School is in full session, the holidays are right around the corner, and with the packed schedules this fall, stress, and anxiety can overwhelm you and your littles, too. Cynthia Bernard of ATX Yoga Girl shares the importance of mindfulness and ways to help restore calmness in your home.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is our ability to pay attention to our present moment thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surrounding environment with a kind and open attitude. It can become part of our daily lives if practiced regularly, helps us insert pauses when needed which supports transitions, challenges, newness.
Mindfulness can help us learn to…
• Observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment
• Focus our attention on the present moment
• Calm and regulate the nervous system
• Build emotional resilience and coping skills
• Cultivate compassion for ourselves and others
Why Mindfulness for kids?
Studies reveal that mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices are effective methods for increasing positive emotions, focus, memory, attention, and compassion while decreasing stress. These practices help them when they feel worried, mad, distracted, sad, really excited, lonely, happy, and concerned for the world around them.
When kids (and adults) learn how to embody mindfulness it can live within their everyday lives. From brushing their teeth, taking a shower, walking, listening, homework, etc.) and they feel equipped to manage stressful situations when they arise by acknowledging their emotions and making better decisions.
What can we do to help those “Back to School” emotions that are heightened for both adults and children this year?
Focus on grounding practices such as 5-4-3-2-1 noticing your feet on the ground and paying attention to your senses like listening to sounds around you that you don’t normally hear when you are busy. Allowing yourself to pause and be fully present.
- 5- notice 1 thing you can taste.
- 4– notice 2 things you can smell.
- 3- notice 3 things that you can hear.
- 2- notice 4 things you can feel.
- 1- notice 5 things that you can see.
Look around you and become aware of your environment. Check in to see how your body feels afterward.
*Stopping randomly and practicing “belly breathing” and noticing how it makes the body feel.
Deep breathing calms the nervous system.
Guide your child in several deep breaths; try counting to four on the in-breath and exhaling for six. Encourage your child to practice at night, in the morning, in the classroom, before a test, etc. For the littles at home, add a “stuffy” (stuffed animal) to hold on belly. After your child is comfortably positioned laying on the floor, bring their stuffy to their belly:
- Imagine your belly is a balloon. This balloon will get bigger as you breathe in, and it will get smaller as you breathe out
- Now, place your hand or stuffy on your belly,
- Breathe in slowly through your mouth, and feel that balloon getting bigger
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Watch your stuffy go up and down for a ride.
- As you continue to practice, you can count their breath in for four counts, and out for 4 counts and then increase exhalation over time if needed.
Be in nature and feel how the ground feels under your feet (cold, wet, crunchy leaves, etc.) or wind feels on your skin. Make this a FUN practice sitting and talking about it afterward!
*Practice “before” big feelings (or their next storm) comes up so that they might be able to get out of it a bit faster than usual. Show a rainstorm with body and breath all the way through to calming the storm down, then noticing how the body feels again. Discussing how the storm will pass, but what you can do about it now (move, breathe, talk about it, draw the storm, etc.)
Cultivate a daily family Gratitude Practice.
You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time. Younger kids can decorate a gratitude jar; older kids can keep a gratitude journal or maybe share together before bed, dinner time.
*Use Positive Affirmations. “Today, I can make a difference.” “I am always learning.” “I am kind to myself and to others.”
*Take FIVE: this can be done before a test, a new challenge, at drop off in the car, etc.
Fingers spread apart, trace with opposite pointer finger up as you inhale and down each finger as you exhale. Place your hand on the chest to notice how you feel now or need to repeat again.
About Cynthia Bernard, founder of ATX Yoga Girl:
“One conscious breath in and out is a mindful meditation.”
This is the intention and spirit behind ATX Yoga Girl, a mobile wellness studio featuring a cohesive collection of offerings for the community including yoga, mindfulness, and sound meditation for both kids and adults.
Where mindful mission meets method, founder Cynthia aims to lend her experience and support to students of all ages and all bodies to cultivate a more conscious lifestyle, rooted in presence.
Cynthia, certified yoga teacher (kid’s + adult,) sound guide, and mindfulness facilitator believes that everyone’s journey to health, wellness and healing is unique. This is why she offers 1:1 or group settings to “meet you” exactly where you are in yours.
Her teachings and guidance can be found within local Austin after-school programs, her own Kid’s and Mindfulness Camps at Casa de Luz Village, community wellness events, and spaces such as the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, The Trail Foundation and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Cynthia has been featured on Women of Today by Camila Alves, We Are Austin, and has shared her wellness offerings at AISD retreats for Families and Teachers.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center // Parent & Tot (ages 18 months-3 yrs)
- Every 1st & 3rd Tuesday (Jan-Aug)
- 10 A.M.
Umlauf Sculpture Museum & Garden // Family Yoga
- Every 2nd Sunday of month (except October)
- 45 Minutes // Suitable for ages 3+
- Created for families of all sizes and abilities, family yoga provides time to connect, laugh, play, and have FUN!
Sound Bath Meditation
- 10/18 The Carpenter Hotel
- 10/20 South Congress Hotel
Every Monday at Casa de Luz Village: Kid’s Yoga + Mindfulness Class
All classes include yoga games, breathwork, adventure-time, meditation, and relaxation.