Ball Pit Benefits

Children love ball pits; however it seems like a weird addition to a aerial yoga studio, right? Ball pits offer children opportunities to jump, swim, and hide.  This fun sensory experience also has multiple therapeutic benefits and is a great addition to kid’s yoga classes.

Mindfulness.  Ball pits offer opportunities to practice mindfulness.   Hide a few smaller balls and have children use their tactile and visual skills to find the balls. This activity improves focus and concentration.

Cooperative Play.  Ball pits can also encourage cooperative play and social skills when two children are working on an activity in the ball pit together.

Eye-Hand Coordination.  If balls roll out of the ball pit then children are able to work on eye-hand coordination by throwing the balls back into the pit.

Relaxation. The ball pit at Mindful Child Wellness is made of soft material that offers a quiet place to breathe and be calm.  Children love when we incorporate it into a sensory station.

Ball pits are a fantastic therapeutic tools to work on body awareness, motor planning, proprioception, and tactile input.  Ball pits can provide endless therapeutic benefits!  Children have the opportunity to exercise their sensory system all while being mindful, relaxed and most importantly, having FUN.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Aerial Yoga Hammocks

Is your child is hooked on our amazing aerial yoga  classes?  Are they begging for their own hammock for home use?   If so, this is the blog for you!

WHY BUY A HAMMOCK

Aerial yoga gives children the feeling of safe, weightless flight. Participation in an aerial yoga class has a wide range of benefits for children of all ages, such as cognitive, neurological, motor, and developmental.

There are multiple therapeutic and sensory benefits associated with aerial yoga.   Children are having fun while strengthening their minds and bodies. Yoga in the aerial hammocks is a great tool to regulate the central nervous system, increase body awareness,  and help children become aware of their own social and emotional needs so they can self-regulate their behavior.

WHAT TO BUY

Single Point Hammock. Mindful Child Wellness uses the single point instead of a double point hammock.  The single point allows for lots of spinning and hours of fun and is better suited for the style of aerial yoga we practice in our classes.

Swivel. Rotational devices or Swivels are not necessary for Aerial Yoga Hammocks, but they do allow an additional spinning component to hammock use, and they also decrease the force placed on the attachment point.

Mindful Child Wellness uses swivels in our studio to allow versatility with hammock use, full movement in all planes, decreased twisting of hammock straps, smoothness with movement and extra fun!   Most kids love how the swivel adds a sense of flow to movement in the hammock and allows a spinning component, but some kids can be overwhelmed by spinning, which can lead to nausea.

WHERE TO BUY

Not all hammocks are created equal and do not move the same.  Dr. Tracy recommends buying hammocks from the Mindful Child Wellness website.  Sorry, we are a little bit biased.  We use Yogapeutic hammocks, which have been safety tested to 1300 pounds.  These aerial hammocks are machine washable and can be in the dryer for 12 minutes, which is important if you want to kill viruses lurking on the material.

Purchase One Here!

Or to buy a hammock on our website go to MindfulChildWellness.com and click on “Services” a drop down menu will appear.  Click on “Yoga Hammocks” and it will take you to our affiliate, Yogapeutics.  We absolutely love our hammocks! They may be a little pricier, but they are worth it!

If you want to try another type of hammock Dr. Tracy has bought hammocks through aerial fabrics in the past.  They are good hammocks, but require knots at the top, which can be tricky if you are not familiar with aerial equipment.  This brand also needs to be washed and dried by hand so they require more work.

Aerial Fabric Acrobats Link.

When buying a hammock avoid Amazon and companies that do not specialize in aerial equipment – invest in a good quality hammock to ensure the safety of your child.

Once your hammock is ordered be prepared for reduced stress, improved happiness and hours spent moving, creating and playing!

