Yoga For Kids

Kids Yoga

“Some of the most important lessons kids learn happen at a desk… some happen on a yoga mat” ~ Bent On Learning

When I began practicing yoga over 10 years ago – it was in a small studio located in a quaint neighborhood called Virginia Highlands in Atlanta, GA. The studio fast became my personal reprieve from the hecticness of life and at the time my “time-out”, so to speak, from years of really active athletic practices. Fast forward to 2013 and my yoga practice is still as special as it was then, yet even more intimate. Yoga has helped me to grow as an individual –the calm, peace and centeredness it brings to my life is almost unmatched to anything other than my meditation practice.

In writing this I pause to think, if yoga can help me achieve such sweetness and balance in life…what could it do for a young, impressionable mind? A mind aching to connect in a world that most feel, as adults, has grown increasingly disconnected? How can the ancient practice of yoga inspire and affect our new world children, can yoga be for kids?

In speaking with friends of mine who are mommies and have enrolled their children in yoga, the answer is overwhelmingly clear; yoga can move mountains for children. Children desperately (and I don’t say this lightly) need emotional nourishment and activity in life. Yoga has shown to bring a level of centeredness, respect, strength and compassion to the hearts and minds of kids. Kids of all ages. Moms have mentioned to me that their children have a better sense of awareness of who they are as individuals, exhibit more confidence, and more appreciation of themselves which in turn affects how they relate to others around them. Doesn’t matter your age, when we KNOW better, we DO better! Right?!

Recently I sat down with a dear friend and NYC yoga instructor, Michelle Barge, to get the full view on how the practice of yoga can truly benefit children. Certified since 2005, Michelle is a renowned teacher and some years ago began bringing her craft of instruction to the mat at Bent OnLearning – teaching children the joys and discipline of yoga. To me, who better to really help us grasp the importance of yoga for kids then Michelle? Imparting an age old wisdom blended with joy and fun, Michelle shares more on her approach and a look into the children she teaches … I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.

How long have you been teaching yoga to children?

MB: Since 2007 – when I became a teacher with Bent on Learning, an organization that brings yoga into the NYC public school system.

What are some of the overall ways children benefit most from practicing yoga?

MB: At first, I saw teaching yoga to children and adolescents like teaching anything – tennis, martial arts, swimming….kids have to listen, follow directions and accomplish a task, as well as the group dynamics of course.  What I saw immediately though was a lovely curiosity mixed with respectful listening.
But overall and in general; enhanced listening skills, concentration, respectfulness, calmness

Children like to move and talk, both of which can be incorporated into practice, but what techniques do you use to hold their attention in class?

MB:Like with adults, the minute you start throwing out directives to kids – look this way, hand that way, back foot turned in, they have to focus plus they are moving. The older kids, ages 9-13 on up, just usually get into it.  With the younger kids we connect poses to animals; for example fold over, touch your toes and pretend you’re an elephant’s trunk (after a demo of course). Also yoga has a lot of respect in it inherent to the practice.   With the older kids, we do a contract together – what’s acceptable in class and what isn’t

I’m thinking there are probably many ways to incorporate “playfulness” into class. As mentioned, children love to assume roles as animals … do you find your students connecting to postures like downward facing dog, cobra, cat/cow?

MB: We take each pose related to animals and explain how old the practice is and how the yogis used animals to explain the postures.  A great one is downward dog, thinking about a dog on its forearms stretching, OR showing the chest of a thin dog like a greyhound of whippet as that’s how – ideally – the chest should be as prominent in downward dog.

In what ways have you seen and/or experienced “change” in the children you teach?  Do many of them take their time in class seriously?

MB:For the younger kids, the time is just pure fun.  Many of the schools don’t have PE (Physical Education), so this is their play time.  For the older kids, especially in NYC where the kids are pretty sophisticated, there’s definitely a cool factor.  But in general, kids 14 on up take it pretty seriously.  I have seen kids have a heightened respect level, ability to concentrate and just an expansion of the mind & curiosity.  Kids want to know about India, the music, other cultures.

