Sunday, February 26, 2017

Go Go Yoga for Kids (recommended book)

If you're interested in yoga and mindful movement for children and teens, check out Go Go Yoga For Kids by Sara J. Weis, an elementary school teacher and certified yoga instructor. 

The activities are kid-tested for fun and safety, and there's also advice on how to professionally teach yoga to children, as well as tips for parents and classroom teachers on incorporating mindfulness and yoga into kids' daily routines.   

Go Go Yoga For Kids clearly explains how to teach different ages of kids (3-6; 7-11; and tweens and teens):

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What is Mindfulness? Quotations for Reflection and Discussion

namakuki for

What do we mean by 'mindfulness'?  Here are a variety of perspectives on mindfulness meditation, informal mindfulness practice, and nonjudgmental awareness.

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

The Meaning of Mindfulness

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are:
“Paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
“Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few. Essentially, mindfulness means wakefulness—fully present wakefulness... paying attention to all the details of your life... The object or focus of mindfulness can be anything that brings us back to right where we are. If we’re out walking, the object of meditation could be the motion of our legs and feet. If we’re washing dishes, it could be our hands. We can bring mindfulness to anything—opening a door, washing our hair, making the bed.”

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What is Love? Songs about Romantic Relationships (part 2 of 2)

phasinphoto for

This is the latest in the popular series of song playlists for values-based teaching, including compassion and gratitude.

Following up on last week's songs about love for family and friends, here are a variety of songs about love and about healthy or unhealthy romantic relationships. Some of the songs could apply to friends and family or to romantic relationships, so it's worth checking out both lists. 

Teachers, some of the lyrics and images may not be appropriate for children or for more conservative contexts.  Be sure to preview the full lyrics and video before deciding whether a particular song is appropriate to share with your class.  And scroll to the bottom of the post for questions to prompt reflection and discussion about the meaning of love.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What is Love? Songs about Friends and Family (part 1 of 2)

photostock for

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for values-based teaching, including compassion and gratitude.  This time, the focus is on love and on healthy vs. unhealthy relationships.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Creative Ways to Make a Difference: Videos for Reflection and Discussion

Stuart Miles for
Are you looking for some positive content to share with your class or your family?  Or perhaps you're feeling overwhelmed by all the problems in the world and wondering what you can do to help?  This video playlist shows people with unique abilities and inclinations supporting the community in creative and unusual ways.

Scroll to the end of the post for questions that can be used for discussion or individual contemplation, as well as for links to more posts about serving the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mindfulness, Creativity, and the Five Senses (interview)

photo courtesy Sarah Lessire

Sarah Lessire is a singer, songwriter, composer, voice teacher, and music producer, as well as the author of The Scent of Dreams, an illustrated book for children and adults.

Your goal with The Scent of Dreams is to encourage “trust in one’s own journey” and “ease a lot of the angst that both kids and grownups feel around the idea of following their passion.” Some people worry that it's selfish to follow their dreams. How do you integrate your personal passion for your work with compassion for others and contributing to the world?

I believe that how we “serve” can be expressed in a lot of different ways. Yes, activists and volunteers serve in a very direct way, but to me, contributing to the world also means treating everyone I meet with kindness and respect, having a heart open to bounty and eyes open to beauty. And I am not of any service to anyone when I bypass what makes me come alive; when I don’t write, sing or compose, I become a bad friend and a cranky wife!

But when I take care of my inner fire and let myself answer my inner callings, I become someone who is more present to others outside of my work, and I am
better able to take life in and give back. I find myself to be more kind, thoughtful and willing to help. I see my passion as the center of my life, from which everything else grows.

In your opinion, why is it important to encourage creativity in young people?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

8 Principles of Trauma-Informed Yoga and Mindfulness Teaching

arztsamui for
The following is a guest post by Robyn Hussa Farrell, MFA, E-RYT. 

These principles are excerpted from an online course for educators who wish to learn how to teach mindfulness in the classroom setting. For details or more information, please feel free to email the author at rfarrell[at]mentalfitnessinc[dot]org.

Because of recent research like The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, creating a trauma-aware environment is becoming more the norm in the education community. It’s particularly important when teaching yoga and mindfulness, as there are many potential triggers when students are meditating or when they’re engaged in certain physical postures and movements.

