Right at the corner of the teenage years lays crouched the adult life. And while kids in school are getting the cognitive training, the algebra formulas and battle dates, none of this will take them by the hand through the real challenges of life, and all that is yet to come as they continue on their biological development.
Teenagers have to face the uncertainty and transitions that implies moving into an adult world, with new responsibilities and a life project to pursue. It’s well-known that some mental disorders have a direct impact on their social and academic life. If undetected, these problems can go worse with the pressure of school, and so, place them at risk for some more serious outcomes like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and suicide.
With an increasing number of students entering High School struggling to live happy and productive lives, the idea of a well-rounded education that involves more than academics is growing strong. Mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) supports the belief that the education system must also involve learning experiences and skills related to social and emotional literacy, including the practice of mindfulness. LES it’s referred to as the “missing piece” in education and it’s a growing body of work that is being researched worldwide.
On the wonders of mindfulness for the brain
Mindfulness refers to a way of being and thinking that grows out of paying attention, consciously and without judgement, to what is happening in the present moment. To be mindful means to slow down deliberately and notice what is happening inside of us (feelings, body sensations and thoughts), and what is happening outside us, our environment. But what does mindfulness do to one of the most complex organs in the human body?
Leading neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson has demonstrated for decades that our brain is constantly growing and evolving. In fact, he coined the term neuroplasticity to describe the capacity of the brain to change throughout life. Davidson has also shown that mindfulness practice can change the brain and lead to a number of positive outcomes, like increased immunity, stress reduction, clearer thinking and better self-management. Another compelling reason to consider bringing mindfulness to the classrooms.
-Sit in a comfortable position, making sure the soles of your feet are connected to the ground or floor.
-Rest your hands on your thighs and let your shoulders drop.
-Gently close your eyes or look for a reference point somewhere on the floor where you can return your eyes when they get distracted and begin to wander around the room.
-Let your spine grow tall and noble like the trunk of a tall tree.
-Take a moment to notice how your body feels.
-Now bring your attention to the flow of your breath. You don’t need to breathe in a special way. Your body knows how to breathe. Simply notice each breath coming into the body with an in-breath, and leaving the body with an out-breath.
-If you notice your mind is caught up in thoughts, concerns, emotions or body sensations, know that this is normal.
-Notice what is distracting you and as kindly as you can, turn your attention back to your breath.
-Allow each in-breath to be a new beginning, and each out-breath a letting go.
-When you are ready, bring your attention back to the room.
The gifts from an ancient discipline to expand our ability on “writing” our minds.
It’s true. Yoga has a lot to do with exercise and body. We can’t deny the number of benefits it brings to the well-being of our physical state overall. But Yoga is also mind, and the magical effects it has on it. At least that’s what a group of students from Dharma Yoga studio learned in 2013.
Three years ago, the Lip Service Institute, teaching arm of famous Miami-based storytelling annual gathering Lip Service, teamed up with Dharma Yoga Studio for the first one-day yoga/writing retreat.
The session started with two questions: Who are you and why are you here?
Lip Service founder and storyteller Andrea Askowitz remembered how the ten participants were leery at first. “I know for sure that my wife, Victoria, was scared. She loves yoga, but writing intimidates her. She was very, very afraid”. Andrea then asked the group to read what they had written. For Askowitz’s wife, who thought Yoga would come first, this task was accomplished with a very angry “this is hard” read out loud.
Yoga came minutes later, taught by the best instructor in town, Vanessa Michel. A butt-kicking hour of Asanas to the beat of Ice-ice baby and Hallelujah was followed by five-minute writing exercise, and then the magic started to happen.
“I followed a boy, found a man”, wrote one of the students. “I’m a planetary rain man” and “Breasts fascinate me, mostly because I don’t understand the fascination. Fun bags. Sacks of fat.”, were some of the exercises Askowitz shared through the art blog of the Knight Foundation.
As for Victoria, she was able to let out some of the anger that had her boiling: “I can’t stand bad cooking. Last week my wife cooked shrimp without deveining it first. Everyone was eating shrimp poo”, she wrote. Although some of the temper was still there at the end, she told Askowitz she wanted to do it again.
Haven’t joined the meditation and mindfulness revolution yet? headspace is your chance to start treating your head right.
As the description on the App Store says “Headspace is meditation made simple, a way of treating your head right. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques we’ll show you how to train your mind for a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life”.
First developed two years ago by former buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe and his team, Headspace has launched the second version of the digital mindfulness platform on 2014. With counting celebrities and more than a million other people around the world, Headspace will get you in the path to self-awareness, inner peace and better understanding of your emotions and thoughts as you go placidly amidst the noise and haste of the day-to-day life.
Navigating through new features
Developers Puddicombe and Rich Pierson have worked hard to make sure users get a more personalised experience. Each new feature is based on two years of user feedback.