 

Acupuncture for Improved Health

Acupuncture can enhance the immune system and help with symptom reduction in a variety of disorders in both children and adults. With allergies and back to school illnesses lurking in the air, acupuncture is an effective, research-based alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a type of physical stimulation, which means it irritates body tissue to ease symptoms of pain, inflammation, and/or nausea.  I know, this seems counter intuitive, but the gate control theory of pain suggests that increasing pain by increasing stimulation of nerves, is a way to reduce the perception of pain (Melzack & Wall, 1982).   For example, when you stub your toe you grab your foot and apply pressure or when you burn your fingers on a hot surface you put your fingers in your mouth. It’s the same principal as acupuncture, according to the gate control theory.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Acupuncture, in which needles are inserted at specific points on the skin,  can help reduce symptoms of disorders.  It is based on the premise that the body’s energy flows in 14 distinct channels and a person’s health is dependent on the balance of energy flowing through them (Richardson & Vincent, 1986).  Imbalances can be corrected by inserting tiny needles into the skin.

DOES RESEARCH SUPPORT IT?

There are over 4,000 scientific studies published on the efficacy of acupuncture for various disorders from post-traumatic stress to tennis elbow.  The research suggests acupuncture can effectively treat symptoms such as pain and nausea.  Of course, everyone has a different biochemistry; therefore, not everyone will respond favorably to acupuncture, but this is true for all interventions. The recognition of individual differences has always been a problem in research and immunology.

Other conditions have received attention in research studies and suggest potential areas for the use of acupuncture.  Thus, acupuncture is it not limited to pain and nausea, this is just the primary areas research has emphasized and found to be effective.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH ACUPUNCTURE

I’ve been receiving acupuncture for over a year, primarily for allergies, and have found it to be extremely helpful.  My sinuses will start to drain immediately after the needles are inserted.  The needles stay in for 20-30 minutes and I use that time to meditate.  It is a peaceful experience.

Acupuncture provides me with relief from symptoms like sinus pain and pressure, which is medically valuable. Acupuncture is advantageous over other medical interventions such as anti-inflammatory drugs, which have multiple side effects.

Reputable acupuncturists can provide fantastic alternative medical services, especially for children.  I recommend someone with a doctorate in acupuncture, such as my acupuncturist, Stephanie McGuirk.  Stephanie has studied in China and worked at the KU Integrative Medicine Center. She is extremely knowledgeable and provides a relaxing experience.

References:

Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement Online, 1997 Nov 3-5, 15(5):1-34

Melzack, R., & Wall, P.D. (1982). The Challenge of Pain. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Richardson, P. H., & Vincent, C. A. (1986). Acupuncture for the treatment of pain: A review of evaluative research. Pain, 24, 15-40.

 

Sensory and Cognitive Benefits of Aerial Yoga

AERIAL YOGA BENEFITS ALL CHILDREN

Aerial yoga has the same benefits of typical yoga, but there are also additional sensory, cognitive, and health benefits. Aerial yoga gives the body more room to stretch. Since gravity isn’t an issue the spine is decompressed, muscle tension is released and blood circulation is enhanced.

WHAT IS AERIAL YOGA?

Aerial yoga uses a yoga hammock that is suspended from the ceiling.  The material is super stretchy and strong.  The instructor helps the student move into different poses much like a typical yoga session only the student is suspended in the air.

HOW IS IT THERAPEUTIC?

Aerial yoga provides a calming sensory experience for children. The therapeutic poses are designed with an emphasis on the central nervous system, which promotes sensory integration and self-regulation.

WHAT ARE THE SENSORY BENEFITS?

  • Self-Regulation. Inversion is a great tool for self-regulation.
  • Deep Pressure. The suspended yoga hammock provides deep pressure, which is instantly calming to the central nervous system.
  • Body Awareness. The hammock promotes motor planning and working memory while engaging in the poses.
  • Sensory Integration. The hammock provides sensory input in a tranquil, fun, therapeutic environment.

WHAT ARE THE COGNITIVE BENEFITS?

  • Attention and Focus. Aerial poses require more steps than land-based yoga. Children have to focus, otherwise they fall out of the hammock.
  • Executive Function. The complex poses require working memory, motor planning and awareness, which are higher level cognitive skills needed to self-regulate behavior.
  • Aerial yoga improves the ability to be less reactive and more mindful of thoughts and speech.
  • Reduced academic problems. We are building neuropathways every time we practice a new skill.  Thus, in each class, when we practice social emotional learning, mindfulness, and aerial skills we are literally building networks in the brain!

