Well-Bean's Guiding Principles: Enriching the Lives of Children Through Yoga & Mindfulness Practices.
By Jen Rapanos, LMSW, RCYT
Our guiding principles set us apart and shape how we approach and deliver our classes and workshops. Here is an overview of Well-Bean's Seven Seeds that help guide our Yoga & Mindfulness Classes: Yoga-Mindfulness-Connection-Awareness-Breath-Relaxation-Compassion.
YOGA for well-being. Many people think immediately of the physical benefits that can accompanying a yoga practice. Building strength, flexibility and balance, and for children in the midst of growth it can assist with neuromuscular development and coordination. But yoga for children isn’t just a physical practice and it certainly isn’t about alignment or worrying about how a pose looks. We often say in classes "you can’t tell if someone is doing yoga from the outside," instead, practicing yoga asanas with children provides an opportunity to become curious about how a pose feels in the body in a way that is curious and kind. We explore poses with children, often asking questions like “which way feels better for you?” and "notice what happens with your breath in this pose." Yoga can modulate energy and mood and relieve stress; yoga as a practice can help support a child’s physical, emotional and mental health.
MINDFULNESS matters. Mindfulness helps cultivate self-awareness, so children become more familiar with their internal and external experiences, thoughts and emotions. Likewise, mindful action promotes conflict resolution and fosters skills like empathy and compassion. We use focused attention practices to teach children how to focus on a particular stimulus; it’s a skill that has to be taught and practiced. The “attention muscle” can be exercised and strengthened. As focused attention increases, wiring to the frontal lobes in the brain occurs. The mindful practice of bring our attention back, over and over again supports brain wiring; “neurons that fire together wire together.”
Build CONNECTION. Tuning in and connecting with ourselves is the foundation to building self-awareness. How often, if ever, do we ask (or teach) children to pause and check in; notice how they're feeling, to gate their energy, attention or motivation level, to pay attention to their thoughts? In this important work we have the capacity to support children in relearning to trust in their innate wisdom and to foster connections with themselves, with others and the world around them. "When people go within and connect with themselves, they realize they are connected to the universe and they are connected to all living things." ~ Armand Dimele
AWARENESS gives us choices. “We can’t change what we’re not aware of.” This important phrase reminds us that awareness provides us with information from which then we have choices; we can choose to shift our attention to someone, something or more positive thinking, choose to modify our energy level, choose to take a few breaths or take care of our needs. When children are provided with opportunities to tune in, to pay attention to their inner world and experiences, we are supporting the development of self-awareness. With awareness, children can learn to harness tools to help manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviors and the more opportunities to practice, the easier it will be for them to call on these resources; to become more self-reliant when they find themselves distracted, stressed or experiencing strong emotions.
BREATHING space. The breath is a powerful tool, teaching children that they have some control over their own emotional and energetic states. Conscious and full breathing increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain, priming the brain for increased attention and focus. When we teach children to pay attention to their breath, then educate them on how to breathe fully and deeply we are actually familiarizing them with the effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of the autonomic nervous system induces calm and relaxation; it sends signals through the body that all is well and safe. From this place of calm and ease we are better able to access and strengthen connections to the area of the brain that helps manage our emotions and solve problems more skillfully.
RELAX with purpose. We know from research that many children are chronically sleep deprived, are experiencing stress in their daily lives at heightened levels and are exposed every day to an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation. We also know that relaxation techniques like focused attention practices and guided meditations can help reduce stress and anxiety and are an effective tool for quieting the body and mind. With the parasympathetic nervous system awakened, we have a clearer lens on how to effectively handle day-to-day challenges. Relaxation is a strategy and the ability to relax is a skill that has to be taught. “For the things
we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ~Aristotle
Make COMPASSION a habit. Yoga and mindfulness teach us how to live curiously, gently and with compassion—with ourselves, others, and the world. We can provide children with opportunities to explore themselves and the world around them in a safe and supportive environment, cultivating practices and experiences that teach them how to live in harmony and with heart—with themselves, with others and their communities. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”~Jack Kornfield.
We end each Well-Bean class with the following loving-kindness phrases:
May I be brave and feel safe
May I be happy just the way I am
May I live gently, with love and kindness
May I feel peace in my heart
Jen Rapanos, LMSW, RCYT is a child and adolescent psychotherapist working in private practice. She is the owner of Well-Bean, LLC which is committed to providing services & programs that foster the emotional & mental well-being of youth. Well-Bean offers child & adolescent psychotherapy, yoga & mindfulness classes, wellness workshops and education & training for parents and educators.
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