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You may have recently made 2019 resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Each new birthday and each new year often prompts us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits of mind and body. Two of the most common promises I hear are to increase exercise/physical activity and learn to manage stress in a healthy way.
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Yoga can be fun and healthy for you and your kids – physically, mentally and emotionally.What is yoga?
The word “yoga” means to yoke, unite, connect or join together. Yoga helps connect the body, mind, heart and emotions. It can also help connect you to other people, animals, trees and all of nature. We tend to think of physical movements and body postures when we think of yoga. Yoga looks like exercise, but its intent is very different. Physical hatha yoga is traditionally performed as a means of quieting the mind and cultivating single-
Adults can approach yoga with their adult self or their inner child self. Remembering, honoring and attending to the little child inside the adult can be a very soothing experience. Mindful yoga can be an antidote to the hurrying and worrying that dominates modern life. In yoga, the mind can be quiet, peaceful and relaxed whether the body is moving or still. Yoga can be done strong and fast or gently and slowly.
The following instructions will guide you or your child in mindful, gentle movements and postures. Throughout this sequence, remember to focus attention on the physical sensations in your body, returning your attention to them whenever you notice the mind has wandered off
to attend to sounds, thoughts, planning for the future or remembering the past. Paying attention to the body will ground your experience in the present moment.
If you have any questions about the safety or appropriateness of this practice for you or your child, please consult your health care provider for advice.
For the mindful yoga sequence below, you might try using a timer set for 15 minutes.
Tree Pose and Puzzled Puppy
Begin by standing tall like a tree, but without tight muscles. Relax the muscles of the thigh, jaw, neck, shoulders and back. To suit your comfort and balance, you can place your feet close together or step them about shoulder width apart. Imagine roots growing deep down from the bottom of your feet, connecting you to Mother Earth. Sense your intimate connection with the earth, from which every chemical constituent of your body came. Playfully and slowly stretch your neck, nodding the head up and down, as if you are saying, “Yes I want ice cream. ” Slowly shake the head left and right, as if you are saying, “No, not spinach ice
cream.” You know how a puppy will cock its head when it’s puzzled? Like a puzzled puppy, slowly take the left ear to the left shoulder, then the right ear to the right shoulder.
Now, lying on your belly, bring your feet and legs together. Place your hands beneath your shoulders, palms down on Mother Earth. Slowly raise your head, neck and shoulders like a cobra. Don’t press on the palms at first. Just breathe slowly and deeply once or twice. Then with a deep breath in, press with the palms to raise the chest up high. On the outbreath, slowly lower the chest, chin and head back down to Mother Earth.
Cat, Cow and Down Doggy
Now get on your hands and knees, arching the back like a cat by bringing the head and pubic bone toward each other. Then do just the opposite, swaying the back like a cow by taking the head and the tailbone up toward Father Sky. Then pressing on the palms, raise your hips high in the air, head between the arms, looking back at the feet in down doggy pose. Then get back on your hands and knees and wag your doggy tail back and forth, left and right. Smile and feel the smile spreading all over your body.
Lion and Chicken
Bending your knees, sit back on your legs and feet. Place your hands on your knees, sitting tall. Feel your strength inside you like the strength of a lion. Now breath in slow and deep. Open your mouth and breath out slow and long while roaring like a lion for one long breath. Next, stand up and run in place in slow motion, then running even slower, imagining running in quicksand. Be thankful for your feet, ankles, knees and hips and all they help you do. Flap your arms like chicken wings, gradually slowing down the motion until you are flapping in slow motion. Drop your arms to your sides, being thankful for your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers and all they help you do. Realize how lucky you are and how grateful you are for your body.
Laughing and Relaxing
Lying on your back on Mother Earth, take in deep breaths and say “Ha-
Now let even that special part of you relax – that part that observes the body, breath, thoughts and mind. Just relax for just a few minutes. After your practice ends, gradually return to normal activity, continuing to feel the benefits of this gentle, mindful yoga practice.
Almost anyone, including children and the child inside adults, can benefit from simple, gentle, mindful yoga. Research shows properly supervised yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes can help manage stress, relax the body, quiet the busy mind and open the heart. They can also be great fun!
Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations