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Both of my children are in all day camps this week. This is the first time in over a year that I have had a week of whole days to myself. That is a lot of time. I have in the past spent my limited free time on yoga and other athletic pursuits which after the hour or so of activity has left me little time to do much else. Now the day looms ahead of me each morning—what should I do with this time? I am used to training for an athletic goal. This means finding a training schedule and sticking to it to accomplish the triathlon or endurance run without injury and hopefully faster than before. I sit here trying to find some summer goals to put into my schedule. The first step in attaining any goal is to find one that you really want to accomplish. I have been wanting to paint my brown kitchen table base and chairs black to match my kitchen better. I really want them painted but I keep hesitating knowing that I will need a lot of patience to sand each piece. Do I want this goal badly enough to suffer through the endless sanding?
How we learn to make and achieve goals:
• Decide on a goal.
• Think about all of the steps required to achieve the goal.
• Think about possible setbacks and how to overcome those setbacks.
• Take small steps everyday to achieve the goal.
In yoga we are continuously achieving goals. We allow our body to dictate how far we should take a pose while letting our mind ease our body into those poses further and further. Our mind and body work together taking us slowly but surely to places that we never thought possible to go. We focus our breath on places in our bodies to allow them to relax—and they do. We put our feet up in crow and balance — taking a risk and believing that we can.
When I teach my classes, I begin by setting an intention (goal) for the class. For example: “Today we will work on balance poses or back bends”. Next I provide the steps that lead up to the more challenging poses. We start small and work our way up–warming our bodies and minds up to taking that risk which comes with the possibility of success. I always tell my classes that falling out of a pose is one of the best ways a teacher can tell that a student is on that thin line between hard work and success.
A fun yoga class project would be to construct a yoga asana book. Provide each student with a paper folder that holds papers with hole punches and for each class give your students a new page to add to their book. By the end of the session each student will have a book of their accomplishments. You can also provide pages with affirmations to go between the poses to unite the mind with the body.
And, yes, my chairs are almost complete. I have given new life to my old furniture by painting them black. The man at the paint store told me that with the oil based paint I was using I only needed to rough up the shiny surface of my old furniture. My initial fears of this project were only in my mind and my goal being (nearly) accomplished has left me eager to add another to my summer list.
I began my day waking up early and meeting some friends for a run on the green trail which is one of my favorite places to run. The morning promised a beautiful day with the sun already shining and the heat building, wisps of fog dancing in the fields. I passed at least seven deer grazing while driving to the rendezvous point. One was the identical image of Bambi from the Disney film—it was tiny and had white spots unlike the other older deer wandering the fields. It is moments like that, which I would not have seen if my alarm didn’t wake me at 5:15 to venture out while my family sleeps, that make me feel grateful.
I had a great run with the aches and pains d’jour not making a fuss and the conversation with friends flowing making the miles fly. I felt peaceful upon arriving home.
First day of summer vacation! The excitement for the fun to start created a frenetic energy that pulsed from my son. He was ready. The “for what” wasn’t planned yet. His sister wasn’t up yet and as the minutes ticked the frenetic energy began to turn into an unsettling grumpiness. When said sister did finally awaken, her surly brother was already waiting to bait and catch. My kids don’t wrestle or fight physically. They are almost four years apart and that just doesn’t work. Instead they have developed other tactics that hurt—tattling, instigating, put downs. I’m sure these things are happening in every household but none-the-less they drive me bonkers and I just can’t have a summer of taunts, cries and whines. What can be done? Here are some ideas to help stave off the sibling rivalry. I will not hold them as fool proof, but give them a try. Let me know which work best for you and I’ll let you know how things progress here this summer.
If you have children that like to one up or put down their siblings, I found these ideas in the 10-Minute Life Lessons for Kid book.
One tactic to help cut down on put downs is to encourage the offender to say three compliments to the person that has been belittled before being able to continue with the activity that is taking place bringing awareness to the positive qualities of the sibling.
(I have a friend who makes her children pay 5 cents each time they tattle, whine or belittle their siblings. The money goes into a family activity savings jar. I like this idea but my children don’t get allowance yet so this won’t work for us.)
Another interesting activity for a family to do that demonstrates that a person’s love is limitless which may help with jealous siblings is to first give each family member a candle (the braided kind work best). Then mom or dad lights their candle and explains that the flame represents love. Each time you light a different member of the family’s candle discuss the love you felt for them coming into your life. After everyone’s candle is lit, ask these questions:
- Did my light get smaller as I passed my light to each of you?
