Paradigm Shift: BODY GROWING THE MIND! by Catherine Lesage - Article on littlfeet Yoga

PARADIGM SHIFT: BODY GROWING THE MIND! HOLISTIC VIEW OF KIDS MENTAL WELLNESS 

by Catherine Lesage 

LL.B., B.Ed (PE), ERYT-200, RCYT, Creator Littlefeet Yoga®

IMPROVING CHILDREN’S WELL-BEING BY EXPLORING PATHWAYS TO BEING (not doing)!

“Please help, we often hear, kids’ need to...

  • concentrate and focus

  • self-regulate

  • control impulsiveness

  • be nicer with friends

  • manage their stress better

  • find solutions, etc.”

    The exploration of such life skills is not yet mainstream in our society and education system despite staggering statistics on kids’ mental health. Such exploration is only sporadically encouraged in children and there is an obsession with result-based skill acquisition at the expense of experience-based exposure for longer impact on healthy living.

    Children grow in a society that insists on separating body and mind. We relegate emotions and sensations to lower levels than the mind. With less opportunities for socio-emotional learning, children lose resilience which increases their anxiety and their ability to learn. We need to, from early childhood:

  1. Recognize the role of emotions, connections, sensory experiences, as all being part of mental (and overall) health and education

  2. Explore deeper children’s preferred language of expression: movement and play and their impact on their mental and emotional well-being.

  3. Experience (both adults and children) the power of movement and emotions in assisting learning, reducing distractions and agitation.

It is easier to grow bigger branches early in the kids’ tree of life than later when patterns of growth have been established.

The Inner Life of Children: 
 Relationships + Exploring their World

  1. Intellectual development is 1/6 of the entire scope of child development. We also find language, gross and fine motor, emotional and social development areas. Yet, a strong emphasis starting in early childhood is put on intellectual development.

  2. Autonomy, confidence, knowledge of one’s own potential are sought out skills for children to develop. Yet, children lack MEANINGFUL experiences to explore their world through their body and senses to develop those skills within them.

  3. Learning is not exclusive to the brain, learning can happen in many ways, learning is optimized with the use of both hemispheres. Yet, most learning programs focus on a logical-mathematical learning style, emphasizing mostly one side of the brain.

Learning through movement is fun and accessible to ALL children and holistic integrated movement programs celebrate the uniqueness of each child, each learning type and uses both sides of the brain.

“... health must begin in the body. Your body is the child of the soul. You must nourish and train your child. You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. This is health.” Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar

Children need:

  1. Healthy relationships for high-quality experiences: helps them to relate to each other and with adults. This includes participating in decision-making, opportunities to make friends, cooperation, solving problems in a variety of settings. It encourages positive and stimulating interactions while creating a safe environment.

  2. Meaningful movement experiences: highly beneficial for their physical-emotional- intellectual well-being. An environment filled with pleasure, movement and creativity = fertile ground for brain development and feelings of success by creating body-mind connections that optimize the brain and muscular capacity while relaxing and connecting with self and others.

  3. Expression through movement/play to learn who they are, to connect to each other, to deal with their emotions: a valuable tool that can channel their energy and much more than a simple outlet for excess energy. Contrary to popular belief, integrated movement and play + human interconnectedness can stabilize the mind of children!

    4.  Expression of their “e-motions”: ALL “e-motions” are part of who we are: none are better, none are worst. Too many children still learn that anger is bad and happiness is good, beliefs often leaving negative imprints on how kids deal or suppress their emotions.

“You don’t need to control emotions. Emotions are natural, like passing weather. Sometimes it is fear, sometimes sorrow or anger. Emotions are not the problem. The key is to transform the energy of emotion into constructive action.” Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior.


NEW KIDS PERSPECTIVE: ACTIVE CREATORS

MORE

Nature exposure: to feel, taste, smell, touch, play

Healthy risk exposure through play and creativity

Movement + Peer interaction

and LESS

Pressure to perform

Pressure to perform

Pressure to perform

RESULTS

Inspiration, engagement, responsibility for learning

Body/emotions mindfulness = increased quality of interactions

Better understanding of e-motions, increased resilience


NEW ADULT PERSPECTIVE FOR CHILDREN: EMPOWERMENT!

