Yoga, To Help Calm and Focus Your Child
By Lynea Gillen –
By age eight, it was apparent that Haley was bestowed with a high level of intelligence, creativity and energy.
So much energy, in fact, that at times it was hard for her to manage the long hours of sitting that are often required in elementary schools these days. Her parents were looking for ways to help her focus and be more successful in school, so they referred her to the yoga class taught by the school counselor, Lynea Gillen.
Counselor Gillen had been working at this elementary school for many years before she met Haley. Gillen, a 35-year practitioner of yoga and yoga teacher, had been creating new ways of using yoga breathing techniques and poses to help children in the school’s behavior classroom calm themselves and focus. The principal of the school and other teachers saw the positive effects this program was having and soon the school district moved two other behavior classrooms to Gillen’s school.
One of the benefits of yoga Gillen noticed right away was that the activities calmed the students’ nervous systems. They became more connected to their feelings and more receptive to learning. As a result, Gillen started to marry the calming yoga activities with some new communication and social skills games she had been developing.
Taking it one step further, she started having the students lead the “Yoga Calm” activities. Four years later, Haley, her star assistant, was actually teaching the activities to the other children in the behavior classroom as well as to her siblings at home. Today, Haley is thriving in school, while the Yoga Calm program is being used by thousands of schoolteachers, counselors and parents across the country.
In 2007, Gillen published success stories like Haley’s and 60 school and home activities in her award-winning book, Yoga Calm for Children. But to better capture the beauty and magic of what happens when children discover and share their unique talents she created a new children’s yoga DVD, Kids Teach Yoga: Flying Eagle (MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from “r20.rs6.net” claiming to be www.yogacalm.org, Three Pebble Press, January, 2011). It was developed with her husband, Jim, a long-term yoga instructor in Portland and co-author of their original book.
Haley, now a graceful and poised 12-year-old, leads a diverse group of boys and girls (ages 4-11) on a yoga adventure. The children learn how to calm themselves and use simple yoga poses and balance activities to develop the strengths of the eagle (be strong, focused and caring). With the class broken up into three segments, children can do just a few poses or the entire 21-minute class. Parents, teachers, and the kids themselves report positive effects immediately.
To build social skills and a sense of community, each child contributes to the class by leading activities and giving each other compliments. There are other team-building group activities, too, like Tree Circle where children help each other to learn more advanced balance poses.
Perhaps the most poignant scene is at the end of class when student Rylie invokes her Native American heritage’s love and respect for the eagle through a beautiful original song performed during Haley’s relaxation storytelling sequence.
Beautifully filmed in HD, the outdoor setting of this DVD, and the bonus segment’s footage of eagles in the wild with narration by Audubon Naturalist, Steve Engel, is purposely designed to inspire children’s curiosity and knowledge of the natural world. In another bonus segment, Dr. Jeff Sosne, an expert on ADHD, teaches one important eagle skill — focus — by engaging the children in a game designed for classrooms and home to develop eye contact and improve concentration.
Children love animals. The symbolism of the eagle in this class — combined with children leading the yoga activities, storytelling and the music — are powerful motivators for developing fitness, imagination, environmental awareness and lifelong social skills.
Gillen hopes as more children try yoga, they will learn how to direct their youthful energy and passion to helping others and making the world a better place. Kids Teach Yoga: Flying Eagle is a good place to start.
More Information: www.yogacalm.org
About Lynea Gillen
Lynea Gillen, MS, has been practicing yoga since 1973 and has over 30 years of experience as a schoolteacher and counselor. She is the co-author of the award winning book Yoga Calm for Children. As an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University, she has trained over 1,000 school teachers, counselors and therapists in Yoga Calm.