Monday, February 1, 2016

A Special Chant to Help Young Kids Process Big Emotions

Toddlers and preschoolers deal with big, giant, powerful emotions. They become possessed by them almost. It can be scary for them. It can even be scary and painful for parents to watch too. Overcome with emotion, kids may do things they know aren't nice - like hit and scream. They may feel bad afterwards, and subconsciously think emotions are bad. 

But emotions aren't bad. We all have them. Acknowledging them, feeling them and dealing with them in a healthy way is part of what it means to be emotionally healthy and self-aware. How do we teach young kids this though?

Here is one chant I use in my weekly kids yoga classes that has been very fun and effective at teaching toddlers and preschoolers about their emotions. 

The basic chant is this: I am happy; I am well; I have everything I need.

Usually I work with one mantra or chant for a good two months and try to integrate it into the class in many different ways so it really sinks into their consciousness. This particular chant I love to do in December and January. 

I am a big fan of the power of learning by playing. So much so in fact, I spent almost three years working for the amazing International non-profit Right To Play and saw first hand the power that play has to educate and empower children to overcome poverty, conflict and disease.

Because of this, I make sure my kids classes aren't all stillness and calm. We always have lots of fun. Because of it, I believe, I am able to teach some really great life-skills to the kids. Here is a really fun and effective way to work with the I am Happy Chant:

1. Chant. Have the kids follow you by walking in a circle, clapping to the beat, and chanting: "I am happy; I am well; I have everything I need. I am happy; I am well; I have everything I need..." 

2. Pause. Make sure they are watching you and have stopped moving. Pick a life moment that may evoke a big toddler emotion, such as, "we are at the store and I see a toy I really want, but my parents say I can't have it. How would that make you feel?" We talk about all the possible feelings, and open dialogue up in case kids want to relate.

3. Making of the Monster. Instruct the kids to start feeling that feeling right down into their bones, and into the pit of their bellies. Then that emotion starts to grow and grow and take hold of you. You turn into your  "monster self"! You could jump up and down. Make your voice loud. Make crazy ugly faces. Pound the ground. Contort your body and make weird shapes. 

I personally like to jump up and down with one leg up at a weird angle, arms flaring, yelling AHHHH! Then switch to crouching down and hitting the floor with my fists. It gets very intense. Except that many of the kids are laughing hysterically. (I think I may look rather silly)

4. The Calm. Then after we burn out, we become still. Take a deep breath. Look around at each other to see if we are back "home" (back to the calm place inside of ones self). You could  say something the first time through like, wow I wanted that toy so bad that it just changed me into my monster self. Boy, that was wild. But it happens sometimes.  I am okay now, are you? Yes, okay. Let's keep on going then. "I am happy. I am well. I have everything I need..." 

5. Repeat. Repeat the process. It could be different scenario or the same. You can ask the kids to make up one if they are verbal enough, like someone accidentally stepping on your foot. Each time we turn into our monsters selves for a shorter and shorter period of time until we don't even freak out at all! 

6. Results. This exercise is a great way to teach kids that it is okay to have big, strong emotions. It happens. And that doesn't mean they are good or bad. It shows them a safe way to do it where they don't hit or harm anyone else. Many can relate to these big feelings and laugh about it a little because it is done in a fun way. When those big feelings creep up on them in real life, they now have the knowledge about what is happening to them, and they know it is is normal. Hopefully it won't freak them out too much too. 

This exercise also gives them knowledge that the intense feeling is going to go away and they will be fine again eventually. Lastly, it gives them some tools should they try to recover quicker.

These are big lessons for toddlers/preschoolers! 

I love to sing this chant during relaxation time/savasana. For young ones, I choose a small animal to put on their belly during savasana. I chant this song as I distribute the animal onto their bellies. There is usually one child who is still unhappy with their animal given to them. I try to reinforce the chant to them.

I also will choose stories that explore the theme of being happy with what you have, and what happens when the character doesn't get what they want. We have fun picking yoga poses to do that go with the story. Its a great time to explore the lesson that "more" doesn't always make you happy.

I've also used this chant in my adult yoga classes around the holidays to help them stay centered and real, and give them a mantra to help them not get so caught up in the material side of things. 

Try it at home and let me know if you and your family enjoy it!

The Domestic Yogi

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How One Boy's Honesty Created Some Serious Self-Awareness

I found this particular parenting moment very eye opening for me as a parent, but also for me as a person striving to become more self-aware.