There are a multitude of benefits associated with our style of aerial yoga, so many in fact it will take several blog posts to list them all.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on physical and social emotional benefits.

Sign-up soon. Our classes are so fun and unique they tend to sell out with a wait list.  Go us for making yoga and mindfulness so fun we can’t get kids to leave!

Body Sox, Odd Looking, But Fun and Self-Regulating

Body Sox is an yoga experience like no other. Children love to stretch in it as many ways as possible. There are multiple ways to use the Body Sox from games to relaxation.

WHAT IS IT?

Body Sox are fun, therapeutic sacks constructed from four-way stretch lycra.  Body Sox teach both adults and children about gross motor control by providing proprioceptive feedback that leads to a new awareness of the body.

BODY SOX BENEFITS

  • Allows children to kinesthetically feel their body
  • Coordinates movement
  • Enhances creativity and imagination
  • Provides heavy work/deep pressure, which is calming and organizing
  • Provides tactile input

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH YOGA?

Children can play  Yogi Says,  which is just like  Simon Says, but with yoga poses.   Better yet, let them create their own Body Sox pose, crawl, walk, or slither in it.

Body Sox can also be used in relaxation as a calming sensory escape. Put on relaxing music and/or weighted materials to enhance the experience.

What are you waiting for?  Sign-up for a classes and try one out!

Growth Mindset

WHAT IS GROWTH MINDSET?

Carol Dweck is a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist who has spent over 30-years researching growth mindset.  Dr. Dweck reports growth mindset is the understanding that we can develop our abilities and intelligence.

WHY DOES MINDSET MATTER?

Dr. Dweck found that a child’s mindset about his or her own intelligence has a significant impact on their effort, motivation, and approach to challenges.  Those who believe their abilities are flexible are more likely to take on challenges and not give up despite failure.

WHY PRAISE SHOULD BE INTENTIONAL?

 Teachers and parents need to use specific praise that focuses on children’s effort, concentration, and strategies.  For example, next time your child gets a good grade in a class for which you know he or she studied hard, praise them for their effort and suggest they enroll in a harder class next semester.  The key is to be specific about the praise you give. Do not praise intelligence, but effort.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SHOW?

The feedback we give children can impact their mindsets in unexpected ways. For instance, praise for intelligence, such as “You’re so smart!” is thought to be motivating and good for children.  However, research shows that it has a negative effect on student motivation and/or achievement. Researchers, Dweck and Mueller divided fifth grade students into two groups and had them work on a puzzle task. One group, after accomplishing the task, was praised for their intelligence and ability.

The other group, also after accomplishing the task, was praised for their effort, rather than intelligence. When this easy task became harder, the groups responded to the challenge in very diverse ways. Children praised for intelligence chose to continue working on the easier puzzles, while students praised for effort decided to progress to more challenging puzzles. The effort-praised group sought out more challenging tasks and reported learning goals as most motivating. The intelligence-praised group avoided challenge in favor of ensured success, and cited performance or “looking smart” as their goal. Therefore, praise for intelligence resulted in reduced persistence, reduced enjoyment, and worse performance than praise for effort. Students who are praised for high ability attribute their success to a fixed or unchangeable quality of themselves (innate intelligence), while students praised for effort realize their performance is subject to improvement, which is growth mindset.

References

 Dweck, C.S. & Mueller, C.M. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (75), 33-52.

Dweck, C.S. & Leggett, E.L. (1988). A Social-Cognitive Approach to Motivation and Personality, Psychological Review 95, (2), 256-273.

Simple Movements to Improve Brain Functioning

Yoga-Services

Movement Enhances Brain Functioning

The basis of educational theory describes intelligence, creativity, and learning being housed in the brain.  However, this theory missed an important aspect of learning.  Learning does not all occur in the brain, it occurs in the whole body.  Movements, emotions and sensations are grounded in the body.  It is our body’s senses that provide the brain with environmental information to give us a better understanding of our environment.  Movement facilitates enhanced cognitive processing and grows the neural networks in the brain. This means movement enhances brain functioning.