If parents want to practice at home with their kids, is there a particular DVD you would recommend?

MB: I don’t have a personal recommendation for a DVD, but this resource link might be helpful; KidsYoga

As a teacher, what wisdom do you wish to impart on the children you teach?

MB: Most importantly just opening the children’s eyes to new experiences.  I mostly work with children who are in low-to-moderate income conditions OR being in NYC, some kids are just a little bit jaded – kind of been there done that, “oh yeah my Mom does yoga”. But when you get children’s curiosity piqued that’s super important for me.  Next is amping their listening skills and having them in just an electronic free zone for an hour.  But ultimately, to teach children that they can find peace and calm within themselves and that quiet and the ability to meditate and take savasana is a GIFT!

Thank you Michelle for sharing and for bringing such beauty into the world, and to Indigo + Sage for being a vital resource for education, family topics and encouraging a community to create an environment where children can positively thrive!

Credit: This has been written by Michelle Witherby {OrganicContessa} and has been reposted with permission. Michelle blogs about personal interests relating to green living and sustainability. She is also CEO & Founder of O&N Collective.

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From Kamithipura To New York

Here is a story of overcoming incredible odds. Shweta Katti had all the odds stacked against her. Being a female, growing up in a third world country, and coming from a poor family can be enough of an insurmountable challenge to condemn you to a life of poverty and insignificance. But Shweta had even more going against her. She was sexually abused by her step-father when young and she grew up in the red-light area of Mumbai. This is one of the many “hell hole” spots of the world where human behavior is at its most depraved, and where hope and light are the most distant. But Shweta has managed to overcome all this and has been accepted in Bard College in the US and has been given full tuition scholarship! Shweta dreams of becoming a psychologist so that she can work with the girls from the area she grew up in, to help them overcome the odds as she did.

Global Giving’s page on Shweta Katti where you can donate funds for her living expenses.
Kranti’s Web Site. This is one of the organization that helped Shweta break the odds.

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Are Fruits A Healthy Choice?

Is Eating Fruits Healthy?

Fruits have been a casualty of our obsession with Carbs. Now we are being told that Sugar is the real culprit, and this puts a big question on the wisdom of eating fruits. This article seeks to answer this question. Here are five things you may want to consider:

1. Eating whole fruits is healthy

Fruits contain antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Increased fruit consumption has been tied to lower body weight and a lower risk of metabolic diseases. Most experts recommend eating multiple fruits of different colors. The portion size should be no more than a medium size bowl of fruit per person. As a second choice if eating whole fruits is not possible then dried fruits may be consumed instead (But the portion size should be no more than a small bowl).

2. Eating fruits in their season is a good idea

Like everything else fruits are best consumed fresh. While some fruits grow year round most are seasonal. Eating fruits in season will help you avoid high cost and will allow you to avoid artificially seasoned fruits. (Here is a chart of fruit seasonality: Fruit Seasonality Chart)

3. Fruits may help with sugar craving

Sugar is an addictive substance and those who are trying to cut off sugar from their diets will face withdrawal symptoms. These may come in the form of unstoppable cravings to eat sugary stuff. One great healthy way to take care of such cravings is to include fruits in your diet. This will take care of your sugar craving and should prevent you from binging on the really damaging stuff like cakes and cookies.

4. Be wary of fruit juices

The best fruit juice is the one to which nothing has been added or removed, nor has the pasteurizing process been applied to it. The fact is that you will likely not get anything resembling this in the grocery store. And even if it were available or you were to make one at home, you want to be cautious with it. The reasons are two fold. One is that the sugar content of the fruit becomes more “available” for rapid absorption when it is juiced. This may lead to a damaging sugar spike in the blood stream. The other problem is that rapid ingestion of the juice may lead to an over consumption, as you may be able to consume large quantities before the satiety signal has the chance to head you off.

5. Before noon may be the best time for fruits

As per Ayurveda the best time to consume fruits is before noon. If you can substitute your breakfast with a serving of mixed freshly cut fruits, it will give you a quick energy boost in the morning. Another alternate is to consume fruits between breakfast and lunch.