When asked face-to-faced, my son came clean and admitted to me something he had done. Not only was he honest with me, but he took it to heart and was honest to himself. He had a clear and profound realization about how his undesirable behavior effects others.

In one moment, instead of choosing the drama of denial, and lies, followed up with the drama of getting caught and suffering the consequences. Instead, we skipped all the drama and moved right to honesty, which resulted in deep self-awareness.

As an adult, my son listened to me when I called him out two times for being too rough when we were getting ready for bed. Once resulted in me getting a pillow to the face and my glasses crunched into my head.

In an attempt to get him contained, I asked him to please wait in my bed with a book until his sister and I were ready to come read there together.

Not two minutes later I hear a very concerning crash.

What was that, I call up.


No seriously, what was that?

Just a glass!

A glass! What happened?

I don't know??? 

You don't know???

It just fell! 

Just fell?? 

He comes out of the bedroom to grab some rags to sop it up.

Me, quietly trying to figure this out, almost to myself: why would a glass just fall? I don't understand. Hmmm.

Son comes back out.

Did the glass break?


He comes over by me.

Tell me what happened. I don't understand.

I don't know. 

Please tell me the truth. It will be okay.

Pause. Deep breath. I was fooling around. 


I want to get mad. It's late and I've been singling parenting for most of the day. I'm on autopilot. But before I do, I remember that he just told the truth and came clean about the situation. I become so overjoyed by this fact. We've been talking a lot this year with my 7-year-old the importance of being honest and always trying to tell the truth. And he did it! And it probably was really hard for him given that I had already pointed out that he was acting too crazy and it was hurting people. He knows he should have settled down, but didn't.

My heart floods with happiness and I look at him with kindness and love, and say, thanks so much for telling me the truth. I am really proud of you. I know that was hard, but I am just so happy you told the truth.

So that was the end of it, or so I thought. The girl and I carried on getting her ready for bed. But when I go into his bedroom, there is my son laying on his bed, faced down, with a pillow over his head.

I don't take this seriously, I think he is playing around. I go over and sit by his bed and give him a pat, and say, hey. The sound that comes out of him is pathetic and weak and sobby. Oh dear he is upset. Not a usual thing for him.

Don't worry, it's just a glass. We have plenty. It's not like it was my glasses that were broken.

He sobs louder. And I just don't understand where this is coming from. I try to play the broken glass down some more. It doesn't work though. So I just snuggle him and pat his back. I am there with him in this moment. It breaks my heart. I tell him I am sorry he is sad and feels bad. We lay there feeling all the feelings.

I didn't really get it at first. It is just a glass. Why is he crying so much over a glass? He has seen us break plenty on the kitchen floor. But I think it goes much deeper than that.

He was honest with me, and honest with himself. With fear aside, and love on his side, it enabled him to really see himself. And what he saw he didn't like. It broke him. I know this feeling all too well. But for me, it took days and days in a silent mediation retreat to really listen with love and without fear, and to confront how my past behaviors where hurting and hindering me. I looked in that mirror and confronted some heavy shit. It broke me open. And I am thankful for that little bit of self realization. I've tried to do better.

But why in the world did it take me days and days in silent meditation? Why can't I be more like a child and take to heart what others point out about my undesirable behaviors? Why can't I be more honest with myself? Why is it so scary to got to that deep place?

It makes me think about all the ways we fool ourselves. All the times we react with the big drama or the denial. Like in close-relationships or marriage. It's easy to call out your partner on their shit. It certainly is no fun to hear, and its easy to launch back a returning grenade.

It's so easy not to listen to the adults in our life. Or even our children. Sometimes it's not always true. But sometimes it is. Why not just surrender and see it.We'd all be better people for it.

I know as my partnership matures, we have learned the lesson of what is productive and what isn't in terms pointing out faults. If you want the other to really take it to heart, it has to be done with love and respect. And it helps if there is a "need" element. Like, it would be really helpful to me if....

The bottom line is that it is hard. And it hurts. And change is tough. But I am going to take the bravery that my son showed me and try to be a little more honest with my own self from now on. I hope you will too.


The Domestic Yogi

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Helping My Son Move Thro Fear

Photo credit: Judy Stone-Goldman

It must be because we are weeks away from the darkest day of the year, but both my kids are wrestling with their inner darkness. They have taken on a grumpier, scared-er version of themselves lately. Growing up in Canada, I know all to well the affects of spending too much time in darkness.