“Each user’s Headspace journey is now mapped out on timeline so that their personal story is woven deep within the design of the app and so they will have a clear idea of what they have achieved”, british gadget and accessories magazine wired.co.uk reviews. The app features beautiful graphics and animations as well as gorgeous details that don’t come unseen. “I get really excited about the design of it. There’s something about looking at something that’s beautiful that engages you and just makes you want to do it,” says Pierson.
Content is now clustered in new four areas once the foundation state is completed- health, performance, relationships and headspace pro.
For those melt-down moments, Headspace SOS offers two-minute sessions for a successful overcome whereas Headspace On-The-Go gives you 10-minute-sessions customized to various activities like commuting, eating and walking.
Pierson’s favorite Headspace Buddy allows you to link your account with up to five friends so you can track each other’s progress and keep the “community feeling” going. And if none of them have joined the revolution of mindfulness yet, you might take advantage of the free Headspace packs you get as rewards when completing your meditation sessions, and give them away to your buddies.
The App now includes the option to set reminders so you can schedule in your planner the time you intend to meditate. Also, buzzers have been introduced to give users little nudges at interval times so it reminds them how easily the mind wanders, avoiding the effects of meditation to wear off throughout the day.
So what are you waiting for? Get started with 10 first sessions of guided meditation for free. Download Headspace Version 2 on Android or IOS and start giving your head the treatment it deserves.
Not a fan of running or bike-riding? Yoga may be as good for your cardiovascular system as aerobic exercises.
According to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggested Yoga may be as beneficial as more traditional physical activities such as walking or biking in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Investigators from the United States and Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,768 subjects. The aim of the analysis was to examine whether yoga is beneficial in managing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and whether it could be an effective therapy for cardiovascular health.
The study compared those who practiced yoga with those who didn’t. Those who practiced yoga had:
Lower blood pressure
Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
Lower body mass index (BMI)
Increased HDL (good cholesterol)
Results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those practicing yoga than in those not taking part in any aerobic exercise. In fact, yoga had an effect on risk factors comparable to aerobic exercise.
Linking yoga to cardiovascular health is not a new idea. For over 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has recommended yoga for reducing stress. In fact, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart DiseaseTM includes yoga as one of the fundamental activities for reversing heart disease.
A little down dog reduces discomfort, increases energy and boosts your mood.
If you’re one of the millions of mid-lifers who avoids yoga because of aching, and creaky joints, feel free to grab your mat now. A new study from John Hopkins University reports that yoga improves arthritis symptoms by 20 percent.
The trial included 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Some took twice-weekly yoga classes, plus a weekly practice session at home; a control group didn’t. After eight weeks, the yoga group reported a 20 percent improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function, including the ability to complete physical tasks at work and home. Walking speed increased too, although to a lesser extent.
“The yoga group reported a 20 percent improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function”.– Susan J. Bartlett, Ph.D, John Hopkins University
Mood improved first, says Susan J. Bartlett, Ph.D., an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, and lead researcher. What’s most heartening is how many participants stuck with yoga, even after the experiment ended. “They told us that practicing yoga helps them to feel like they are in control of their arthritis, whereas before they felt like their arthritis was controlling them.”
Bartlett got the idea after taking up yoga herself. “People with arthritis tend to be more sedentary than their peers, and 90 percent are inadequately active,” she says. “Yoga was especially appealing because it emphasizes listening to your body, learning how to calm your mind and relax deeply, going at the pace that is right for you.”
While plenty of research has shown that yoga has “very predictable effects on lowering stress and improving mood in people with a range of chronic health conditions,” Bartlett says it wasn’t clear that yoga was appropriate for people with vulnerable joints until this study.
The Yoga baby steps for arthritis pain
Are you one of the 27 million Americans with OA or the 1.3 million with RA?
Before you head to your nearest Yoga studio, Bartlett suggests following these steps to make your practice safe:
Ask your doctor whether there are specific activities or poses that should be avoided or modified.
Look for introductory, gentle classes with experienced instructors; avoid “power yoga,” ashtanga, and hot yoga.
Meet the instructor before class, and ask if he or she has experience working with people with Arthritis. Tell the instructor your concerns.
Listen to your body. Clicking and pops in joints aren’t uncommon, even in people without arthritis. “But sensations of crunching, grinding, locking up or giving way are concerning,” says Clifton O. Bingham III, MD, associate professor of medicine, who also worked on the study. “Stop, and discuss them with your doctor and the instructor.”
Pay attention to pain. “As with any exercise, if you have not been active, there may be some initial mild discomfort, but you should not experience pain,” Bartlett says.
Then prepare to fall in love. “We continue to be surprised by the number who told us that yoga changed their life and their relationship with their body,” Bartlett said. “Instead of focusing on what they couldn’t do because of arthritis, yoga helped them increase their fitness, flexibility, balance and endurance.”