I love teaching this mantra meditation to teachers, parents and children in the classroom (they love it!). It’s simple and so effective. It’s also a great meditation you can practise incognito when you need to. I must say I have used it waiting in lines and traffic when I have felt stress creep in.
Whilst practising mindfulness of thoughts with children in classrooms, I am often shocked by things I hear. When I ask children to share what thoughts popped up while they were being still, these are some common responses, “I was thinking about what car I want to drive when I am big” “I was thinking about dinner” “I was thinking about my football game last week when we won” ” I was thinking about what house I will live in when I am bigger” “I was thinking about my birthday” the list goes on.
The theme I noticed from this activity, as well as my own teaching and practising, is that the majority of our thoughts are in the future or in the past. This can lead to stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. When we learn to focus our thoughts and attention on the now, in the present moment, we can access a state of calm and relaxation. We can learn to release thoughts and emotions more easily and faster so they don’t effect us as much.
One of the best mantras to use with children is…
‘Peace begins with me.’ This mantra is paired with a movement of the fingers. Rest the back of your hands on your lap, palms up to the ceiling. As you touch your index finger to your thumb say ‘peace,’ your middle finger to the thumb say ‘begins,’ your ring finger to the thumb say ‘with’ and your little finger with your little finger say ‘me.’ It’s a great meditation for children because they have a physical movement to focus on paired with a mantra. This is usually easier than trying to stay completely still and observing sounds, thoughts or bodily sensations.
If you are teaching this to children, in a classroom or group setting, start by saying the mantra out loud together for a minute or so before prompting everyone to repeat it silently in their mind. Just like the video below. Hold your hands up in the air to show everyone the movements of the fingers as you repeat the mantra out loud with them. You can give everyone an option to close their eyes, if it feels comfortable for them, as they repeat the mantra silently. This can help eliminate visual distractions. Start with 1-2 minutes and increase the time of the meditation as the group is ready. Every second counts.
We would love to hear about when you used this meditation for yourself or with children. It can be a great way to cope with stress at work, school or home. Leave a comment below and let us know. If you think your family and friends will find it useful feel free to share.
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For our honeymoon in May 2018, my husband Matt and I decided to go to Nepal for an 18 day trek around gokyo lakes and Everest base camp. What an incredible experience it was. Magically jaw dropping and serene. There were a few really physically challenging days on the trek where my favourite mantra helped me every step of the way.
What is a Mantra and why use one?
A mantra is a word or a short phrase that you can repeat silently in your mind or out loud to “jam” or “put aside” any internal dialogue that is not useful or even destructive to the moment. You do not need to be seated in a perfect meditation position, or at yoga to use a mantra. I love making mindfulness and meditation a part of my daily life. For me it needs to be practical and help me in my everyday situations.
During our wondrous trek through the Himalayas, there were a couple of 12 hour trekking days where sure my legs were feeling it (I expected that) but my mind and thoughts were loud and not useful at all. Thoughts like, “I am not going to make it,” “I can’t do this,” “why did I think I could do this?” “I don’t want to disappoint the others but I don’t know if I can go on” etc etc Sound familiar? We’ve all had thoughts like these, right? Self doubt and fearful thoughts come up. Sometimes they are useful. Often they are not.
I knew I had to change my thoughts asap…..
They were not useful and distracting me from really taking in the beauty of the incredible surroundings. The mantra I used was Love…. Peace. Two powerful words in my opinion. As I took a step with my right foot I said, love, in my mind and as I took a step with my left foot, peace. It really helped my mind and body relax. I can feel those words in my body and the effect they have is incredible to me. The photo below was a 12 hour mantra day. We trekked for 3 hours to reach this point where the photo was taken. I thought for a few seconds we made it through ChoLa pass. Actually we were heading to that space between the two highest points in the back ground. That was ChoLa pass! My mind went crazy into self doubt and I found that the mantra put those thoughts to the side so I could breathe and enjoy my time. This day became one of my most memorable and exciting on the whole trip.
When to use a mantra
Use a mantra whenever you feel like your mind is busy, you feel stressed or tense and you want to relax. Maybe you are stuck in traffic or in a line and you feel emotions bubbling up which leads to that string of thoughts that continue to trigger negative emotions. Break that cycle with a mantra. On your inhale say love and on your exhale say peace. Maybe you use it as a meditation for sleep. Lay in bed, relax as much as you can and as you inhale say love and as you exhale say peace. When and if you become distracted in some way, realise it’s normal and just start again on your next inhale. You are not “doing it” wrong if you become distracted. In fact this is to be expected so just try again…. and again.