Here are eight strategies for safely implementing yoga and mindfulness exercises from a trauma-aware perspective.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

How to Responsibly Teach Yoga and Mindfulness to Adults and Children (interview)

photo courtesy Robyn Hussa Farrell
Robyn Hussa Farrell, MFA, is an award-winning New York City theatre producer as well as an E-RYT Certified Yoga Teacher and an accredited Continuing Education Provider through Yoga Alliance. She is the creator of NOURISH Recovery Yoga, and founder and CEO of Mental Fitness-- an award-winning nonprofit organization that collaborates with national researchers in developmental psychology, resilience and neuroscience to create and deliver evidence-based arts and mindfulness programs to K-12 schools.

You’ve taught yoga and meditation to people with addictions and eating disorders.  How does this help in their recovery process, and how do you integrate it with other aspects of their treatment program?

Mindfulness is at the root of many evidence-based treatment interventions for individuals struggling with mental health disorders and substance use disorders.  For example, CBT, DBT, TF-CBT, etc. all share mindfulness (deep breathing, meditation, gentle movement) as their core.  To highlight the mindfulness work separately, then, is assistive for those in recovery in that it helps individuals build the protective factors that mitigate risk for some of their symptoms.  

Mindfulness exercises like deep breathing (called pranayama in yoga), for example, have shown to calm anxiety and depressive disorders, while improving the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.  Other mindfulness activities such as journal writing help an individual to share their feelings and regulate emotion – skills that have been shown to improve resilience and support the recovery process.  

When I work in a treatment setting (or in a support group setting for those in recovery), I integrate the mindfulness techniques in practical and engaging ways so the participants have a toolkit of resources to take home and use with them that evening.  For example, I will teach them a series of evidence-based breathing or journal writing techniques that they can choose to use when they are having difficulty sleeping late at night.  In this way, the work is extremely practical and useful – and something that can engage an entire family into the process of mindful living.

What are some potential challenges or dangers that can arise when working with people with addictions and eating disorders? What type of training should teachers have before trying yoga and/or meditation with these populations?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

How Christians Can Benefit from Mindfulness Practice (interview)

photo courtesy Irene Kraegel
Dr. Irene Kraegel is director of the student counseling center at Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has 13 years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist, and her current work includes mindfulness training for students at Calvin. Dr. Kraegel shares her experiences and thoughts related to the integration of Christian faith and mindfulness practice at her website,

Many conservative Christians object to their children being taught mindfulness in public schools. How can teachers respect the needs of religious families in the context of a secular mindfulness program?

Mindfulness is a wonderful gift to give children in the classroom. Teaching mindfulness provides children with a tool for calming uncomfortable emotions and focusing attention. However, the historical and cultural associations of mindfulness can serve as barriers for some families in accessing this tool. Because of this, it is helpful to approach mindfulness teaching with a readiness to talk openly with such families about their concerns.

For many conservative Christians, mindfulness meditation will raise no concerns. Parents will be eager for their children to learn this tool to assist them with emotional regulation at home and at school (or will be neutral on the subject). For others, there may be a significant fear of mindfulness meditation that is rooted in a suspicion of “new age” practices or Buddhist influences. 

It is important to demonstrate empathy and understanding when it comes to these types of suspicions. Practicing curiosity and openness about parental reactions to mindfulness (without defensiveness) will provide you with useful information about the nature of their concerns, and will also serve as a calming influence on parents. If parents feel deeply listened to and respected by you, they are more likely to receive your responses.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

9 Simple but Powerful Gratitude Practices to Share with Your Students

The following is a guest post by Erin Sharaf of Mindfulness + Magic.
Jomphong for

Emerging research on gratitude shows many benefits for teachers and students. Positive outcomes include:
  • Fewer emotional and physical symptoms
  • Stronger relationships and communities
  • Happier (by up to 25%)
  • More alert, enthusiastic, attentive
  • Promotes altruistic behavior and self-esteem
  • Less importance on material goods
  • More positive attitudes towards school & life

Here are a few ways you can start sharing gratitude practices with your class.