Relaxation for Children at School

A PSYCHOLOGY BASED CD PROGRAMME FOR HELPING CHILDREN CALM DOWN IN SCHOOLS

by Lisa Gupta (Educational Psychologist and BWY Yoga Teacher)

“Before I used the breath I felt a little upset and a little angry….they made me feel better.

“I liked lying quietly, feeling relaxed and doing the breath.”

“Makes me feel calm, comfortable and warm.”

These are a selection of children’s comments (aged 6-7 years) when they were interviewed after they had taken part in the Let’s Chill programme for 6 weeks. The comments from their class teacher and Special Needs Co-ordinator for the school were also interesting:

“They were excited when introduced to the activity.”

“They were calm and settled immediately following participation…They were good listeners and quickly settled to work.”

“The child involved listened to lesson one and was immediately observed applying the counting breath to a playground situation he would have normally dealt with and responded to in an aggressive manner.”

All of the pupils interviewed had taken part in a pilot project of Let’s Chill during the spring term of 2009. Three schools were requested to teach Let’s Chill either as a whole class, small group or with an individual pupil for a six week period. Pupils who were on the Let’s Chill programme either received the input daily or weekly. Evaluation took place at the end of the six week period (pupil interview, teacher/ headteacher interview, SDQ questionnaire for staff completion on pupil behaviour before and after the six week period). The results showed that the pupils enjoyed the programme, that it was easy to use and that there were improvements for the pupils in a number of areas (e.g. reduction in temper tantrums, improved social skills, improved attention and task completion, less complaining of headaches and tummy aches).

The Let’s Chill programme is based on yoga principles (breathing, relaxation and meditation) and psychology (awareness of thoughts and feelings and how they connect to behaviour) and reflects current research in the field of relaxation and yoga. The programme comprises of a CD and a short training manual for staff which guides them in the key areas (how to run the programme, preparation, running the lesson etc.).

It is designed for the age range 5-11 years but older /younger pupils may benefit depending on their individual needs. The six lessons last 10 minutes each and are highly structured with reinforcement of learning from one lesson to the next. The language is kept simple and key instructions are repeated at the start/end of each lesson. The programme is designed so that pupils who have special educational needs can participate (e.g. autism, emotional and behavioural difficulties, anxiety, confidence, attention). The pilot study showed that a range of other pupils may also benefit from a quiet time which is non-academic and nurturing (e.g. pupils who are experiencing stress at home such as bereavement, family break up).

Training is available at Let’s Chill training courses in Milton Keynes or tailored to suit staff needs in school (with an individual member of staff, small group or whole staff). If you are interested in finding out more about Let’s Chill contact Lisa Gupta at lisa.letschill@gmail.com.

Ayurveda in Winter

Winter, the season of cold, damp and dark causes the most difficulty for those whose predominant dosha is Kapha. Although Vata (ether and air) is also affected by the cold, it is only when this is accompanied by dry weather that it becomes more of a problem. That said those of a Vata constitution do need to stay warm. For Pitta types whose main element is fire, there is less suffering at this time than in summer.

Kapha translates as “mucus or phlegm”. Its main elements are water and earth and main sites in the body are the chest, throat, sinus and stomach. As a consequence increased congestion can occur as the days become colder and wetter. Ayurveda says that “like increases like”, so damp, heavy, cold weather or food will quickly increase the Kapha elements within the body and congestion of the body will eventually lead to congestion of the mind. Restricting the consumption of dairy and cold heavy food will help to reduce the impact of the winter environment, as will exercise. The bad news is that one of the other translations of Kapha is sweet which again, will increase congestion at any time of the year, so keep chocolate to a minimum.

We need to recognise that conditions such as bronchitis, sinus headaches and congestion, asthma and emphysema are said to be mainly Kapha based disorders and the symptoms will be increased by an inappropriate life-style, especially in the dark, cold days of winter. Exercise and movement are very important for those of a Kapha constitution who can easily become couch potatoes. If this sounds like your partner then it might be a good idea to hide the remote control sometimes or buy him a new spade for his birthday.

A Yoga practice containing strong postures, especially those that work with the middle and upper body such as the forward and back bends, fish, cobra, plough, shoulder stand (postural drainage) and the bow will all be of great benefit to those of a Kapha constitution.

As with Yoga there are different types of Pranayama, all of which are of benefit. Ayurveda indicates which forms of Pranayama are suitable for the different constitutional types. Those for Kapha include right nostril breathing, inhaling through the right nostril and out through the left. This is said to create a heating effect in the body by stimulating male energy.