Share this one with the kids. Lay on your back, hands on your belly. As you belly lifts say love and as your belly falls say peace. Even 1 minute can really make a difference.
I’d love to hear how you end up using the Love… Peace mantra and how it helps you in your daily life. Leave a comment below and me know. If you think your family and friends will find it useful feel free to share.
After teaching yoga and mindfulness, for about 30 minutes in a classroom, for the first time, a student put their hand up and asked me, “how are you so calm all the time?” I had a bit of a giggle, not thinking much about it and continued, explaining to the class that I am not calm all the time.
Later that evening I started thinking about that question he had asked me again. “How are you so calm all the time?” and why he asked me that after only knowing me for 30 minutes. It dawned upon me that I am calm most of the time and I create that for myself with the practises and beliefs I have in my daily life .
Simple ways to create calm in your daily life
I believe our vibes speak louder than our words.
To me this means we have to take responsibility for our own energy and attitude everyday and not give that power away to anyone or anything else. Here are 3 ways that help me:
Rhythmic breathing: Every morning, when my alarm goes off, before I get out of bed, I take a few minutes to tune into my breath. Breathing in a rhythmic way, even for a short period of time, where all the inhales are the same length of time and all the exhales are the same length of time has been shown to have positive effects on our heart rate variability, which then has a ripple effect on our thoughts, emotions and actions. Watch the TED talk by Dr Alan Watkins: be brilliant everyday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRItG9G1rb4 This is so important to me because when I am teaching I want to be able to serve and give all I can without having my own thoughts, negative emotions or circumstances effecting what I am able to share.
Build body awareness: My yoga practise, over the last 15 years, has helped me develop body awareness and mindfulness. Tuning into your body and the signals it sends you means you can better take the time to respond to its needs. Maybe this means you drink and eat what and when your body needs but is also relates to feeling your emotions. As you practise yoga it is not unusual for emotions to be released and felt as sensations in your body. Over time what you learn on your yoga mat begins to help you in your daily life. For me I am better able to know what emotions feel like in my body and instead of reacting to them too quickly I try to practise feeling the emotion pass through my body as sensations rather than a story I start to make up to justify the emotion. Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor teaches that the chemical reaction in the body that occurs when an emotion is triggered last 90 seconds. If anything continues after that we have added our own story and chosen to hold on to that emotion. Practise activities that connect you to your body like yoga, meditation, tai chi, breathing techniques and any other movement activity you enjoy. Get to know the signals and sensations of your body and over time this awareness will help you during stressful and emotional moments.
You time everyday: I believe taking time for you, doing something that helps you to connect and find joy is a way to create calm everyday. We can bring mindful awareness and attention to any activity. Maybe you enjoy listening to music, dancing, going for a walk, time outside in nature, cooking, cleaning, drawing, playing with your children or pets, reading or having a bath. Use all of your senses to soak up your experience while you’re doing something you love. Enjoy the is-ness of the moment and notice how presence and being in the moment, doing something that you love, even if it is for 5 minutes, can bring you a sense of calm and serenity. If you become distracted by your to-do list, that’s normal, try again and bring your focus and your sensory awareness back to your joyous activity for the time you have allocated. Everything else will still be there when you have enjoyed your well deserved you time.
I’d love to hear how you end up using the activities above. Leave a comment below and me know. If you think your family and friends will find it useful feel free to share.
Why Master the Mountain in schools? The neuroscience
I have always loved anatomy and physiology. From science lessons in school, anatomy/ physiology and neuroscience at university and throughout my yoga studies and self directed learning, the body and how it functions will always fascinate me. There is more and more evidence every year supporting the link between yoga, mindfulness and breath on the physical body as well as mental and emotional health.
In a recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald it states that nearly half of Australian school kids are highly stressed at school which is having negative impacts on academic performance and mental/ physical health. The ripple affect on young Australians and society is not to be underestimated. Stress often leads to higher drop out rates which then can lead to repeated inter-generational problems of low academic outcomes, unemployment, poverty and contribution to the community.
Yoga and mindfulness based programs have shown to be effective in the US and also more recently right here in Adelaide at Clapham Primary School. Have a read of the amazing results here:
There are three areas of the brain which are effected by yoga, mindfulness, breathing and other techniques used in the master the mountain programs.
The prefrontal cortex
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher level executive functioning such as emotional regulation, planning, problem solving, learning, concentration/attention, creativity, self-observation, memory retrieval and appropriate social behaviour.
