If you ask my four year old what her favorite sport is, she will respond with her most recent activity. Likewise, if I ask her when it’s the best time of day to do something, she will respond with “right now!” I love her in the moment attitude! She lives 100% in the “right now”. Yet, as we get older we lose our connection to the “right now” and we tend to focus on the “what next”. Of course, this is a good skill for us to have. We wouldn’t be able to get through the day without planning for the future. But, if we spent all our time thinking about the future (or rehashing what happened in the past) we’d miss out on what’s going on in the moment.
Mindfulness is the practice of present moment awareness. As humans, we think, we feel, we move, but how often are we fully present with these actions? Mindfulness is not thinking about the past or the future, but what is happening right now. It is being aware of what you are doing when you are doing it, being aware of what you are feeling as you are feeling it.
Practicing mindfulness has the ability to rewire our brains and change our behaviors. We can be more in control of our emotional and behavioral responses. I was recently introduced to Stephen Covey’s 10/90 rule: Ten percent of our lives are determined by what happens to us and 90 percent is determined by how we respond. Wait! What!? Let’s read that sentence again! Ten percent of our lives are determined by what happens to us and 90 percent is determined by how we respond. So, with that said, being able to connect with yourself in the present moment is an amazing tool for regulating our responses (even in children who are still developing that part of their brain!).
Yoga is the perfect place to incorporate mindfulness. It is easy to infuse bits of mindfulness in our yoga classes. We are already inviting students to connect with their bodies as they move, breathe, and focus. The next step is to encourage them to notice how they are feeling.
Next Generation Yoga’s Everyday Mindfulness Lesson Plan gives some great examples of mindfulness activities that can be combined into a full class. Similarly, NGY’s Yoga Cards for School-Based Educators also provides some Mindfulness activities that can be practiced alone or in concert with other activities.
Here are 3 simple ways to infuse mindfulness into your day:
1. Ring a bell or chime at the beginning or the end of a lesson and ask the children to take 3 mindful breaths paying attention to the breath as it goes in and out.
2. Invite your children to close their eyes and place both hands over their hearts and “notice how they feel” after a round of movement like jumping jacks, a fast paced game, or a round of sun salutations.
3. Help them tune in as a neutral observer:
* “Notice the difference between the tension and relaxation in your body”
* “Notice if one side of your body feels any different” in between stretches"
* “Notice how strong or confident you feel” in warrior poses"
* “Notice how it feels to offer support to those around you” after partner or group poses.
Finally, and most importantly, the best teachers are those who practice what they preach. Teaching mindfulness will come more easily and authentically when you develop your own consistent practice. Give it a try and notice what happens!
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. How do you bring mindfulness to children? How has your own daily practice impacted your teaching?