So keeping warm, keeping moving and eating cooked meals with the addition of agni increasing spices such as black pepper should help to balance the Kapha dosha through the difficult winter months.

Stay warm and stay in the light.

 
Bill Feeney
General and Remedial Yoga teacher
Guide in the Ayurvedic principles of well being

Ayurveda in Autumn

Autumn can be a time of disturbed Vata as we lose the warmth of summer to the cold of winter whilst still retaining the dryness of the late summer. Dryness and cold are two of the enemies of this Dosha along with the strengthening autumn winds.

What can we do to stabilize the Vata constitution at this time? First it helps to avoid cold and dryness both in our diet and environment. Cold and astringent food and drinks should be kept to a minimum. Pungent, Bitter and Astringent tastes are those that are not beneficial because they dry the system and intensify emotional instability, especially feelings of insecurity. Also excess of any taste will aggravate Vata.

In autumn cooked food is essential for Vata. Dr. Robert Svoboda in his book “Prakruti” says that Vata people are the only ones that truly need the complete protein which animal flesh provides, although over indulgence will quickly weaken the sensitive Vata digestion. The long term use of animal protein, especially red meat, will always increase Vata because the residue of protein digestion adds to the body’s nitrogenous waste burden, leading to gas and bloating. This will not help Vata’s tendency towards constipation.

Remember that Vata is said to be that which moves things and is the motivating force behind Pitta and Kapha, so when high it can create problems for them too. Autumn is the time when Pitta is decreasing after the summer high and Kapha is beginning to show signs of increasing as winter approaches.

Although we need to look towards the Vata constitution as autumn deepens, there will always be subtle effects in the other two Doshas during the changing of the seasons. Remember that no one is totally one Dosha, we are all tri-dosha and although personally I am strongly Kapha and my weakest Dosha is Vata I can still be affected by an imbalance in this Dosha, especially at this time of year.

Stay in the light of your balanced Doshas.

Namaste

Bill Feeney
General and Remedial Yoga teacher
Guide in the Ayurvedic principles of well being

Ayurveda in Summer

High summer is the time when the Pitta dosha can become high and unbalanced, unless precautions are taken. Pitta is said to mean the power of digestion or cooking; that which causes things to ripen and mature. Pitta governs all forms of digestion and transformation in the body, from the cellular level to the workings of the gastrointestinal tract.

The Pitta dosha is also responsible for digestion on the mental and spiritual levels, digesting what we see, hear and feel. When we experience imbalanced agni (digestive juices) within the physical system then there will be imbalances on the mental and spiritual levels. This is why fasting for two or three days, especially in summer, will aggravate Pitta, increasing the agni or fire element within the body.

Summer is the time when those of a Pitta constitution should avoid unnecessary internal and external increases in temperature such as over exercising, even in their Yoga practice. Too much sun (they will burn, not tan), hot and spicy foods should be avoided because high Pitta will lead to the doshic emotions of anger, frustration and judgement, mainly aimed at themselves because they strive for perfection in whatever they attempt.

When in a balanced state, people of a Pitta constitution psychologically have a good power of comprehension; they are very intelligent and sharp and tend to be good orators. They also make good leaders.

The skin is said to be the largest organ of Pitta and we must not forget that it is a digestive organ. Ayurveda says that we should not rub anything into the skin that we are not prepared to take orally, because it will be digested. It may be that our favourite skin care creams are creating internal imbalances.

On the emotional level the practice of sweetness of speech, forgiveness and contentment will help to counteract the imbalances implicit in our modern society and business practices, our emphasis upon personal achievement and success as well as such habits as smoking and drinking, all of which aggravate Pitta.

The cooling pranayama practices of Sheetali and left nostril breathing are especially recommended for high Pitta.

Asanas that help to balance the Pitta dosha are those that affect the navel area, increase the gastric heat efficiency and stimulate digestion. Also Asanas that stimulate the liver, spleen and small intestines, and strengthen agni or gastric fire. These can include the bow, fish, shoulder stand and the half wheel or supported bridge. As always these should be carried out in a calm and peaceful manner, linked to calm and flowing breath. Remember that “going for the burn” is not for the Pitta constitution.

The dryness of summer will affect Vata, but they will love the heat, as will Kapha, although humidity will cause Kapha problems.

I hope the summer is kind to you, especially for those of a Pitta constitution.

Namaste.

Bill Feeney
General and Remedial Yoga teacher
Guide in the Ayurvedic principles of well being