Balasana pose in Hatha yoga, commonly known as child pose, demonstrated by Doreen Foxworth of The Children’s School of Yoga. (Photo by Daniel Case.)
By Shannon McQuaide
Long before I turned my attention to fire yoga, I spent 13 years working in public education. My very first teaching gig was at a middle school on 56th and Slauson in South Central Los Angeles. I spent five harrowing years teaching through day-long lockdowns and shootings on the soccer field and listening to gut-wrenching stories about my students’ home life. It was an unbelievably stressful situation for me. I was teaching science, but what my students needed to understand far more than the scientific method was the ability to see their potential. So, I started an after-school yoga program, and several young boys attended. The year was 1999, and the yoga world looked very different than it does today.
Through yoga, these young boys had an opportunity to relax their bodies and to experience psychological safety. Despite an impoverished consciousness passed down to them for generations, through the posture portion of the class they experienced that their bodies had capabilities they had never experienced. As we engaged in breathing practices, I reminded them to dream big, that they had all the internal skills, abilities, and resources to accomplish anything. I believe this to be true for all of us, regardless of age.
Yoga has been shown to assist children with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Specifically, yoga practice has been used to help them stabilize their emotions, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, increase attention span, provide feelings of calmness and confidence, and improve social skills. Yoga also has been shown to improve sleep patterns, parent-child relationships, and the child’s approach to school.1
I received an e-mail recently from a firefighter who is using mindfulness practices with his children as part of their bedtime routine. When I read his e-mail, I felt deeply touched and want to share it with you:
“I was introduced to yoga and meditation in college. I had practiced sporadically since then, until about a year ago, when I began to be more consistent with both. A few months ago, my son was having trouble falling asleep, so I somehow came up with the idea that we could do some breathing exercises. It worked: He began to fall asleep faster, and it became a practice that we both look forward to.
“I recently started incorporating the kindness practice into my meditation, after receiving a link from one of your e-mails. I started to see some changes pretty quickly. I noticed that I was becoming less judgmental of those around me. I decided to add kindness practice into our bedtime routine, and now we mix it up. A couple of weeks ago, my son had been in bed for a while (we didn’t do either practice that night) when he called for me …. I opened his door and he said: ‘May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you feel safe, may you live your life with ease, you are loved.’ We have always been really close, but that brought a tear to my eye.
“As a parent, we want to do everything we can to help prepare our kids for a happy future. I hadn’t consciously thought to teach him meditation, but I do intend to continue because I think that it will help him to be happy, healthy, feel safe, and to live his life with ease … and know that he is loved.”
Continuing to find opportunities to connect with our children is invaluable, especially as they mature. As a teacher who has worked with hundreds of children, I brought yoga and meditation into every school I worked at. It was an opportunity for us to bond and develop trust and also to help my students become less judgmental and more emotionally flexible and learni to trust in the strength and inherent wisdom of their bodies.
You may be thinking, “I don’t know enough about meditation to share with my kids (or anyone else).” The truth is, if you can take a few deep breaths and focus your attention on your breath, you possess an invaluable gift.
I also want to empower you to become more mindful in your everyday life. Although I don’t have a concrete structure, I am thinking about offering a virtual, evening mindfulness practice–as an example, 20 minutes after the kids go to bed. If this is something that sounds interesting to you please, respond to this article and provide some feedback.
In the meantime, here are some resources for you to explore:
- Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin, family programs.
- Research on the effects of mindfulness in parenting.
1. Caplan, M. (2018). Yoga & psyche: Integrating the paths of yoga and psychology for healing, transformation, and joy.
Shannon McQuaide is a registered yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance and the founder of the FireFLEX YogaTM program. FireFLEX Yoga was developed through her work with the San Jose (CA) Fire Department, where she continues to lead FireFLEX Yoga classes. She is a certified functional movement trainer and has a master of arts degree in leadership and psychology. Shannon@fireflexyoga.com http://www.fireflexyoga.com.