One night I was particularly beat, and after my son approached me for the third time after bed, this time about being scared of attacking zombies, (though I might add, he seemed genuinely okay, and more like he was stalling) I responded in humor, "well zombies are not real and I can assure you that they won't harm you in any way. I can also assure you that if your dad and I don't get a bit of child-free time that we WILL turn into zombies and come looking for you."

The next night though, I could tell he was really scared and we had a lovely bedtime talk. This one about the mind and fears. A subject us yogis and mediators love to analyze and explore in order to grow and find peace and truth. And a subject I was so happy to talk about now that my son's a little older.

I distinctly remember the time when I was an adult and I heard this simple message, and took it to my core. Similarly I felt the bubble burst when my son got it too.

You are not your mind.

Nope. You control the mind and use it as a tool. But you are not your mind.

But I am my mind! It is everything I am, he says, shocked.

Your mind likes you to think it is ALL and it is in control. But its not. You have the power to turn it on and off. Sometimes that means to stop listening to your mind even if its still running its mouth.

How do I do that, he asks.

It takes practices for most people, I say. But learning to listen to your breath, meditating. Or it could be doing things that bring all your attention to your body, like yoga or the body-centered meditation we do at night.

I lead him through a nice body-centering meditation and he was then at peace and able to transition to sleep by himself.

That little shift in perspective is sometimes all we need to help us grow or help us find true peace. In this case, stepping a little bit away from the ocean of oscillating thoughts, helps us to calm the innermost self. The more you practice the bigger that "step away" becomes. That is how yoga, or meditation, or any mindful-based practice helps.

As the nights grow long, I hope your little ones find peace this Holiday Season. May all beings in all directions find inner peace.


The Domestic Yogi

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Rules For This Holiday

As the unofficial Household Holiday Leader in my little family, I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed and bunches more grounded this year than in the past.

It feels similar to the difference between being a new mom, verses a few years later being a second time mom. As a first time mom, I remember feeling utterly overwhelmed, not knowing what I really needed in terms of stuff, or how exactly how to parent. The second time, I got rid of all the crap that society brainwashed me into thinking I needed, listened to my instincts and freed up time and space to just be.

Years past I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities of the season. I buckled under the pressure of making every moment special! I ran out of time to do half of the things I wanted. Not to mention the grip of over-consumption of food and store-bought presents to ensure everyone felt loved and happy! UGH! It really starts to squeeze the fun out! (Though truth said, I've still had wonderful holidays).

So this year, I'm revamping and creating some new rules:

1.  I have just accepted that December is a crazy busy month for both parents and kids, and we can only do so much. I've tried to wisely pick and choose the few fun events we go to. I have tried to drop the guilt and desire after I see how cool all the events we missed were on Facebook.

2.  I will lower my own expectations, and take the pressure off myself.

3.   I have come to realize that being a stressed-out frazzled, overwhelmed mom, who is under-slept from staying up late hand-making shit, and endlessly scrolling website for perfect presents, is really not bringing the good vibes to the table in the morning. That was the me of years past. And the me of this year wants to be happy. So that means simplifying this season. And showing up each day with the joy and warmth that I want my family to remember the season to be. 

4.  Going forward, I pledge to not be the Christmas Elves sweat-shop dictator Mama who forces her kids to Christmas craft, cook, decorate, or any form of holiday hoopla just for the sake of memory making if they don't want too. ("But kids I am only home for four hours this weekend we MUST bang this out now!!!!!!! There are only three December weekends until Christmas! Let's hop to it!) No no. I will not force them. Coerce maybe. And if I do suggest anything, I pledge to do so with calm and peace, promising to remember point 2 above -  lower my expectation.

5.  I will not over-buy. It's a hard lesson, but its true. I want my loved-ones to be happy. But deep down I know it's not all about the presents. Nor do I want my kids to become too entrenched in material wants and woes. We all know how the high of material gifts fade away quickly and what is left must be something other than a void. I will try to stress the magic of the season, the joyful moments and the love of connection.

6. I attest to try my best this holiday season to deeply listen to my loved ones for what they really need in the moment. Maybe its just a hug. Maybe it something more elaborate and festive. Maybe its an early night to bed. Maybe its that special present to knock their socks off. But I will try to deeply listen, without my own judgments or expectations, to what my loved-ones really need. 

And hopefully that will my little family truly happy. And that will make me very happy too.

