation. Then, observe our body, breath and mind in its natural, relaxed state.
The cornerstone of our health is sleep. Quality sleep repairs our body from daily stress and prepares us for growth. Poor sleep has been implicated in a variety of issues, such as being overweight, having poor work performance, and increasing car accidents. Sleep has four stages. The last two stages - and especially the fourth, called REM sleep - are essential for healing. However, the cause of our poor sleep are often the daily stresses we are trying to heal from in REM sleep! Talk about a catch-22.
There are plenty of tips out there on sleep hygiene: exercising, maintaining a regular bedtime routine, unplugging from electronics, and creating a peaceful bedroom. Yoga is another tool in the sleep toolbox. Both adults' and children’s sleep can be benefited from regular yoga practice. But you don't have to fit a yoga class in to reap benefits for your sleep.
Here are three yogic tips for a happy bedtime that you can practice at home!
1. Nadi Sudhi (alternate nostril breathing) -
Nadi Sudhi is a breathing exercise that acts as a tonic to the nervous system and relaxes the body and mind.
Take a deep breath in. Press a finger gently on your right nostril as you breathe out and then in through your left nostril. Switch and gently press another finger on your left nostril, while taking the first finger off your right nostril. Breathe out the through right. Breathe in the right nostril, switch and breathe out the left. Breathe in the left nostril, switch and breathe out the right. Continue alternating nostrils in the breathe in - switch - breathe out pattern for a few minutes. End by breathing out the left nostril. Practice for three complete rounds, gradually working up to ten.
There is also a hand gesture (Vishnu mudra) that is traditionally used during nadi sudhi. Practicing this hand gesture creates added demands on concentration and develops control of the fingers. To use Vishnu mudra, bring your right index and middle fingers into the palm of your hand. Keeping your thumb, ring and pinky fingers extended, alternate your breath between your nostrils. Gently press your thumb on the right nostril and breath out the left, and then switch, pressing your ring finger on the left nostril, breathing out through the right.
You might also try lying on your belly, right cheek on the bed. Gently plug your right nostril and breathe in and out through your left. This stimulates the right side of your brain, tied to the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax.
2. Legs up the wall - Letting your legs rest up the wall is a wonderful way to unwind. It may also help you fall asleep.
Bring your legs up the wall, while you lie on the floor or bed. You might put a firm pillow or folded blanket under your low back (where it lifts from the floor just above the pelvic bones) or under your head. An eye pillow and blanket on top make this a truly restorative pose.
3. Meditation - Repeating a mantra or focusing your attention on a peaceful object or idea (dharana) loosens the hold of stressful thoughts on your mind.
If you don't regularly meditate, you might like to set a timer for five or ten minutes. Then your mind will be free to rest its awareness in your meditation, instead of wondering how long you have practiced.
A few minutes following the breath as it moves in and out of your body has a grounding effect. Watch your mind as the thoughts come and go, without clinging to any thought in particular, nor judging your thoughts when they arise. It is normal for concentration to waver. So if you notice your mind wander, kindly guide your attention back to your breath, your object of concentration or your mantra.
Spending just a few minutes practicing these techniques before bed may save you many minutes tossing and turning throughout the night.
What are some sleep hygiene tips that work for you?
Erin Haddock is the director of Five Keys Yoga, LLC.