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How to Bring Yoga Home

This guest blog was written by Erin Haddock.

Yoga was designed to keep the mind focused and relaxed. Of course, relaxing the body is much easier than relaxing the mind directly.  So we work on relaxing the body with yoga poses first, beforeBlog-Yoga-Main-Landscape relaxing through more subtle exercises. When you imagine an advanced yoga practitioner, you might have visions of someone doing a headstand or twisting into a pretzel. In fact, advancement in yoga has nothing to do with the body’s ability to move into poses. Advancement in yoga comes from the ability to maintain the mind’s focus on the present moment, which takes consistency, concentration, and patience. This applies to kids as well. I have seen kids so focused while practicing a simple pose, they are easily more advanced than adults who look around at their neighbors in class.

For this reason, practicing “off the mat” and “on the mat” go hand-in-hand and advance a yogi’s total development. We get precious few hours per week at our favorite yoga classes or in our home practice, but there are many hours each day when we face daily stressors. Creating a consistent “Relax Routine” at home can both deepen your family’s yoga practice on the mat, as well as reinforce yogic principles off the mat. The most useful tip I can give families working to reduce stress, is for the parents to practice too. Kids should get the message that yoga is something even adults enjoy and value as a tool to calm down when stressed.

Here are 3 easy yoga activities parents can incorporate in a family “Relax Routine.” All will promote a sense of well-being while practicing, lead to lowered stress levels after practicing, and will develop self-soothing tools that children can apply on their own.

  1. Mantra Repetition – This mindfulness exercise develops focus and calms the mind.  In our classes we use simple Sanskrit mantras, which mean peace, love and light. You can choose to repeat a Sanskrit mantra, the sound “om”, a relaxing word or phrase (i.e. “love”, “calm”, “home”, “I am peaceful”, etc.), or sing a relaxing song. Repeat the mantra for one or two minutes – or even longer, if you like. Your kids can join in or you can chant to them. Most kids love this practice, since it is similar to singing. This is an important part of yoga, as it is very effective at relaxing the mind. Chanting causes us to take slower, deeper breaths, which triggers the relaxation response. When the breath is relaxed, so is the mind. Kids can be encouraged to mentally repeat their mantra when under stress at home or in school.
  2. Breathing Exercise – Studies have found that regular practice of yogic breathing exercises improves efficiency and balance within the heart and lung system. These exercises teach practitioners what is commonly called “abdominal breathing”. Abdominal breathing has numerous benefits, including inducing the relaxation response, which calms, focuses and quiets the mind. Although we are born breathing like this, sometimes it can feel quite unnatural when first practicing these exercises. Many people are reverse-breathers – meaning their belly moves forward when they exhale, and backward when they inhale – which may cause them to experience more stress. To teach this technique, have your kids lie on their back and place a light weight on their belly (like a book, small bag of rice, etc.). Practice with them, as you breathe in through the nose slowly and deeply, allowing the belly to rise. Then, let the belly gently fall as you slowly breathe out through the nose. Practice for one or two minutes, depending on the age and attention span of your child. After practicing, remove the weight and notice how your breathing has changed. As you start to feel comfortable, you can practice this exercise without a weight. Just bring your attention to the belly as you practice abdominal breathing.
  3. Deep Relaxation – The culminating exercise in a yoga class is deep relaxation, or Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra has been found to produce effects similar to REM sleep, which promotes healing and deep rest.  Yogis say a final relaxation is a must, because it assimilates the benefits of the yoga practices within the body. You can find guided relaxations all over YouTube (we even have a few on our blog), but you can lead a guided relaxation yourself. Yoga Nidra can also be practiced separate from yoga, such as before bed or when your child is feeling stressed. Have everyone lie down and close their eyes. You may use blankets to keep warm or something like a scarf to cover your eyes, if desired. Tell everyone to stretch their toes wider and wider. Then tell them to slowly relax their toes. Instruct them to imagine the relaxation making its way up their body, part by part. You can mention a few key body parts they can relax (i.e. relax your legs, your belly, your eyes). A foot massage is a nice treat to add in while practicing this progressive relaxation. Finally, remain as silent and still as possible, relaxing for a few moments or up to five minutes. After this silence, ask your child to take a deep breath and stretch a little. Slowly make your way back to sitting and end with a final short message, like a mantra, poem, prayer, or simply say “thanks for relaxing with me.”