Please share with me how your holidays will be different this year from lessons you have learned in the past!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Moment To Step Outside

It was a Wednesday after an unseasonably cold wintry November week. Just 30-seconds off the bus after school and I can already tell my son is "off". My normally steady first-grader is a baggage of emotions -- from teary-eyed to grumpy tyrant. He is distraught to the point of tears that the weather has warmed up just enough to melt most of the snow. He doesn't want to go to violin tonight. He demands to play video games knowing full well they are not allowed after school. He just wants to be grumpy.

With my mother's-eye-crystal-ball I drive back home envisioning all the drama of wills and emotions that will play out once we get inside and collide with the other members of the family. It does not look good for anyone.

I park the car at home and jump out the car. I feel bad for him. I give him a big squeeze hoping he can feel my mother's love all the way through our thick winter gear. "I know what you need!" I say. "Let's go on an adventure!" So we drop our bags in the door, then set off, snow pants swooshing, into the back yard.

But we didn't play in the hilly grass backyard as usual. We went back, way back to the deep steep forested gorge the kids aren't usually allowed to go near.

Climbed down into the gorge. The greenery in the background
are the trees in our front yard.

We spent the next 20 or 30 minutes sliding down and climbing up icy muddy banks. I let him lead and take risks. After so many days of deep freeze, it felt wonderful to get out in fresh air and use our bodies in ways that challenged our balance, coordination and muscles.

It is such a healing power that nature has when you allow yourself to be swallowed up by it. I breathed in mother nature's hug as we stood there looking up at the sky full over with bare bone branch trees. I am in awe at how utterly tall the trees are, the tulip poplars and sycamore trees have to be over a hundred years old. It is so nice to set aside personal worries and be tiny and insignificant for a moment. Then at the same time open up to something bigger.

A strange flash of reality hits that sends me texting my husband to please put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees. Blamb, I am back in the year 2014.

Can you make out our house through the trees?

I find it odd that I have waited until this very moment to explore our backyard gorge with my son, and introduce to him the immense power it holds. We've lived here for over four years. Perhaps I waiting for him to be strong enough. Perhaps I was waiting for the right moment.

Both of us arrived home red-cheeked and feeling much more centered and peaceful. We had a nice dinner than headed to violin practice as usual, without any more fuss.

On this month that I have personally dedicated to deepen my gratefulness in my daily life and in my teachings, I can't help but to be grateful for little moments like these where I can walk into my backyard and find peace, humility, health and connection. I can't help but to think of all the children living in cities that may never experience the feeling of transcendence while in nature. Or all the children who regularly ignore their backyard in lieu of video games.

Today I am also grateful of the opportunity to be clear-headed enough to see what my son needed when he got home, and am so thankful of our connection and relationship built on love and trust. I know things change and change and change. So I am thankful for this moment. Now.

The Domestic Yogi

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just Staying Put

Nothing like being a parent and making tough choices. Often I find myself striving for balance, but feeling like I am left short-handing someone or something, usually myself.

Sunday morning was no exception. I really *really* wanted to do something for myself. Something that was important to me. Something I had been looking forward to for weeks. Something profound.

But instead, my two little ones charmed me into lounging on the couch all morning. We did a lot of cuddling and chatting like this:

We giggled, chatted, and played. Calm at first then more wiggly. Then I caught up on some reading while soaking in the sweet sounds of their imaginative play together. Then a little more of this:

and this...

Then my husband quietly got lunch ready while I watched him from the couch. Then we enjoyed a nice unhurried lunch together. Rare moments these days in lives that seem too much like passing sailboats.

Ahh, a lazy Sunday morning after a busy week. I hadn't seen the kids in the last day and a half, except a couple hours at my son's birthday party.

So even though I had been looking forward to doing something spiritually important to me, and investing in the strengthening of my spiritual future, it would just happen that hanging out in the same room as my family, just cuddling and lounging all morning was in fact, just what we all needed.

Maybe it took a little mom guilt to make me stay. Maybe it was a bit of laziness. But we all got what we needed I do believe.

It always amazes me what a little unstructured time, mixed with very close proximity (for my family that means lots of snuggles) can do for our mind, body and spirit.

The Domestic Yogi

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Kissing Hand

Finally broke down and bought our own copy of The Kissing Hand because it is the sweetest kids book!

"Sometimes it's just as hard for us to leave our children in a new situation as it is for them. How comforting for both parent and child to know that the love and reassurance to face such separations can be as close as the palm of our hands!"

It's perfect for this time of year as we prepare kids to go off into the world.

Now, find your child, give them a squeeze and enjoy this book together.

The Domestic Yogi