It’s thought that the prefrontal cortex isn’t developed completely until age 25.
The prefrontal cortex is stimulated and development is aided by: conscious breathing, mindfulness meditation, mindful exercise like yoga and eliciting positive feelings/gratitude. During these activities we are spending time connecting to our physical experience which leads to the nervous system being better attuned to the environment.
The hippocampus is largely related to the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and the recall of information. During times of stress and other strong emotions, the hippocampus is not as available and therefore memory, recall and the consolidation of information is hindered.
The amygdala is a primitive part of the brain, which releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and helps us stay out of danger, which is important at the onset of fear or danger (aka stress response: Flight/fight/freeze response). This is an important response in the body and some stress is useful especially when we need to get out of danger.
The stress response becomes counter productive when there is prolonged stress over a long period of time. When we experience longer periods of low level stress (meaning sometimes we are unaware we are stressed) not only do we notice a range of symptoms such as inconsistent sleep, immune depression, weight gain/loss, digestive issues and irritability it can effect the way our brain works and how we think and behave.
This is the same for children. When they are stressed, their amygdala is activated, which means their hippopotamus and prefrontal cortex are less available and learning is hindered.
The short Master the Mountain activities used throughout the school day has been seen to help children and teachers remain in a learning state. They can truly gain the most out of their day and the rest of the curriculum as well as teaching them lifelong skills in how to calm down, focus and learn.
It is so exciting to be teaching Master the Mountain programs in schools. What’s even more amazing are the results we are noticing for children, siblings, teachers and parents in such short periods of time. Master the mountain is a unique in-school program which blends mindfulness, yoga, breathing, tapping, positive psychology, speech and language concepts and more. Everything I wished I learnt at school!
Clapham Primary School and Master the Mountain in Term 3, 2018
Clapham Primary School integrated Master the Mountain programs into every year level. The teachers were trained in the first 5 modules (as shown below), which we implemented into the classroom, for 2 weeks at a time, in term 3. The teachers used the activities in the classroom for 5-15 mins everyday and I taught 20 minute sessions every Friday. We also ran a successful parent information session because a lot of parents were reporting children were teaching them the activities at home. The parents loved learning about the neurological, physical, emotional and metal benefits and left feeling wonderful themselves.
Linda Carofano, Program Director
Master the Mountain Modules include:
Module 1 – Focus and concentration
Module 2 – Understanding your mind
Module 3 – Relaxation and stillness
Module 4 – Emotional awareness
Module 5 – Anger Management
Not only do all the modules include everything i wish I was taught at school but all activities are suitable for space constraints in classrooms, align with the curriculum, are physically safe, can be modified with guidance and take between 1-5 minutes. The teachers especially loved the detailed lesson plans with scripts so activities ran smoothly and effectively.
“A fantastic program that is easy to implement in a classroom setting. The exercises are broken into clear steps, with scripts and you get maximum benefit in short periods of time.”
Ben Hillier, Year 4/5 teacher at Clapham Primary School
The amazing results
I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback we received during and after the Term 3 service at Clapham Primary School. All the teachers noticed improvements in focus, listening and stillness, the ability to feel and process emotions and awareness of thoughts and actions. Student comments are heart melting!
“Yoga and mindfulness makes me feel calm and peaceful. I have even used it at home. One night when I couldn’t get to sleep, I put my hands on my belly and felt my belly move up and down with my breath. I felt more calm and went to sleep.” Poppy, year 5
“Yoga and mindfulness helps me relax and relieve stress. It helps me learn and concentrate during class.” Kyle, year 4
“It helps me to relax and reflect, which helps me get rid of any stress or worries. I can concentrate on my work better without getting distracted talking to people around me.” Starley, year 7
“It makes my mind calmer” Isobel, Reception
Jodie Kingham, Principal at Clapham Primary School
“Master the Mountain is a professional, supportive, engaging, and dynamic program that is designed to support all students and staff in their overall wellbeing. Since Master the Mountain has been implemented at Clapham Primary School its success in supporting students and staff has been clearly evident. Staff have noted students:
• increased concentration throughout the day,
• being able to independently self-regulate,
• accessing the tools and strategies taught to support them when feeling anxious or overwhelmed and can articulate how they are feeling to others (whereas previously they may not have),
• decision making has been more thoughtful and considered.
