Written by: Wendy Piret, Program Director, Move with Me Yoga Adventures
Last April, Janine Harper, Director of the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) for the Army Community Service (ACS) Center in Yongsan, South Korea, a province of Seoul, contacted us regarding resources and training. She wanted MwMYA to come out and work with the staff and family members of the U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Yongsan. For myself, with 13 military moves (7 with children) in 24 years of active duty service, including 8 years of active duty myself and 16 more as a spouse, it was an incredible opportunity. Intimately familiar with the stress that multiple moves puts on children, coupled with what can often be tough assignments which include family separation, I can think of few communities who can appreciate and benefit from the stabilizing and centering effects of playful movement and creatively incorporated mindfulness and self-regulation skills.
We readily agreed to come out and last week, August 21-24th, 2017, I traveled to Seoul to train the staff and community members at USAG Yongsan. I worked with social workers, OTs, PTs, Speech Therapists, preschool and early elementary teachers, soldiers, and parents. Twenty (20) dedicated professionals attended the full 2 day 16-hour Certification Training for the Movement and Mindfulness curriculum, and 25 more received our 4-hour Introductory to Mindfulness and Self-Regulation Skills for Focused, Fit, and Healthy kids at home and in the classroom. In hindsight, after reading the mission of ACS, we should not have been surprised by the call:
“To assist commands in maintaining the readiness of individuals, families, and communities by providing a world of education, opportunity and discovery to promote self-reliance, resilience, and stability.”
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to interact with the family members who attended our workshops, and to be able to train the staff of the ACS Center to support them with concrete, accessible skills from simple breathing techniques to the easily achieved brain activating and stress reducing movements we call Adventures Skills. The level of professionalism and forward thinking I witnessed among the staff members was the highlight of the trip. There is no shortage of crisis situations, heartache, and strife when it comes to juggling the challenges that living overseas, working full time, and raising a family. To hold the space for soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families takes an incredible amount of personal resilience, dedication, and commitment.
ACS Yongsan you are the rugged soldiers, realistic, grounded, and unafraid to do whatever you need to do to achieve the best results possible for your families. Janine Harper and the staff of the Yongsan ACS, we sincerely thank you for the opportunity to serve your community.
From Janine Harper, Family Advocacy Program Manager, Army Community Service
“The Family Advocacy Program Manager for USAG-Yongsan, recently hosted a Move with Me Yoga Adventures workshop for both professionals and community members. The Family Advocacy Program focus on healthy ways to decrease child abuse and domestic violence by increasing opportunities for military families to come together. Providing our community training in movement and mindfulness fulfills so many of the goals we are trying to achieve in our community. Many of our families are looking for new healthy ways to share time with their families, and this meets that mission.
Over the last few days both our military professionals (social workers, occupational therapist, teachers, child care professional and counselors) and community members received invaluable training. This training provided a great balance between understanding the science and learning practical skills for implementation. We have already incorporated it in our Back to School Bash and are excited about educating the larger audience with our upcoming events.”
I am a homeschooling parent, a skilled and knowledgeable movement specialist, and a brain science geek. I KNOW that less stress equals greater access. I teach self-care and regulation. I know that the endorphins released when we laugh, sleep, and move are natural opiates and, per Dr. Reggie Melrose, our most effective self-regulators. They relieve pain, release stress, elicit an immediate feeling of well-being, and bring us back into the zone of optimal arousal. Yet, do I fluidly flex my personal agenda whenever I see that my children are tired or wired? Do I send them bounding outside to expend their restless energy whenever they are inattentive and under focused? Do I have a 30 minute nap time consistently set aside during our day? Ha! I wish I were that perfect.
Even though I know that laughter, napping, and movement all mean less stress and optimized learning and behavior, it is not always easy to put aside that personal agenda. Just like most of you, I often allow myself to get ‘stretched’ and humor challenged. I just want to push through in order to keep up with my preset time schedule. The To-Do List wins out over WELL-BEING, argh …
So, for those of you, who like me, need more reminders from science to validate slowing down and having more fun, I am sharing research. There is nothing more relaxing for me than a good research article (it’s a quirk, I know.) This kind of information always gives me the kick in the pants to do what serves me and my children best in the long run.