  1. Regular life skills exploration: how to communicate, problem-solve, ways to feel and deal with emotions, set goals through focused activities, inquiry learning, but most importantly, each activity must be perceived as fun to anchor deep within. This is more than anti-bullying awareness and ideal if cross-curricular integration.

  2. Global health approach: looking into social and physical milieus of school/programs, teaching/learning, partnering with community experts with specific expertise with children (not just doctors and psychologists), school/school board policies aiming for GLOBAL health not just academic health.

  3. School health committees – a team focused on integrating tools for the well-being of children and teachers. Just as we have Language consultants- Science Consultants, we need Health/Global Health consultants in all schools.

  4. More training and ongoing support for adults using community experts with tested holistic programs and creative holistic movement programs to support and add to the school and community health.

    5.  Regular curiosity and play rituals indoor and outdoor (some ideas http:// littlefeetyoga.com/blog/2014/05/spring-cleaning/): when children can use their imagination in their play, they get to solve problems, explore their creative processes, they are more focused.

Which results in:


MORE

LESS

Healthy life choices

Work, just a different perspective.

Resilience and self-awareness

 

Improved quality of interactions, group/class dynamics

 

Optimized learning environment

 

Integrated movement programs benefits:

  1. Sensory-rich environments with whole child-approach

  2. Opportunities to learn using various media: music, movement, manipulative, art, etc.

  3. Allows human needs to be met: connect-laugh-love-share

  4. Guided exploration through movement = tool to unlock creativity for resourcefulness

  5. High self-esteem, low stress, safe environment = brain/body heightened receptivity.

Ex: Play, Create, Cooperate!TM (www.littlefeetyoga.com):
This tested holistic movement approach in schools and communities through play, creativity, cooperation, engages the whole child, encourages children to discover their full potential, develops body-mind connections increasing self-esteem, confidence, well- being.

METHODS: Looking through Children’s Eyes and Getting out of the Way, advocating a balance of structure/unstructured play, exploration of each child’ s creative potential, connection with nature.

RESULTS: Autonomy through creativity, change through play.

ENGAGEMENT: pleasure = stress reduction, emotional connection, relaxation.

CHANGE: responsible of their learning = inspiration, creativity, self-esteem. HOLISTIC LEARNING: moving with meaning = self-awareness, confidence TRANSFER: home/school sharing, cross-curricular integration.

“ The Comprehensive School Health cohort believes in the interest of the student beyond academia and recognizes the importance of positive relationships/attitudes and healthy active living while fostering autonomy through increased self-esteem, confidence and resilience. Littlefeet Yoga® offers an enjoyable and active way to enhance all of the above.” 
 Leanne Takman - teacher candidate CSHU Ottawa

Conclusion

“ Everything you’ll ever need to know is within you; the secrets of the universe are imprinted on the cells of your body. But you haven’t learned how to read the wisdom of the body.” Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman

We need to reinforce what children already know to build their resilience. Early proactive approach that supports socio-emotional learning integrated on a regular basis has longer impact on children by tapping into their potential in early childhood, creating body-mind connections and positive social interactions. Instead of “fixing” what is wrong, we provide space and opportunities for children to make sense of their world through their body, emotions, senses and ALL of that assist their learning. We also need to invest in providing opportunities for adults to learn more about child development through innovative and creative movement trainings with the help of community experts for the benefit of children.

“Children love drawing themselves as robots, and the results are quite startling. Time pressure are not the sole domain of the adult. In children’s drawings, illustrations of clocks or children rushing to bus or car pool are themes repeated often. (...) The complexities of life for today’s youngster are enormous, and parents and teachers need to be aware of these.” Maureen Murdock, Spinning Inward

Some resources worth looking into:
Smart Moves! Why Learning in not all in your head - Carla Hannaford – updated edition 2005/1995)
Last Child in the Wild – Richard Louv
Spinning Inward - Maureen Murdock

Some “e-motion” exploration with children:
My Many Coloured Days – Dr. Seuss
Today I Feel Silly – Jaime Lee Curtis
When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry... - Molly Bang

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