Staff have described how the modules provided are extremely helpful; in particular, the script is clear, succinct and assists them to confidently deliver the sessions. The support from Master the Mountain staff is outstanding. The varying activities/lessons are easy to deliver, are age appropriate, well timed, and can be administered in a classroom setting easily – there is no need to move to a special space. A wonderful strategy for life, teaching students that these can be used anytime and anywhere!
Students now have a common language and understanding of mindfulness and techniques to use to support them in their everyday lives. Many students have shared how they are teaching their families and using these strategies at home, or at sports, music lessons etc. Master the Mountain has enabled our school to be able to build lifelong skills and strategies within students to support them now and in the future.”
Services and contact
Master the mountain services include: tailor made incursions taught by MTM staff, training teachers, parents and staff to deliver the programs, professional development sessions, information sessions for parents, yoga classes for teachers, retreat days and more. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I meet a lot of amazing kids in my work. But you know you sometimes meet a child who finds their way into your heart at first sight? Well, Archer was one of them.
I first met Archer towards the end of 2015, when I was a speech therapist by day and a yoga teacher by night. At 3 years old, he just radiated warmth and love.
Archer’s tricky start
Archer was born with very low muscle tone, so he couldn’t feed properly and was prone to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. He had eating issues and was prone to aspirating liquids, so he was being fed thickened fluids through a feeding tube.
Because Archer had spent a lot of his early years in hospital, his speech and language development was very limited. He was over three years old but he had severe language delays and was struggling to sit still and focus on anything.
Archer also had a very loving older sister, Mya, who attended a mainstream school nearby.
First things first, a personal approach to speech and language therapy
Archer and I embarked straight away on a personalised speech and language programme. We had weekly speech sessions, focusing on Archer’s pronunciation, his vocabulary and his ability to put words together: extending him past his comfort zone, gently and with humour. I regularly visited him at his childcare centre and kindy, training his SSO to implement some of the speech strategies we had been using.
The yoga connection
It wasn’t long before I noticed that Archer’s low muscle tone affected not only his physical abilities, but also his speech and language. I knew straight away that yoga would be helpful to him, and within a week he started coming to our weekly family yoga classes, along with his Mum and his older sister, Mya.
Soon enough Archer started to bring his yoga thinking to our speech sessions: he would often use yoga breathing, visualisations and mindfulness, meaning he was more able to sit and listen, and he had much more confidence. It was then I knew there had to be a special connection between yoga and speech and language therapy.
Archer and Mya get their flamingos on.
Yoga plus speech and language therapy: a two-way street
And of course speech and language therapy makes a difference on the yoga mat, too. I realised that I had always used speech techniques and language stimulation in my yoga class and this was part of the reason the kids in our classes (from 3 years old to thirteen) had always been so engaged, focused and committed to working hard.
Side stretch increases core strength and muscle tone.
Archer in 2017
As I write this, Archer is doing brilliantly. He’s a different child to the one I met in 2015.
He’s just started mainstream school (when I first met him, it was highly unlikely that this would happen): he now loves school, can listen to instructions and will happily sit at a table and focus on his work. His vocabulary has gone through the roof and he is acquiring all the right age-appropriate literacy skills: he can recognise and write several sounds,including his name. He hasn’t had one respiratory infection since he started yoga, and no hospitalisations either, despite having weathered two South Australian winters over this time. Now when I look at Archer I se a confident, happy, resilient little boy, willing to give things a go and simply loving life.
Archer and I will continue with his fortnightly speech sessions for a term or so, to make sure he integrates well into his new school, and I will work with his teacher to ensure the environment is appropriately set up for his needs. I don’t think he’ll need me for much longer!
Lessons learned from a little boy
Archer really helped me see the relationship between children’s physical, emotional, speech and language development; and helped me understand how yoga can enhance all of it. He also helped me properly understand the powerful link between speech and language therapy and yoga, and the amazing things that can happen when you combine the two.
I’ve learned that the relationship between speech and yoga is a two-way street. Yoga delivers improved respiratory health, which is vital for speech. And in yoga, because you’re focused on the body while the mind is still, the speech and language therapy goes much deeper. I’m not just talking about killing two birds with one stone: I’m talking about the ripple effect you get when you combine two disciplines and create something ten times more powerful.
Archer has helped me believe in myself, and shone a light on the magic than can happen when you combine speech and language therapy with yoga. Above all, he’s taught me that perseverance and a positive attitude can get you anywhere.
Want to know more?
At Master the Mountain we are changing the lives of kids like Archer all over Australia. Contact us to learn more about the work that we’re doing.
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