This week I focused on helping the children to regulate their breathing. When a child notices their anxiety levels rising, they need something easy and simple to help them find their calm again. I find the following mantra is perfect for this:
Smell the flower, blow out the candle
We used this mantra as the basis for the classes this week. The idea is to smell the flower by breathing in through the nose and then to blow out the candle by breathing out through the mouth. This action of conscious breathing in through the nose and then exhaling out through the mouth is very helpful to regulate one’s breathing and find one’s calm place again.
I had really wanted to have some real flowers to work with in the classes this week so I was disappointed that I could not find any flowers that have a smell. Unfortunately, due to the drought in Cape Town, I have no flowering plants left in my garden. I tried a couple of shops in the hope of buying some cut flowers, but although their flowers looked beautiful, none of them had a smell! It was very sad. Anyway, we made a plan and the kids were quite happy to pretend that our Hoberman Sphere was a flower. I actually think it works quite well as a beautiful flower.
So, in each class, we passed the Hoberman Sphere around the circle as our flower and I had a real candle that each child had a chance to blow out. The repeated action of smelling a flower (even a pretend one!) and then blowing out a candle helps the children to connect with the mantra and remember it. With the older group, we did some work in our journals and wrote out the mantra as well, as another way to remember it.
The animal we looked at this week was the butterfly. I had some pictures of beautifully coloured butterflies that the children enjoyed looking at. We discussed some of the special characteristics of butterflies, like the fact that they have a long, flexible, tube-like tongue called a proboscis and that they use it to suck up the nectar of a flower. We practised rolling our tongues into mini tubes to mimic the proboscis and then took a breath in. I asked the children to describe what they noticed. One little guy piped up “Antarctica!”. Not quite but he got the point. In yoga, this type of breathing is called sitali breathing or cooling breath. It has the wonderful effect of cooling down the mouth and whole body.
We also practised some mindful movement by sitting in Butterfly Pose and Flower Pose. I used Flower Pose as a body connection practice. I asked the children where they could feel themselves holding on while sitting in this pose. Since this is a core strengthening pose, many answered their stomachs. I then asked them to notice what they could feel in their stomachs. This is a great way for children to connect with how they are feeling. The stomach is a part of the body where a lot of feelings tend to “sit”, especially in children. The answers ranged from a hard, tight feeling to a soft, swirly feeling. It was a great body awareness exercise.
We then did some mindful artwork and made some beautiful flowers using leaves from the garden. Some of the children managed to find the Plectranthus plants so it was lovely to have their fragrant leaves as part of the exercise. So, I guess we ended up with some lovely smelling flowers after all!
In some of the classes, we had time for a guided visualisation. In the visualisation, I guided the children down a path to a beautiful field of flowers. Each flower had a beautiful jewel at its centre that sparkled in the sunlight. I then suggested to the children that each one of them was also filled with something beautiful, like the jewel in the flower. Something beautiful that was waiting to be shared with the world. I feel that it is important that our children feel beautiful inside and know how special they are.
So, once again, some beautiful classes this week. And a new tool to add to their mindfulness bag.