- By giving love (light) to each child, was love taken away from the original child or spouse?
- Is there more light with everyone’s candle lit than with just mine lit?
- Do we have enough light as a family to share it with others who might need it — who may be sad or lonely?
- What happens when all the candles are held together?
- Does the light shine more brightly as a family or as individuals?
A great book that helps with all kinds of negative behavior is “1-2-3 Magic” by Thomas Phelan. The idea behind this book is that when your child is demonstrating negative behaviors such as whining, back talk, negotiating, sibling fighting you count them for each time the infraction occurs until three. At three there is a consequence. The consequence should be as closely related to the event as possible but taking away privileges works as well. In my house an earlier bedtime hour or reduced tv time are often used as consequences. If used consistently by both parents, this discipline technique really helps.
A final suggestion to temper heated summer moments between children would be to try some partner yoga. Did you actually think that yoga ideas would not be in this post! Partner yoga is a wonderful way to help your children connect and work together. It is fun and often ends in laughter. Partner poses to try can be found in this inspiring book called “Playful Family Yoga for Kids, Parents and Grandparents” by Teressa Asencia. Try these easy poses with your children or have them do them together.
Partner Boat Pose: Each person starts facing each other seated with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grab ahold of each other’s hands on the outside of your legs while placing the soles of your feet together. Using core strength, lift both feet up and straigten your legs while balancing on your sit bones in boat pose.
Partner Lotus Pose: Starting in the same way as above, grab ahold of each other’s hand on the inside of the legs this time and lift legs up with your feet touching and while balancing on your sit bones.
Sunbathing on a Rock: One person starts in child’s pose. The other person stands at their partner’s feet facing away from their partner. Gently, the standing partner lowers themselves down so their sacrum (lower back) is resting on the sacrum of their partner in child’s pose. The partner on top then drapes their body over their partner so that both of their heads are next to each other. Partners must talk to each other and respect each other. The partner on top then opens their chest up by extending their arms to the sides. When the bottom partner is ready, switch.
It is hard for children to navigate through their energy levels. As adults we have different coping strategies in place (or at least we should by now!) to deal with drops in daily energy or excessive energy moments. I try to avoid certain food for lunch that will make feel sluggish like pasta, Chinese food or any meal that is heavy on carbs. I take long deep breaths to fill up on fresh oxygen. I exercise or nap depending on what I think I need. I also use coffee for boosting low energy moments. I am a self-confessed coffee addict.
On the flip side, when I have moments when I feel like I am going to bounce of walls, I run. I play outside with my children. I do some head or hand stands. I use the energy constructively.
Children don’t often listen to their bodies. When that energy slump or high hits, it is often when we see disruptive behavior (like sibling fighting) or tantrums. Yoga is a great tool to help children find outlets for their different energy levels.
Here a list of my favorite yoga poses and fun activities to help kids calm down:
seated spinal twist
Mandala coloring: Mandalas are balanced visual designs that are used as meditation to create internal harmony. While coloring the design in a quiet atmosphere, thoughts come and go resulting in a meditative state— a clarity and calmness. Besides the coloring books I love using, I have also found websites online that allow you to download mandalas for free.
I have also found some great sand mandalas here.
Books I recommend that help children relax:
Please let me know if you have ways to help the children in your life calm down and find peace.
One of the reasons that I love to teach yoga to children is because of yoga’s power to create change in both the body and mind. Children are just learning about themselves. Their self opinion is tied to the people around them — peers, teachers and family members have a huge influence on how kids see themselves. Yoga allows kids to find their own strength and teaches children to trust their own voice inside of their head instead of always listening to what others have to say.
That being said, the reality is that other people do effect how children see themselves so why not keep a reminder of the positive things others have said or written to refer to on the occasion when self-esteem falls.
A great idea that I found on a fabulous website www.beliefnet.com for adults is to create a self-esteem folder. You can call this folder something more playful for children but the general idea is to fill up this folder with notes from parents, siblings, friends and teachers about the child’s positive qualities. Birthday cards, drawings, certificates from programs or sports, quotes that people have said about the child, work from school in which they have pride — basically anything that will help boost up the child’s feeling of worth should be included.
I remember back in elementary school wanting so much to be this one girl in my class. She had long black shiny hair, she was smart and pretty and was admired by everyone. I was so jealous of her that I also remember getting in trouble for throwing cut up paper at her… if only I had a box or file to glance at back then to remind myself that I too had qualities that made me special.