Cross-lateral movement is crucial for learning.  Cross lateral movements are those in which arms and legs cross over the midline (imaginary line that divides the body into right and left sides) of the body.  The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body,  and the right side of the brain controls the left side.  When arms and legs cross the body’s midline, the two sides have to communicate.  This integration of both sides of the brain facilitates learning

These are some of my favorite cross-lateral moves that I incorporate into my yoga classes.

Eagle.
  • Children’s Version. Start in mountain pose. Extend your right arm out and cross it over the left grabbing opposite shoulders. Shift your weight to your right foot and bring your left leg over your right.
  • Teen Version. Start in mountain pose.  Take the left leg back to form a mini lunge.  Extend out your arms.  Take the left arm underneath the right arm and and bring palms together.  Bring the left leg forward and wrap it around the right leg.  Take in a deep inhale as you raise your arms to shoulder height.  On the exhale sink the hips back as if sitting in a one legged chair.
Cross Crawls.
  • Start in Mountain Pose. Alternate lifting and an arm and the opposite knee. Pretend you are climbing a ladder or hiking through the jungle.
Dead Bug
  • Lie on your back. Lift up the arms and legs.  Let them flow back and forth in big “x’s”.  A fun variation is to start is lotus pose and pretend a bug lands on your lotus flower.  Roll onto your back and begin flowing the arms and legs.
Figure Eights
  • Figure eights can be drawn in the air with glow sticks. Begin in mountain pose.  Lift the right arm and make ten sideways 8’s also known as the infinity sign.  Shift the glow stick to the left hand.  Raise the left arm and make ten sideways 8’s.  Finally, lift both arms and grasp the glow stick with both hands making sideways 8’s.  Another fun variation is to use a dry erase board and make butterfly wings.  After you’ve made 10, with the right, 10 with the left, and 10 with both hands fill in the rest of the butterfly.

Try these fun moves at home and watch your child soar to new academic heights!

What’s the Deal with Bone Broth?

making-bone-broth

BONE BROTH

Bone broth is a trendy food that is being touted for it’s amazing health benefits.  Chicken soup has been the “go to” meal when your feeling under the weather for ages.  Since sipping broth is nothing new, why all the hype?

HOW IS IT MADE?

Animal parts (bones, ligaments, and tendons) that can’t be eaten are boiled and simmered over several days causing the bones and ligaments to release health compounds such as collagen and glutamine.

WHY BONE BROTH?

Bone broth contains minerals in forms that the body can easily absorb: calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulfur and others.  Bone broths also contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which are sold as expensive supplements to decrease inflammation and joint pain.  This mixture of nutrients can’t be found in other commonly eaten foods.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

  • Reduce leaky gut syndrome. Bone broth is a source of collagen, gelatin, glutamine, arginine and proline.  These amino acids and minerals help seal openings in the gut lining, which, in turn, reduce leaky gut syndrome.
  • Improve allergies. Allergies can be a byproduct of leaky gut syndrome.  When the gut is sealed allergies improve.
  • Enhance immune system. Gelatin enhances probiotic balance and growth. Healing amino acids such as arginine are essential for immune system functioning.
  • Boost joint health. Collagen helps to restore cartilage, which diminishes as we age.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?

I did several exhaustive searches to find scientific evidence of the benefits of bone broth.  Currently, there is limited information to support or refute these health claims. Most of the evidence comes from the studies completed on collagen, gelatin, and the other minerals found in bone broth.  Therefore, it is assumed that since bone broth is high in these minerals and amino acids it is an all encompassing healing elixir.   Research demonstrates bone broth is full of nutrients that enhance the immune system, which means it is highly likely it does have health benefits.  However, these benefits are based on the research for the individual components, which make-up the bone broth, not on the actual bone broth itself.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?

It is important to buy bone broth from a reputable source. Bone broth should be made from organic grass fed animals.  Bone broth that is bought in stores is not the “real thing” and will most likely not have the healing benefits of homemade bone broth. Stephanie McGuirck, doctor of acupuncture, makes delicious bone broth.  Visit her website, planetacupuncture.com, to learn more.

 

Ways to Improve Working Memory

brain-healthWHAT IS WORKING MEMORY?