Developing a Relax Routine as a family can be incredibly rewarding for both kids and parents. Children appreciate the ability to see their parents relaxed and having fun, and parents are amazed at their kids’ focus and engagement.  Not to mention, it can be a powerful bonding experience. Aim to practice your “Relax Routine” at least twice a week. If you can practice once a day, even better!  It doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it is much better to be consistent about a short routine, than practice a long routine only once in awhile. Most importantly, make it work for your family. Yoga is supposed to feel good!

Erin Shanthi Haddock2Erin is E-RYT 200, RYT 500, RCYT with Yoga Alliance.  She completed her 200 hour teacher training with the creator of the Yoga for the Special Child® (YSC) method, Sonia Sumar and has taught the YSC method since 2010.  She is a certified Stress Management Specialist, and also holds certifications in Adaptive Yoga, the YSC method, and Yoga for Teens.

Erin is passionate about bringing yoga to people who experience barriers to their practice – including physical, intellectual, emotional, financial or geographical.  She pursues continuing education in Yoga Therapy at the Integral Yoga Institute in Buckingham, VA and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Integral Yoga Teachers Association.

At Five Keys Yoga, we provide yoga classes and mindfulness resources just for kids! We are also the Chicago home of the Yoga for the Special Child® method, specializing in teaching yoga to kids with special needs. If you would like to learn more about the YSC method or how your child can deepen their yoga practice, please visit our website.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy is a group of experienced and dedicated Thought Leaders in pediatric therapy. We believe passionately in helping each child blossom to their ultimate potential.

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Activities to Help A Child with Low Tone

Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension present in a muscle. This is different than muscle strength, Low Tonewhich refers to the amount of power a muscle can generate. Low muscle tone means that the muscles are slow to activate and initiate movement, and have decreased endurance for sustaining contractions. A child with low tone may appear weak, floppy, and have poor posture.

If your child has low tone, here are some activities you can try at home:

  1. Yoga poses – Practice a variety of yoga poses each day. Superman pose and plank are good for developing core and upper extremity strength.
  2. Animal walks – Encourage your child to use animal walks around the house. These include bear walking, crab walking, and wheelbarrow walking.
  3. Lying on the belly – Whenever your child is playing a game on the floor, encourage them to play while lying on their stomach. This will support the development of back and neck strength.
  4. Carrying heavy items – Have your child help out around the house by carrying items that are heavy (but not too heavy!) such as a bag of groceries, a basket of laundry, or a watering pot. If it is too challenging for them to carry these items, try having them push them around the house instead.
  5. Climbing and swinging – Any activity that requires the child to lift both feet off the ground at the same time will help develop their core strength. This can include climbing a knotted rope or hanging by their arms from a trapeze swing while kicking a ball.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Laura Gilman

Laura Gilman

Laura Gilman is an occupational therapist with a passion for working with children. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, and her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. While a student, Laura engaged in research and clinical experiences working with various populations in a variety of settings. Her desire to pursue work with a pediatric population became evident while completing an internship at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Laura values the relationships that develop with the children and their families, and loves watching kids make progress and achieve their goals.

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5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down

As a yoga instructor, parent and teacher, I have seen the benefits of yoga for kids time and time again. Yoga is a fantastic way to help all children relax, work out the wiggles and find a sense of calm.  It can be an even more beneficial tool for children with ADHD or other attention or hyperactivity disorders. Read on for 5 at-home, yoga-based activities you can do with your child that will serve as a foundational tool set for self-soothing and positive thinking as your child gets older.

5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down:

