What do you Believe In? This question has been on my mind incessantly in recent weeks. During the blur of the holiday season, I spent some time in Lush purchasing items for some of the lovely women in my life. It wasn’t until a few hours and many shopping bags later that I sat on the train from Tokyo back to Yokosuka, and noticed the limited edition holiday bags for Lush, sharing some of the things they, as a company, believe. The beginning of a New Year is a time for many to share resolutions, set intentions, start anew. Yes, we can choose to start, change, or be more mindful ANYTIME but the beginning of a week, month, or year, feel easier. A personal goal of mine this year is to replace the idea of resolutions with the idea of keeping what I believe close at hand and use those values to live with more intention all the time. In fact, my mantra for this year is “Breath by Breath.” Little did I know how important taking things one moment at a time and using the power of pranayama (or breathing) would be.
I’ve shared two things with all my yogis this week…a story about the power of breath, and a special song. I begin every kids yoga class with balloon breath. It’s become automatic for most of the students, and many of the teachers utilize it in the classroom on a regular basis. I gathered all my friends around , class after class (over a dozen), and encouraged them to begin their balloon breath while I shared with them what a helpful tool their breath can be. Sunday evening as I was in the back of our house doing yoga, my husband burst through the door, telling me to come see our younger son, who’d just had something weird happen. A few minutes after the “incident,” he was sitting on the couch, a little scared, a little out of it, crying. Through my husband’s description of the event, we feared our son had passed out or had a seizure. We went to the ER where, gratefully, bloodwork and a CT scan were normal, and sent home with the orders to see his pediatrician the next day. That visit turned into an EEG, which now indicates the need to visit a pediatric neurologist. Can you imagine being 7 years old, not knowing or remembering what happened to you, then going through a battery of tests, some painful, with scary equipment and doctors pulling your Mamma away to discuss results and actions? Me either! Throughout all the tests and the fear, I held his hand and reminded him…”Balloon breath! Just use your balloon breath! Deep breath in…slowly, slowly, back out your nose. Good boy! You’re so brave!” Or something like that. To be honest, much of it is a blur to me. And when I found myself wringing my hands, worrying over every little spike on the screen or every twitch, not being allowed in the CT scan room but smiling at him through a window, and a few tears, I found grounding in my breath. Even the doctors commented on what a neat trick it was to help us find calm. Yoga in action folks! No age is too young or old to begin learning tools that will help with stress, self-esteem, self-regulation, communication skills, being healthy from the inside out, and supporting development of our whole being.
Many of my students know our son, it hit home for them, hearing the story of someone about their age, but it also empowered them to know that something as simple as regulating the way you breathe can help calm down you down when you’re angry, scared, hurt, frustrated. One yogini even told me when she gets scared, she figures out a way to do mountain pose, even if she’s lying in bed at night. That led to a great discussion on choosing the tool from your yoga toolbox that works best for you! In fact, I’ve done classes where we sit in silent meditation for our rest time. Instead of asking the kids to do a specific breath, I tell them to choose whichever breath makes them feel the best. You’ll hear a chorus of bunny breath, ocean breath, 3 part (dirgha) breath, you’ll see some alternate nostril breathing, and for a few moments, the room is filled with peaceful calm.
I also believe in magic. I believe that everything things can evoke something very special. Recently, Kathryn Budig shared a sweet song on her facebook page that I thought “hey, what a neat tune! I want to use that in class this week!” Little did I know what a magic thread it must have weaving in and out of the notes. Over 200 kids rested in savasana to “Come Live the Life” by K’s Choice this week. And almost all of them either rested with eyes closed and mouths turned up into a smile, or tapped the tune over their heart with their fingers, or slowed swayed back and forth to the music, or in the case of one first grade class, all piled together, heads and tummies and feet and arms mixed together, in a collective time of peaceful rest. A few teachers even wiped away years at the end…myself included. For one song to have such a profoundly calming effect on even the most energetic, negative of students is, to me, pure magic. I think every single hand drawn picture a student gifts me, or the way I can count on my 11 year old to call after school every day at promptly 2:03 to tell me he’s on his way home, or the way the sun rises like fire over Tokyo Bay are all magic. Always let your mind and heart be open for you never know when something as normal as a song on the radio, or the whisper of a child, or the clarity of emotion that rises up during an asana will transform itself into magic.
What do you believe at your roots, that can help you grow and flourish and be a blessing to yourself and to others?
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Stay tuned for my next article on ChildDevelopmentClub.org on how yoga address the 8 Multiple Intelligences!