Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mindfulness and Yoga for Young Children: Tips, Books, Apps, and Activities

phanlop88 for

Are you interested in teaching mindfulness and/or yoga to younger kids but not sure where to start?  Or perhaps you've been teaching for a while and are looking for some new resources?  The following books, apps, training programs and activities are recommended by experienced teachers.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

All About the Breath: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers.  This time the focus is on breath-based meditation, breathing through strong emotions, and 'the moments that take your breath away'.  

I've included a description or a snippet of the lyrics to help you decide what might be appropriate for your class.  Scroll to the bottom of the list for questions to prompt reflection and discussion.

All About the Breath, Mind with Heart  (parody of 'All About That Bass' by Meghan Trainor)
This is a cute youtube video explaining the benefits of mindfulness meditation.  (It might not be appropriate for more conservative contexts due to one potentially-offensive word, and due to the clothing of many of the teen participants.)

Belly Breathe, Common and Colbie Caillat 
A very agitated Elmo learns how to calm himself down when he's upset.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mindfulness, Compassion, and Buddhism (interview)

photo courtesy Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is a mindfulness consultant and coach based in Oakland, California who spent two years as a Buddhist monk in Thailand.  He’s the creator of and offers an online mindfulness teacher training program.

As a former monk, what’s your perspective on the ongoing debate (especially in public schools) about whether secular mindfulness teaching is really Buddhism in disguise?

Most secular mindfulness teachers (including myself) define mindfulness as “non-judgmental, present moment awareness of one’s experience”, which is comparable to how the Buddha defines mindfulness. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Add a Culturally-Aware Lens to Your Trauma-Informed Toolkit (guest post)

phanlop88 for
This week, I had the opportunity to share my perspective at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog hosted by Dr. Sam Himelstein.

Here's a summary of the post:
When working with youth whose background is different from ours, it’s important to ask ourselves what might be happening from their point of view.  
For example, sometimes adults become even angrier when kids respond to a reprimand by giggling, smiling, or not making eye contact. Depending on the youth’s country of origin, these could all actually be signs of respect toward a person in authority.
And for a youth who’s simultaneously dealing with trauma and culture shock, even something as seemingly innocuous as raising your voice may be perceived as far more aggressive than you intend it to. 
The following questions can help you figure out how cultural issues may be impacting your students or clients. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Very Brief Introduction to How Trauma Affects the Brain

image courtesy Sam Himelstein

The following post is adapted from the second module of the online course Trauma-Informed Care for Professionals Working with Youth, and is used here with permission from Dr. Sam Himelstein and the Center for Adolescent Studies

The brain can be simply categorized into three layers, all with distinct functions relevant to the processing of danger and trauma:
  • Hindbrain: Also known as the reptilian brain, the hindbrain deals with all of the essential functions like breathing (i.e., processes you don’t need to think about).
  • Midbrain: Also known as the emotional brain, this part of the brain contains the limbic system and assesses danger. 
  • Forebrain: Also known as the logical brain, this part of the brain controls functions such as thinking and abstract reasoning. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mindfulness and Happiness: Quotations for Reflection and Discussion

photostock for

Does mindfulness lead to happiness?  And what do we mean by 'happiness,' anyway?  Here are a variety of perspectives on appreciating the present moment, letting go of attachments, embracing moderation, and finding meaning.

Scroll to the bottom of the post for questions that can be used for personal reflection or as prompts for discussion and writing.

Book titles link to Amazon, just in case you'd like to know more about the sources of these quotes. receives no financial benefit from books ordered through links from this site.

Appreciating the Present Moment

Mary Oliver, "Sometimes," from Red Bird:
"Instructions for Living a Life: 
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it."

Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April:
"The simple happiness of complete harmony with her surroundings, the happiness that asks for nothing, that just accepts, just breathes, just is."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Children's Book Helps Kids Cope with and Grow from Failure (interview)

photo courtesy Tamara Levitt
Tamara Levitt is an author, producer, speaker, and mindfulness educator based in Toronto, Canada. She works as Head of Content at Calm, the mindfulness meditation app, and is also founder of Begin Within Productions, where she produces mindfulness based multi-media content. Ms. Levitt is the author of Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands, a children’s book that explores the themes of acceptance, resilience, and self-compassion and offers the message that just because we may experience a failure does not mean that we are a failure. 

You wrote Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands as a counterpoint to the classic children’s book The Little Engine That Could, which emphasizes that success requires hard work and determination. How do the two books complement each other?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sign Language Resources on Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga

explained in BSL by Rebecca Withey

I've heard from several teachers that they've had trouble finding sign-language resources on mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.  Here's a list of resources you might find useful; most of them were suggested by the d/Deaf and sign-proficient contributors to last week's post on Tips for Including Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga Classes.  

International Resources

Directory of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Yoga Instructors in Australia, Denmark, Germany, the US, and the UK.

Australian Sign Language (Auslan) 

Hatha Yoga Accessible DVD:  The above video is a trailer for a DVD using visual yogic poses taught by qualified Deaf instructor Karli Dettman, in Auslan with English captions.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tips for Including Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga Classes

photo courtesy Karli Dettman

Are you a non-signing hearing teacher who'd like to be more inclusive of d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in your classes? Read on for advice on being respectful of Deaf culture, communicating with and without an interpreter, and special considerations for meditation and yoga classes.

This was a collaborative effort from a group of Deaf and hearing teachers and counselors with a commitment to sharing best practices in teaching d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

9 Tips for Effective, Compassionate School Leadership

Principal Katie Yezzi Greets a Scholar
photo courtesy Troy Preparatory Charter School

The following is a guest post by Katie Yezzi, Founding Principal and Senior Principal of Troy Preparatory Charter School in Troy, New York, part of the Uncommon Schools network of urban public charter schools. Troy Prep currently has an elementary school and a middle school; a high school is scheduled to launch in fall 2017.

I’ve worked in schools for nearly my entire career of over 20 years. The reason I got into it, and the main reason I come back to it each day and each year is that I find the learning process to be bordering on miraculous, and I love kids. I think that’s why I ultimately have come to found the school that I have – a “no excuses” charter school where compassion and love for kids is the driving force. I want our students to know they are loved, and to know that we show our love through hugs and smiles, but also through challenging math problems.

Our student population consists of approximately 63% African American, 15% Hispanic, and 15% Caucasian students. The majority of our students' parents did not attend university. The majority also live below the poverty line.

While my love can’t make their life challenges and struggles go away, giving them a safe space and moments where they can be quiet, calm and mindful can help them learn how to keep those difficulties from being obstacles.