iRest Yoga Nidra: the foundation for Visiting Feelings

iRest Yoga Nidra is a 4,000 year-old old form of meditation that allows us to connect with the stillness and peace that is always present within.  This research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation and meditative inquiry:

  • releases negative emotions and thought patterns
  • calms the nervous system
  • develops a deep capacity to meet any and all circumstances that may arise in life

Children’s iRest is a wonderfully creative assemblage of activities which use the senses as the doorways to children’s development of lifelong skills. Flexibility underlies the beauty of iRest. The various components can be tailored to meet the needs of children of all ages, and easily blend into the regular array of classroom activities. For example, while studying the human body, iRest BodySensing is introduced using the five senses, each sense becoming a portal for sensing the entire body.

Ingredients of iRest for Children:

  • Intention
  • Heartfelt Desire
  • Inner Resource—Safe Place
  • BodySensing
  • BreathSensing
  • Experiencing Feelings, Emotions and their opposites
  • Experiencing Beliefs, images and memories and their opposites
  • Experiencing Joy and well-being
  • Experiencing Silence
  • Experiencing Pure Awareness
  • Children’s Literature

iRest teaches children about emotions and beliefs through hands-on activities and literature. During a year-long iRest program in a Kindergarten classroom in California, children’s senses were developed and refined through sequential exercises with sensorial materials that range in weight, texture, temperature, color, sound and smell. An array of smiley faces offers opportunities to explore and experience emotions and beliefs in a safe and constructive environment. Children gain experience in locating emotions in their body as tactile sensation, discovering various kinesthetic qualities of emotions (sharp, smooth, rough, prickly, hot, cold, etc.). They develop vocabulary while describing, discussing, and respectfully expressing their emotions.  They discover opposite emotions (positive and negative) as well as beliefs associated with their emotions.

An eating exercise explores and enlivens the sense of taste.  Children connect emotions and memories awakened by the tastes. Having children listen to the gentle ringing sound of a meditation bowl develops and heightens their sense of hearing. Essential oils stimulate and develop the olfactory sense of smell. Vanilla, for example, often awakens memories of baked goods, holidays, and warm, pleasurable feelings.

Movement is another entry point that iRest develops and refines through BodySensing.  A favorite game of children is to imagine that they are snowflakes, dancing and falling from the sky, softly landing on the ground, and slowly melting into motionless stillness.

The breath (BreathSensing) offers another portal. Once the children are settled in comfortable positions, they place a small stuffed animal on their stomachs and are invited to gently rock the animal to sleep with the rise and fall of each breath.

As children become sensitive to their internal environment they become aware of subtle sensations such as “tingling” or flows of “energy” coursing through their body. They often express wonder and delight when they discover their bodies as systems of energy.  A foundation in BodySensing benefits children in many ways. It’s an excellent tool children can use when, for example, they feel “nervous” energy in their bodies. Simple question such as, “What are you are feeling right now?” or, “Where in your body do you feel it?” or, “Can you describe it?” help cultivate the child’s self-awareness. In the process, children also develop skillfulness in describing their immediate experience. When they encounter strong emotions within themselves or another, they are able to locate the emotion in their body and describe in detail the type and texture of the emotion.

iRest is a wonderful tool to help students explore their feelings, emotions, thoughts and states of mind.  iRest does not impose, but rather gently guides children to come to their own understanding and resolution, in their own way. This helps them build self-esteem and their ability to find solutions to the problems they encounter in life.

Adapted from www.irest.us 

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Four Roses Practice: from Dr. Kristin Race

Surviving Generation Stress: 4 Roses
How to recognize and engrave good experiences into your brain
Published on January 26, 2014 by Kristen Race, Ph.D. in Generation Stress

The 4 Roses practice has been adapted for families from Rick Hanson’s inspiring work in Hardwiring Happiness. ROSE is a simple process for engraving the good things that we experience over the course of the day into the neural structure of our brain. It is a profound Mindful Parenting practice that the entire family will enjoy!

Rose stands for:
Recognize

Observe

Soak it in

Engrave it

Recognize 4 Roses each day – A rose does not have to be a grand experience. Good things happen all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them. Take the time, that singular moment, to recognize that the sun is shining, that your house feels warm, the smell of your coffee in the morning, or the feeling of your child’s small hand in yours. We can’t change the past or the future, but we can take in the good during this moment.

Observe how this recognition makes your body feel. Where in your body do you feel it – does the moment cause your belly to soften, or does your heart seem to flutter just a bit? Does it cause you warmth, or give you chills and goose bumps? Take that extra second, from when you recognize the moment, to observe the impact on your body.