Jonidas, Lacey, and Nee (2005) define working memory as a system that can store a small amount of information briefly, keeping that information quickly accessible and available for transformation by rules and strategies, while updating it frequently.

This means working memory is a mental control process that involves higher order thinking tasks, which require attention and concentration.

Schwean and Saklofske (2005) reviewed multiple studies of children and adolescents diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disability.  Researchers found that children with these diagnoses tended to have lower working memory index scores.

HOW IS IT MEASURED?

Working memory is typically assessed by standardized assessments.  Wechsler intelligence tests have reigned for years as the “go to” intelligence assessment.  The Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) measures working memory via the Working Memory Index.  The Working Memory Index measures attention, concentration, and working memory.

WHAT DOES A DEFICIT IN WORKING MEMORY MEAN?

Adults and teenagers with serious working memory deficits, who are employed, may have considerable difficulties at work.  A weakness in working memory may make the processing of complex information more time consuming and tax mental energies more quickly compared to co-workers.  This may contribute to more frequent errors on a variety of job-related tasks that require sustained attention and concentration.  Auditory working memory deficits may make the tasks of taking notes and attending to lectures more difficult.

ARE THERE WAYS TO IMPROVE WORKING MEMORY?

  • Yoga.  Research has shown that a combination of yoga postures and supine rest (meditation) improved memory scores and decreased state anxiety scores (Subramanya & Telles, 2009).
  • Mindfulness.  Executive Functioning is improved by mindfulness.  Executive functioning is Inhibiting irrelevant information, updating working memory, and controlling attention.  Therefore, paying attention on purpose can improve all aspects of executive functioning, which, in turn, enhances working memory (Diamond and Lee, 2011).
  • Memory Games.  Games such as Sudoku and crosswords may help with memory.  Lumosity, an online brain training game, is a free brain training regimen that has been researched by Harvard and Stanford Universities (Finn & McDonald, 2011).
  • Eat Super Foods.  Fruits and vegetables protect the brain from free radicals.  It’s important to reduce meat and sugar in the diet as they cause inflammation. The best foods to promote brain health are those rich in omega 3’s and B12 such as fish (wild salmon) and avocado.
References

Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333, 959 –964.

Finn M, & McDonald S. (2011). Computerised cognitive training for older persons with mild cognitive impairment: A pilot study using a randomised controlled trial design. Brain Impairment, 12(3), 187–199. doi: 10.1375/brim.12.3.187.

Jonidas, J., Lacey, S.C., & Nee, D.E. (2005).  Process of working memory in mind and brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 2-5

Schwean, V. L., &  Saklofske, D.H. (2005). Assessment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with the WISC-IV. In A. Prifitera, D.H. Saklofske, & L.G. Weiss (Eds.), WISC-IV Clinical Use and Interpretation: Scientist-Practitioner Perspectives (pp. 235-280). San Diego, CA: Elsevier

Subramanya, P., Telles, S. (2009). Effect of two yoga based relaxation techniques on memory scores and state anxiety.  BioPsychoSocial Medicine

 

 

PAWS and Meditate – Counting Breath

Funny illustration with cartoon red cat sitting on lotus position of yoga.

MEDITATE

Paying Attention With Senses (PAWS) helps children to regulate their emotions.  Counting breath is a simple way to meditate that can be done anywhere.

WHAT IS COUNTING BREATH?

Counting breath is a deep breathing exercise that uses counting as an anchor to keep the focus on the breath. When children are upset counting breath helps them regain control of emotions and settle the brain.  Counting breath  improves focus, creating mindfulness, which leads to feelings of relaxation, clarity, and calm. Counting each exhalation focuses the attention on the breath. It keeps the attention in the present moment. This mindfulness tool can be used when children are feeling anxious, moody, angry or just need to relax.

LET’S BEGIN!

Lie on your back with your right hand on your navel and your left hand on your heart center.  Take a deep breath In through the nose. Feel the belly, rib cage, and heart center rise beneath the hands.  As you exhale, feel your hands fall.  Count one.  Continue counting and breathing in this way until you get to 10.  Still not calm?  Try it again.  Make sure the breath is reaching all the way to navel.  Shallow breathing will excite the nervous system.

 

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children