  1. Belly Breath-Have your child lie on his back. His palms should be turned up and his feet gently5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down relaxed. Have him close his eyes. Place a small stone on his belly and tell him to see if he can move the stone up and down with his breath. This move inspires immediate relaxation as the breath deepens and teaches the child to use the full lung capacity while breathing. This triggers a relaxation response at any time.
  2. Rocket Ship Breath-Have your child sit cross-legged with his palms pressed together at his heart center (as in the photo).  His hands are his ‘rocketship’. Have him take a big inhale and send his ‘rocketship’ up to the sky. Oh his exhale, have him part his hands and circle his arms back to the ground. Repeat 3-5 times.
  3. Down Dog House-First, have your child practice down dog pose. This is a basic, traditional yoga pose where the body is in the shape of an inverted ‘V’. In down dog, hands and feet stay on the ground while hips lift into the sky. Next, move into down dog pose yourself and have your child crawl in the space created underneath your body. This cozy space created by a loved one is fun, silly and creates a cozy, relaxed space for your child to enjoy.
  4. Cloud Thinking-When your child is bothered by something, have him practice cloud thinking. Have him sit cross-legged, and then have him articulate his troubling thought. Have him imagine that he is putting his troubling thought on a cloud. Then have him blow away the thought by taking big inhales and then exhaling through his mouth to blow the thought away. Once he has blown the thought away with several breaths, have him watch the cloud and negative thought dissipate in space. Let him know his mind is clear now and that he can send his negative thoughts away on the cloud whenever he needs to.
  5. Reframe It-When your child is upset and recounting a frustrating event, have him re-tell the story. Have him explain the ending of the story in a positive way with a focus on what he learned and what can be done better or differently the next time. Let him know that he can always turn a negative into a positive and reframe his thinking.

Click here for more calm down strategies for young children.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

LibbyGalin

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2002 with a Master of Science in Education and Social Policy, Libby spent five years teaching social studies, writing, spelling, grammar and language arts at the middle school level. Most of this time was spent at the Frances Xavier Warde school in Chicago. Libby continues to teach for the Center for Talent Development through Northwestern University in addition to helping kids blossom at North Shore Pediatric Therapy as an Academic Specialist.

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The Power of Yoga for Children

Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise over the past few years. So much so that on every street corner there seems to be a new yoga studio advertising a variety of classes and programs. Yoga is practiced by people of all ages and skill level. The benefits of yoga, especially for children, are countless. Below are four of the reasons children should practice yoga.

1. Motor Planning

Yoga poses vary in complexity. While your child twists and turns their body to match the pose of the group, they are creating motor plans in their brain for these movement patterns. Creating and refining these plans are what help a child to improve their overall coordination. For children just learning the practice of yoga, try to practice poses where they hold the left and right sides of their body in the same position (down dog, cat, cobra). Once your child is able to efficiently assume these poses, try a few that require them to move the left side of their body differently than their right (triangle, tree, or warrior poses).

2. Strength and Endurance

Once your child has motor planned their way into a yoga pose, encourage them to freeze in that position for a predetermined duration of time without losing their balance or dramatically swaying from side to side. As their body endurance and balance improve, increase the duration they are required to sustain the position. Holding these static poses will help to improve your child’s muscle endurance.

3. Attention

Sustaining poses for predetermined durations can also help to improve your child’s attention. Holding the same pose with a steady and still body for even three seconds may prove to be a challenge. Try to choose a duration of time for your child to hold a pose that challenges their attention but that they also have a chance to be successful in completing. Once they master the ability to hold a pose for a shorter duration of time increase the challenge by a second or two to see if they can maintain a still and focused body.

4. Social Skills

Yoga can be a challenging form of exercise but it can also be a lot of fun. Working together with friends or classmates to practice and refine yoga skills offers vast opportunities for promoting social skills including flexibility of thought to participate group classes, active listening, turn-taking, imitating and replicating group dynamics, and identifying personal role in group activities.

In the coming weeks, especially while it’s still cold outside, look into kid-friendly yoga classes in your community. If you would rather, there are also some excellent videos and yoga cards that you can use in the comfort of your own home. “The Yoga Pretzel Cards” by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish are an excellent tool for practicing yoga with really colorful illustrations for kids to practice with. No matter the way or place you choose to do yoga, remember the cardinal rules for practice: breathe in, breathe out, and namaste.



 

Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer, is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist. She graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a Bachelors Degree in Health and Human Services. A year later, she graduated with her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. While a student, Lindsey gained expansive knowledge of the field by working in a variety of settings with people of varying ages and disabilities. Lindsey’s interest and compassion for working with children and their families became apparent as she completed internships and independent studies focusing on educational, social, and physical development. One such internship was completed at North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT). Lindsey loves supporting kids in the acquisition of skills needed to lead fun and enriching childhoods.