Laughter is the best medicine for mind and body.
- Immediately relieves physical stress and tension
- Boosts the immune system
- Protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels
- Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals
- And stress makes us serious . We all know this from our own experience. So, next time you notice you’ve lost your sense of humor… Stop and shake it off, literally, like a wet dog.
The more you nap, the better you learn, behave, and perform.
We all learned this truth from Mister Rogers, who, like the young children he entertained, took an afternoon nap daily. Another napper, whom you might not know about, was Winston Churchill, who slept every day from 5 – 6:30 pm while he ran a country. I only let myself nap regularly when I was pregnant!
And then there’s my favorite science guy, Dr. John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School and Brain Rules for Baby. His videos about exercise and the brain are AWESOME – informative, fun, and funny. Take a break with your kids and watch. You’ll learn some cool stuff that your kids can remind you about next time you want to force your way through the day!
Exercise boosts brain power.
Zaps harmful stress chemicals
- Boosts problem-solving, planning, and attention
- Improves memory and concentration
- Stimulates neurotransmitters such as BDNF
- Grows and strengthens neural connections
- Supports a positive outlook
“Movement is Miracle-Gro for the brain”. John Ratey, A User’s Guide to the Brain
Teachers, parents, children … anyone – needs only three, simple, universal steps to a less stressful day.
- Drink water
- Pause to self-reflect & self-care … then choose a brain-body-nervous system refresher
- Take 60-120 seconds to slowly and intentionally refresh with a cross lateral, bilateral, or intentional breathing exercise (2-5 times a day)
Truly? Yes. I’m a homeschooling mom and movement instructor (I KNOW the value of movement) yet still there are days that my agenda overrides my good sense. When I look back on my harried days, almost without exception, that will be a day there wasn’t a moment of intentional movement and I couldn’t tell you when or how much water I had consumed. My most grounded days begin and end with those short steps.
Here are the basics:
How much water? For ease use the 8 by 8 rule: 8 ounces 8 times a day. The Mayo clinic astutely notes that every individual is different but recommends roughly 3L for men and 2.2L for woman (1).
What 60-120 second exercise? Brain Gym® (www.braingym.org), Handle , PowerBrain, and Move with Me™ all teach easy, short, specific exercises that can help any individual, young or old, slow down and refocus their attention and energy. Among the many benefits of even a very short break are:
- Increased self-awareness
- Situational insight
- Clarity of thought (cognition)
- Impulse control
- Physical coordination
Short, easy cross lateral and bilateral exercises are self-care and self-regulation tools. Anyone can do them; they don’t require skill or precision; they are not complex or hard; they are invaluable in every walk of life: they translate into increased abilities in everything from the cognitive requirements of simple social interactions to the pure physical challenge of competitive sports. Learning just a few specific intentional movements or controlled breathing techniques can be a game changer. Intentional movement allows us to stop spinning our wheels and acts as an effective calming measure. Calming alone increases oxygenation to the brain, decreases stress, and increases understanding and technical skill. What do you have to lose?
Want to know more about this simple physiology that can transform our stress and state like magic?
The founders of Brain Gym®, Paul and Gail Dennison, were pioneers in the field of movement designed specifically for the purpose of bringing self-regulation skills to the average man, woman and child. Movements that were previously done primarily as parts of more esoteric arts such as yoga, Touch for Health, Developmental Optometry, Thai Chi, Vision Therapy and others were adapted for everyday use by teachers, parents, care givers, and students into a comprehensive program. With their cumulative knowledge and expertise, Paul and Gail developed the effective movements know for the past 30 years as the 26 Brain Gym® moves. They were ahead their time. Brain Gym® has been joined over the years by many other esteemed programs, The Handle Institute, Power Brain, and our own program, Move with Me™ Action Adventures (MwM).
