Mind­ful an­ti­dotes in a tech-filled world

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Family -

Yoga, mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion can be just the an­ti­dote chil­dren need to the go-go, tech­nol­ogy-sat­u­rated lives in which they are im­mersed.

“It sounds ironic to talk about stress at such a young age: un­for­tu­nately, when par­ents are stressed, chil­dren are go­ing to feel that in­di­rectly but are not able to name it,” says Laura Sarah Dow­dall, a well­be­ing coach and con­tem­po­rary dancer who runs Heal­ing Yoga in Dublin. “We end up tak­ing on this ten­sion that our par­ents have.”

She pro­vides work­shops both as an in-school and af­ter-school ac­tiv­ity, to in­tro­duce chil­dren to mind­ful move­ment and cre­ative ex­pres­sion, teach­ing body and emo­tional aware­ness to give them a bet­ter sense of them­selves.

“So that they feel a lit­tle more grounded – like lit­tle trees rather than clouds. I think chil­dren are very vul­ner­a­ble in fol­low­ing the path of what their par­ents want, just blow­ing along – and sud­denly you get to sec­ondary school and have to pick your sub­jects.”

Dow­dall aims to em­power chil­dren with tech­niques that they can use in de­ci­sion-mak­ing and in recog­nis­ing and cop­ing with dif­fer­ent emo­tions.

There has been “in­cred­i­ble growth” in the in­ter­est in chil­dren’s yoga, says Ni­cola Foxe, who started Yo-Yo Yoga in north Dublin with one class a week in 2013. Now there are so many chil­dren’s yoga teach­ers around the coun­try, she says, “it is like the penny has dropped. Any­body who works with chil­dren has re­alised the ben­e­fits it can have, from mind­ful­ness, men­tal health per­spec­tive to a phys­i­cal per­spec­tive”.

She learnt yoga as an adult and found it so help­ful, she wished she had started ear­lier. Chil­dren can be taught some­thing as sim­ple as breath­ing tech­niques to help make things in their lives eas­ier, she ex­plains.

When be­ing shown a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing pose, they can feel how breath­ing can help. They learn that “if breath can make this pose eas­ier, it can help off the mat too. If you’re scared, it make things more man­age­able – and that trans­lates to all ages.”

Foxe is also pas­sion­ate about do­ing yoga with chil­dren with spe­cial needs and teaches fam­ily yoga, both in groups and in pri­vate ses­sions at peo­ple’s houses.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see heal­ingyoga.ie and yo-yoyoga.ie

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CYRIL BYRNE

Laura Sarah Dow­dall with third class dur­ing their cre­ative well­be­ing ses­sion at Mount Anville Pri­mary School, Stil­lor­gan.

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