Yoga for a Brainy Day
Today’s classes were based on the brain, stress and Neuroplasticity. Your brain is amazing! That is for sure! With determination** to learn and by practicing what you learn, you will become smarter. You have the ability to sculpt your brain. I like the word Neurosculptor from the book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph. D.. “Neuro” means “brain” and “sculptor” who is someone who “reshapes, carves, styles”…so as a Neurosculptor you are the sculptor of your own brain. **Determination (What a GREAT word!). I see this word as very active. One boy did ask, “What is the difference between confidence and determination?” I said that in my opinion, “Confidence can waiver because it seems more stagnant and momentary, where as determination is active and requires your focus and effort so it does not become stagnant.” What is determination? It is bravery, courageousness, being energetic, persistent, driven, gutsy, purposeful and spunky!
Step-by-step, you can make clear your intentions.
So…What is an intention? It is an aim, an objective, a motivation, a purpose, a plan. At the beginning of class, kids can set an intention which will help them keep focused, kind of like a road map to their destination. In this case, the destination being how they want to feel or what they want to experience. An intention is a path that is focused on the “now”. You set your intentions based on something that matters to you. It should not feel heavy like something you have to do but instead it should feel light and make you feel open and ready.
Class started by us using the breathing sticks that we made last week. First I led the 5 breaths, then I asked for a “Turtle breath” volunteer, whom we then followed, and after that, I challenged them to close their eyes and they could then do it for themselves. I counted a bit and off they went.
I then showed them my brain picture. I explained that I had made it and that I loved to cut out paper. I explained that the more you can focus, pre-plan and practice, the more efficient your brain works. You can get smarter and smarter, just keep learning new things and practicing what you learn. Have the determination to persist even when it’s tough, because intelligence grows and expands. It, like the word determination, is not stagnant. Learning is like lifting weights for the brain-it is exercise, it helps you get stronger and feeling better. Also, do not be afraid to make mistakes as the old saying goes “Learn from your mistakes”; mistakes train your brain too. It is better to RISK being wrong as a new pathway will be created for more learning. Risk is a great word, too. Risk it; take a chance; you will be braver; more confident and in turn, more determined to keep on going. Stand on the edge of that diving board and go for it!!!
***I point out here, especially in reference to my work in the schools and working to get teachers involved in this mindful process; It is very important for adults, educators and parents to understand this, because by keeping this in the forefront of their professional practices or their parenting style, can remind them that when a student or their child is struggling, it is not because they cannot learn but because they need more practice and instructional support-maybe come at the situation from a different angle.
- The Prefrontal Cortex is at the very front of your brain, in the cerebral cortex . It is your Wise Old Owl. The decision maker: yes or no?; should I or shouldn’t I?; true or false? On a test, A,B,C, or D? This area helps you with learning and focus. The best thing for this part of your brain is for you to remain calm in order to learn the best.
- The Hippocampus, from the ancient Greek “Hippo” which means “horse” and then “kampus” which means “sea” (seahorse) because this area looks like a 2 seahorses side-by-side, one in the left side of the brain and the other in the right side, is buried deep inside the brain. This is your filing cabinet, that stores all your long-term memories.
- The Amygdala, which is basically attached to the end of the seahorse, is the center that controls your emotions, more specifically, your fears. This is your Security Guard, there to protect you. Here we see the Fight of Flight response initiated. Now, if you were a caveman and you came across a saber toothed tiger, you would need the ability to decide very quickly whether to stay and fight the beast or run. If you decided to stay, you would need to be the best warrior you could be and if you decided to run, then you would need to be the fastest runner. For this you would need your body to be working very efficiently so all your bodily and mental functions could help you out! This is stressful to you and your heart rate increases. You sweat, your muscles get ready to spring and your mind is focused on your one objective. But not everything needs to be experienced with such a stressful response and instead by activating the Relaxation Response (*see Herbert Benson), we can get through lesser stressors without them taking a toll on our body. Group discussion about big, medium, small problems and other ways we can solve things without getting stressed out.
Rest of class sequence:
Meditation: Mindful breathing with body, feeling/energy, and mind focus
Warm Up: Balance Pointer dog series memorization (table to kneeling 1/2 scorpion to pointer dog to full kneeling scorpion and reverse); Seed to Tree series
Movement: Sun salutation; Yogini Went to Sea (with happy refrain of Ooowajawa Island); Also in the kindergarten I brought this class to, I played a game with the Stretch What Matter’s yoga card deck. I placed one pose on each mat and in a rotating fashion, each child stopped at each mat, copied the pose and took a breath in and a breath out before moving on to the subsequent mat and the next pose. It was a huge success! I am going to add that game along with the game I call “Spark” or “Metamorphosis “from now into these classes.
Deep Relaxation: Post Card Rack
Today’s play list (most if not all these songs are available or download on iTunes):
- Om Zone Pt. 1 by Steve Halpern
- Chakra Balancing by Yoga Music for Kids Masters
- Aeo (Pts I & 2) by Brian Briggs
- Rock on Hanuman (Omstremental) by MC Yogi
- Yogini Went to Sea by Shakta Kaur Khalsa
- Transform by TJ Rehmi
- Falling Snow – Toshiyuke Watanabe
- Sky And Sand Way by John Kaizan Neptune
- Breathe (Music only) by Lori Lite
- Relax (Music only) by Lori Lite