Each program has specific strengths. Move with Me’s lies in its ability to translate self-care skills into accessible language and fun activities for children as young as 2-5 years old. The MwM self-care skills are taught via engaging stories and given easy and fun names, such as Monkey Wisdom for cross crawl, and Cat Wisdom for simple, cat-dog pose, yoga stretching. Because of this, MwM is especially appealing to the preschool audience. Children’s yoga advocates, of which MwM’s founder, Leah Kalish, MA, was one of the first, have long been turning simple children’s stories into full movement based tales that delight their primary audience.
Whatever avenue is taken, Brain Gym®, Handle, PowerBrain or Move with Me™, any child or teacher with access to good clean water, a storybook, and the combination of movement for fun, and intentional movement for self-care, has an infallible recipe for social-emotional and self-regulation success.
Sources: (1) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
Parent Alert! The growth of your child’s brain is inseparably linked to their physical development. For children to babble, talk, think and comprehend the world, they must first have motor control. Recent research is showing that children’s motor skill development is increasingly delayed and most parents don’t even realize it. Many children today are not learning to roll, creep, crawl and walk until months later than children from previous generations. Nature has a plan and it seems we are getting in the way. I didn’t get it with my first child. I didn’t want her to cry and she hated tummy time, there were other issues at hand as well but which comes first? Chicken or egg? Hayley is now a classic example of the correlation between delayed motor skills and academic development. By the time I had my second child, also a daughter, I had a much better education in movement and Devon therefore had all the tummy time and unrestricted movement a child could want. She’s tracked (and is still tracking) at or ahead of her developmental timeline both physically and cognitively. Here’s what I learned:
Movement, specific intentional movement, drives myelination of the nerve tracks to the brain. When we don’t get the proper amount and type of movement, the electrical signals we require to succeed emotionally, socially and academically don’t travel efficiently and sometimes get lost in transit. Is lack of movement one of the causes of our increasingly labeled ADHD, ADD, SI, PDD child population?
Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology states, Academic learning depends upon the automization of basic skills at a physical level. If a child fails to develop this automatic motor control, a teacher might observe such symptoms as reversals in reading and writing, misarticulations, poor impulse control, difficulty reading body language, or unsatisfactory peer relationships, despite good intelligence.
In our society, children’s lack of movement starts in early childhood. First it is such conveniences as car seats, Jolly Jumpers, Bumbo seats and ExerSaucers that keep them off their tummy and unable to roll, creep or crawl freely. Then electronic distracters (TV, DS, Leapfrog, Iphone, Ipad, etc) and restricted movement during long school days dominates their life. Each move away from free unrestricted movement and active play, particularly outdoor play, contributes to slower development in both motor skills and higher levels of thinking. Yes, there’s a direct connection between physical and cognitive development. Children who lack coordination and balance are not learning ready and often feel anxious and insecure. Parents, take note: the active play and exercise that your child should get daily is vital to his/her social-emotional and academic achievement.
Move with Me advocates outdoor play and regular movement instruction whenever possible, but we are also realistic about the obstacles to this ideal for many families and schools. Our imaginative yoga story DVDs are designed to bridge the play/exercise gap at home and at school so kids can enjoy a movement enrichment class anywhere with a computer or TV. Move with Me DVDs invite kids to follow-along being everything in the story, getting a balanced combination of aerobic and intentional exercise. Parents and Teachers, we invite you to support your children’s optimal development by using our program as a fun and engaging resource to keep your kids moving, even if they need to be indoors, even when in large groups.
Writer – Wendy Piret is a USNA graduate who served for 8 years as an Active Duty Naval Officer before pursuing a career working in the children’s health and fitness field. Wendy is currently a licensed Movement Education Specialist with 8 years of experience in private practice, 5 years guiding children in creative movement education classes, and the last 3 years teaching Brain Gym® workshops and seminars both privately and regionally for public and private school systems and other organizations. She is a licensed Brain Gym® Instructor, a certified Yoga Ed. Instructor and a craniosacral practitioner specializing in pediatrics.