Soak it in and savor this experience. Let your attention remain focused on the way your dog wags her tail when she sees you, before moving on to your next thought. Unless we bring conscious awareness to good experiences, they bounce right off of us (remember our brain is more sensitive to the bad then the good). We have to hold our attention on these good experiences for several seconds to make them stick. The longer a positive experience is held in our awareness, the more emotionally stimulating it is. This allows the neurons in our brain to fire, and thus wire together.

Engrave it into your being. The old saying about creating a goal is that if you share it, that goal becomes much more likely to be obtained. Similarly, in order to engrave these good experiences into the neural structure of your brain it is vital to go one step further with them. That step is to share these roses with your family over dinner, or write them down before you go to bed.

This exercise can be particularly valuable for kids who suffer from anxiety, as they tend to downplay or ignore good news. It is also valuable for kids whose attention tends to bounce rapidly from one thing to the next and thus don’t give positive experiences a chance to reside in their brain for any length of time. With kids and grownups alike, it is important to encourage pausing here and there and noticing the good things in our lives.

Why it works:
At birth, the human brain is in a remarkably unfinished state. Most of its 100 billion neurons are not yet connected in networks. Connections among neurons are formed as a growing child experiences the surrounding world and forms attachments to parents, family members and other caregivers.

These connections form an elaborate network that is sometimes referred to as the brain’s “wiring” or “circuitry.” All of our thoughts, experiences and interactions create connections – they shape the neural structure in our brain.

The neurons that are particularly active become even more responsive to input because these busy regions in our brain get more blood since they need more glucose to do their work. The more our brain uses a certain pathway, the more it likes to use that pathway or as neuroscientists like to say “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Our emotions of love, worry, joy, frustration or anxiety also make physical changes in our neural structures. Even when we are not experiencing an event, our thoughts about an event use the same neural pathways as when we are experiencing it. So if I lie in bed dreading about tomorrow’s dentist appointment, these neural pathways are developing similar to how they will while I am in the dentist’s chair. When we have prolonged or repeated mental activity we leave an enduring imprint on our neural structure. Thus a state can become a trait.

Our goal through the 4 ROSE practice is to bring conscious awareness to positive experiences so they can create lasting positive emotions to help create a more positive, happier and optimistic brain. Similar to our five minutes of breathing, this process is simple, but not entirely easy. Provide yourself the opportunity to re-shape your brain in a wonderfully powerful way.

I challenge you to engage in an experiment with your family. Challenge your kids and yourself to find 4 roses everyday during the school week. Each night at dinner, share your experiences and see how this small practice can make a big difference in your life and in the lives of your children!
Proverb – If you can take care of the minutes the years will take care of themselves.

Dr. Kristen Race is the author of Mindful Parenting and founder of Mindful Life.

Reference: Hanson, R (2013) Hardwiring Happiness: The New brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. New York, NY: Harmony.

New review in School Library Journal

I would love to see Visiting Feelings in every school library and counselor’s office!

Rubenstein, Lauren. Visiting Feelings. illus. by Shelly Hehenberger. 32p. Magination. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781433813399. LC 2013001222.

K-Gr 3–Through a poetic text, children are encouraged to identify and explore their emotions. “Do you have a feeling/that’s visiting today?/Can you open your door/and invite it to play?/Can you ask what it wants,/and then check it out?” Readers are asked to embrace their feelings, to treat them like friends. Feelings are described through the use of similes and metaphors: “Is it sharp like stepping/on stones with bare feet?/Or smooth like ice cream–your favorite treat?” They are also personified: “Is it warm or cold?/Sour or sweet?/Does it shiver with fear/when the two of you meet?” The full-page, digitally created illustrations feature hand-painted textures and overlays. They have a dreamy quality as the feelings swirl around the youngsters in soft pastel colors. The end pages offer additional information for parents. The high-quality, appealing art will hold the attention of younger children, but discussion will be necessary for understanding this lyrical flow of moods. Paired with Wendy Cooper’s A Is Amazing: Poems About Feelings (Frances Lincoln, 2013), the book has a lot of potential for teaching students how to describe their reactions to different situations. –Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio, TX

 

Where we feel our feelings: new research

Researchers have long known that emotions are connected to a range of physiological changes, from nervous job candidates’ sweaty palms to the racing pulse that results from hearing a strange noise at night. But new research reveals that emotional states are universally associated with certain bodily sensations, regardless of individuals’ culture or language.

Check out this article from Discover Magazine:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2013/12/30/body-atlas-reveals-where-we-feel-happiness-and-shame/#.UsrZuqa9LCT