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Heavy Work Strategies for the Busy Family

Young Boy Holding a Pile of LaundryLife can get heavy from time to time and everyone gets stressed out. Unknowingly, many adults cope with said ‘stressors’ by incorporating various self-regulating strategies into their daily routines. They may take a deep breath or find their ‘zen’ in a yoga class. Some may take pleasure in the simplicity of sipping a warm cup of tea, while other more physical individuals resort to running a mile or two. Yet others prefer to lounge under a tree to read an enchanting romance novel. Children, like adults, need to have the ability to calm their bodies and self-regulate. One way for children to gather themselves in times of stress is by incorporating “heavy work” into their daily routine. ‘Heavy work’ activities provide deep proprioceptive input into a child’s muscles and joints, and thereby help them self-regulate in the same way that exercise may help an adult deal with stress.

Here are some examples of preparatory methods that can be incorporated into everyday life and used before a child encounters a stressful situation such as a loud birthday party, busy school day, or long car ride.

Heavy Work Activities To Provide Deep Proprioceptive Input For Children:

  • Help Mom: The completion of many chores can help incorporate ‘heavy work’ into a child’s daily routine. Examples include: carrying laundry, stirring recipes, pushing a grocery cart, or carrying shopping bags from the car.
  • Relay races and other forms of exercise are wonderful ways to build endurance and self-regulate. Examples include: wheelbarrow walks, froggy jumps, bear crawls, army crawls, crab walks, skipping, galloping, yoga, swimming, and gymnastics.
  • Play Outside: Take a walk and pull a wagon full of goodies, push a friend or sibling on the swing at the playground, build a
    sandcastle at the beach, or help around the house with yard work.
  • Rearranging Furniture: Pushing heavy chairs and couches provides deep proprioceptive input to the major joints and muscle groups of the body. You could put a fun spin on the activity and make a fort using furniture and blankets right in your living room!

‘Heavy work’ strategies can be incorporated into everyday life no matter the context or season. The use of these strategies may assist your child with more independence and self-soothing when they are feeling upset. This will also allow them to strengthen their muscles, increase their endurance, and may just help you cut back on the time spent completing housework chores. For other self-regulating ideas, please contact a NSPT occupational therapist.

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Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer, is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist. She graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a Bachelors Degree in Health and Human Services. A year later, she graduated with her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. While a student, Lindsey gained expansive knowledge of the field by working in a variety of settings with people of varying ages and disabilities. Lindsey’s interest and compassion for working with children and their families became apparent as she completed internships and independent studies focusing on educational, social, and physical development. One such internship was completed at North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT). Lindsey loves supporting kids in the acquisition of skills needed to lead fun and enriching childhoods.

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Low Muscle Tone Revealed

Muscle tone refers to the muscle’s ability to sustain a contraction. It is different than muscle strength, which refers the muscles’ power. A child with low muscle tone is often observed to sit with a slouched posture, may have difficulty holding their head upright when sitting at a desk and may be observed to prop their head up with their hand. Mother and child with balance ballOther observations include having difficulty sitting for extended periods of time, particularly without back support or w-sitting, where the legs are splayed out to the side in the shape of a ‘w’ when sitting on the ground.

Muscle tone cannot actually be changed, though through occupational or physical therapy, muscles will become stronger and compensate for the low muscle tone to help support your child through his/her daily tasks.

Here are five activities to help address strength, endurance and low muscle tone at home and in the community:

  1. At the park, have your child lie on his belly on the slide and pull himself up the slide using only his arms.
  2. Complete yoga poses that work on balance and core strength, like down dog or plank.
  3. Using a weighted ball or BOSU ball, have your child lift the ball overhead with both arms, lower it to the floor and balance his hands on the ball while he jumps his feet backwards into a plank position. Repeat these steps 10 times.
  4. Have your child lie on his back on the floor. With his legs raised off the floor and knees bent, have him weave a ball between his legs.
  5. Encourage your child to use the monkey bars or hang from the zip-line when at the park.

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Dana Pais

Dana Pais

Dana Pais, OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who obtained her Masters of Occupational Therapy (MS) and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her doctoral studies, she spent time working in Lima, Peru at the Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru (CASP), a center for families and their children with cognitive and physical disabilities, where she provided intervention for many children and their families in the areas of low vision accessibility, independent living, school inclusion and supportive employment. Her interests include sensory processing and its impact on daily life and managing visual deficits. She is passionate about helping children reach their full potential in every aspect of their lives.

