May 7 Restore Series
We all need to find our own way I think. I say this as my youngest daughter storms into the house complaining of too much homework. I dole out advice left and right to her but she is so not hearing me. She needs to find a way to deal on her own. This advice is good for an 8 year old and a 46 year old and even an 80 year old. Why do we always want to change someone else when we have so much work to do on ourselves? Just food for thought on this lovely afternoon, as I work on changing my reaction to my daughter, one breath at a time.
The Breath – Breath with Expanding Sphere
Calm Your Class in One Minute with a Breathing Sphere
guest post by Jim Gillen
One of our favorite ways of teaching and encouraging children to breathe healthfully is by using a Hoberman breathing sphere – a popular children’s toy that’s basically a geodesic dome made of jointed segments. By lightly pushing or pulling it on opposite sides, you can make it expand or contract, accordion-style. The movement serves as a visual model for the type of breathing we want the kids to imitate by helping them see and synchronize their breath with movement.
How to Use A Hoberman Sphere
The teacher or other supervising adult may lead the group or – something we like to do – encourage one of the kids to lead, establishing the breathing rhythm. As the leader slowly expands the sphere, all inhale deeply and slowly through the nose, from the belly. The leader then pauses, emulating the short, natural pause that happens at the “top” and “bottom” of each healthy breath. As the leader contracts the sphere, all exhale through the nose just as slowly.
This efficient diaphragmatic breath is like watching the waves at the beach, with each breath swelling up from abdomen to chest and back down again.
The expansion-contraction cycle may be repeated as many times as necessary, but we find 5-10 cycles to be effective for helping the group calm and focus through this simple breath work.
Rhythm and slowness are two keys to using a breathing sphere effectively. By consciously slowing our breath, especially the exhalation, we can facilitate the relaxation response even more and develop some control over how our nervous system responds to our environment.
In the classroom and school environments such breath work lends itself readily to focus and mindfulness, preparing students to learn. Speeding thoughts slow. The body as a whole relaxes. Body and mind become centered, grounded. Thus, many teachers, counselors and administrators start their classes off by leading students in breathing with a sphere. Some schools have even used these breathing practices at assemblies or over the school intercom to calm and focus their students.
*Since we did not have the Hoberman Sphere to use, we put our fingers together and created a pulse-like movement in and out. Moving onto expanding our imaginary sphere outward with deeper breaths and then contracting in until finger tips touched again.
Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddhakonasana)
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems.
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow
Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week’s class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees) Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment. Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.
Legs up the Wall/Bolster
Props: 1-2 blankets, strap, eye pillow, blanket for warmth, neck roll, a bolster for behind legs
Benefits: increases circulation and helps venous and lymphatic flow from the lower body; relieves swelling and fatigue in the legs; helps relieve muscular skeletal stress in pelvis; quiets the mind and can help promote ease in meditation and sleep.
Begin with using a double-folded blanket to be placed right above sacrum (see photo), setting it approx. distance 6-8″ from wall (adjust in pose). Sit down on the blanket with one hip pressed right up against the wall. As you lower down, swing your legs up the wall. Once in the pose, you can adjust distance to wall, angle of legs to all, blanket and placement of legs all for comfort. Hips and tailbone will be in space between wall and blanket. Arms rest by your side, palms face up or variation with Goddess arms (photo above).
Variations: To ground legs, blanket or sandbag to hang from soles of the feet. Strap can be placed around calves, so you lose the feeling of holding up legs. Tight hamstrings or really uncomfortable with legs directly up the wall? Try a bolster angled into the wall to rest legs on, add blankets for more support or move hips further from wall. Another variation is Legs up on a Chair or on a bolster with blankets on top to bring knees into a 90 degree angle.