Fruits are one of the rare food categories that are both tasty and healthy. Let us not miss out on the wonderful treats that fruits are.

Related: NY Times article- Making the case for eating fruit.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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The Atheist And The Saint

Atheist And Saint

Oil and water do not mix. This is why if we add a drop of oil on a wide surface of water, it spreads all over, coating it with a very thin film. The volume of the tiny drop of oil may be millions of times less that the volume of water, but it still manages to covers its entire surface.

Most saints tell us that this vast universe is but like a thin film of oil covering the entire body of reality. Saints who have experienced deeper aspects of reality say that most of it is beyond both space and time, and the reality that we directly experience is but a vanishingly small fraction of the sum total of all that is. But our obsession with what we can see and experience prevents us from directly experiencing the deeper and much more substantial aspects of reality.

Since everything around us participates in the play of space and time, everything we see around us is temporary and subject to constant change. That is why most saints tell us that the reality we directly experience through our senses is “unreal” and illusory. While the deeper reality that is experienced through mystical states of consciousness is considered to be “real” as it is beyond space and time and is permanent.

One day an atheist happened to see a saint meditating under a tree. On a whim he decided to pay his respects. He approached the saint and bowed before him. The saint opened his eyes and asked why he was bowing.

“You are a renunciate and have sacrificed all worldly pleasures.” The atheist explained. “While I am immersed in this world and I am enjoying it thoroughly. Because of your great sacrifice, I feel like bowing before you.”

On hearing this, the saint immediately got up and bowed deeply before the atheist. The astonished atheist was surprised. “Why are you doing this?” He asked.

“Your sacrifice is much bigger than mine!” Exclaimed the saint. “That is why I bow before you.”

He continued, “You have chosen to renounce the “real” and permanent. At the same time you have embraced what is ephemeral and temporary. On the other hand I have embraced the permanent and blissful, while giving up this painful and illusory world. I believe your sacrifice is much bigger than mine!”

This reply left the atheist stunned and speechless. He felt his world had just turned upside down. From that day onwards he became a disciple of the saint in the quest to go from the unreal to the real.

You may also like: A Chart Of A Saint’s Spiritual Journey

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah. The story of the encounter of the atheist and a saint is a fictionalized account of a true story.

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What If We Are Wrong About Diabetes And Obesity?

About seven years ago Dr. Peter Attia was asked to treat an obese lady patient whose leg had a diabetic festering ulcer. Dr. Attia had to take the decision to amputate her leg. Years later when he looked back he did not regret that he had made the decision to amputate. In fact this was the right thing to do and may have saved his patient’s life, but he regretted the contempt he had felt for her and the dismissive way he had been towards her. Instead of showing empathy he had felt the need to judge her.

He came to the realization that he had been wrong in judging her when a few years later he found himself in the same boat. He found that he too had become overweight and had developed insulin resistance. This was the first step in his downward spiral to Diabetes and other related complications such as Heart disease, Cancer, Alzheimer, and other ailments. He had been doing all the right things: eating the right foods as recommended by the food pyramid and he had been exercising regularly. So if had done all the right things, how could this happen to him? Dr. Attia then made immediate changes to his diet and though he exercised less, he lost 40 pounds and also shed his insulin resistance.

It then occurred to him that it was not his obese lady patient’s fault to have found herself overweight and diabetic. She like him, had probably done everything as recommended by healthcare professionals and yet found herself spiraling into obesity and diabetes. Dr. Attia was forced to conclude that the system had failed the lady and instead of his judgment she had deserved his sympathy. Dr. Attia is now on track to find out the answers that will help patients like his obese lady patient. Like many other health professionals, doctors, and scientists, Dr. Attia has come to the realization that sticking to the traditional food pyramid is not enough to keep you healthy. He feels that a drastic change in the food pyramid is called for and his best guess hunch is that the overabundance of sugar and processed Carbs is the cause of most of our diet related health issues.

Related: Eleven Things You Need To Know About Sugar

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