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How to have a just right ‘Engine Level’

As I discussed in my previous blog, a child’s body is typically functioning at one of three ‘Engine Levels’.   Ideally, the goal is to be at the ‘just right’ level, in which your child can accomplish the most and focus on the task at hand. It is important to remember that each child’s ‘Engine Level’ runs differently, and is affected differently.  Therefore, different strategies work differently for each child.

Here are a few strategies which might help your child to reach a just right level:Little boy practicing a yoga position

  • Listen to calming/quiet music
  • Get a drink of cold water/drinking through a straw (e.g. water bottle)
  • Chew gum or a crunchy/chewy snack
  • Take a walk, or get a breath of fresh air
  • Excuse herself to the restroom
  • Exercise/heavy work
  • A big bear hug/joint compressions
  • Yoga breaths (e.g. inhale through nose as long as she can, exhale through mouth like blowing out birthday candles)
  • Rub a small amount of lotion or scented hand sanitizer onto hands (massaging lotion into her skin can be calming, and a nice scent can help to ‘wake-up’ or ‘calm’ her body)

Try the strategies above, and note whether or not they help your child’s mind and body to feel more organized and ready to take on the tasks expected of her.  By incorporating this ‘Engine Level’ lingo into your child’s vocabulary on a daily basis, your child will ideally be able to better understand how her body is feeling, and what she can do when she’s feeling “off” or over/under aroused.  Please reach out to your child’s therapist with any further questions as to how this program can be incorporated into your family’s routine.

Reference: Williams, Mary Sue and Shellenberger, Sherry. (1996,) “How Does Your Engine Run?:  A Leader’s Guide to The Alert Program for Self-Regulation”.  Therapy Works, Inc.

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Amanda Mathews

Amanda Mathews, M.S., OTR/L is a licensed Occupational Therapist. She graduated from UW-Whitewater with a Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders, and then Mt. Mary College with a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy. Amanda has experience working in occupational therapy with adults and children of all ages in a variety of settings, including hospitals, homes, and private outpatient and pediatric clinics. Outside of occupational therapy, Amanda has experience working as a line therapist, daycare provider, nanny, swim instructor, and Sunday school teacher. Amanda is dedicated to addressing the needs of children and helping them to be successful in their everyday lives.

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Recess And Behavior: Why Movement Matters

Children need movement on a daily basis! There are so many benefits of allowing children time to engage in physical movement and heavy work activities that to me, it is almost a crime to prevent children from having their physical play time.

Allowing Children To Move Benefits Everyone

Children learn and grow through movement. They refine gross motor and sports skills and they increase their motor control, coordination, and muscle strength through movement. In addition, movement promotes cognition, organized behaviors, self esteem and self confidence, self Happy Boy On Monkey Barsregulation, a calm body, and attention.

When children sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time, their attention and concentration is reduced, and discipline problems begin to increase. When this happens, children are less available to learning, more energy is spent on behavior management by the teacher/parent and the children, and nobody wins.

All children benefit from a break in their mental focus. Recess provides opportunities for unstructured physical play, which allows kids to “blow off steam”, and reduces stress. Recess increases attention and on-task behaviors, and decreases fidgety behaviors.

Additionally, we have an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, which is heavily impacted by a lack of physical activity. Physical activity during recess promotes the health of our children now and in their future. In general, the goal should be a minimum of one hour of exercise daily by the time your child reaches elementary school and thereafter.

Removing Or Skipping Recess Can Increase Undesired Behavior

One of the biggest mistakes a teacher or other adult can make is to keep a child inside for recess, especially if the reason is as a consequence for misbehavior, tardiness, or something the child did not do. Sometimes, a class cannot go out for recess because of weather. In this case, it is definitely best to allow the children to use the gym instead. If the gym is not available, doing animal walk races, yoga, or some other kind of movement based activities in their classroom will benefit everyone.

Requiring children to sit for longer periods of time without allowing relief through movement breaks is contradictory to what adults are asking children to do in terms of academic achievement, physical health, and emotional health. Their brains and bodies need breaks in order to achieve greater academic success.

 

Marissa Edwards

Marissa Edwards, M.S., OTR/L is a licensed Occupational Therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. She graduated from Rush University in Chicago with her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, and decided to focus her career in pediatrics. Clinically, she works with children birth to adolescent, with a variety of diagnoses impacting skill development and daily function. She enjoys working with all children, especially through providing sensory integration therapy.

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