Forward Folds

What happens when forward folds do NOT have a calming effect?

This is general information from occupational therapists trained in sensory processing, for specific assistance consult the child’s OT or school OT.

Inversions are one of the first movements we recommend when introducing Move Mindfully®. However, interventions that involve body work are completely individualized and can change over time. For example, when introducing a moment, one child may respond positively while another child may have adverse reactions (including big behaviors) to the same movement. Here are a few things to consider when using Forward Folds.

Understanding Vestibular Input

Vestibular= relating to a vestibule, particularly that of the inner ear, or more generally to the sense of balance.

Vestibular input is most generally known as ones sense of balance. Frequently we see youth with vestibular issues lean against or touch walls frequently. They may also demonstrate loss of balance while seated and may be unable to maintain an unsupported sit in circle time. This can lead to frequent movement, weight shifts and fidgets.

Forward Folds can impact sense of balance. Students may feel in either extreme: Feeling too much input or needing additional input. Here are simple ways to address both needs.

“Forward Folds are too much input.”

Placing the head below the heart can leave one feeling dizzy or disoriented. Cueing deep proprioceptive input after a forward fold can counterbalance any negative effects. For example, pressing gently on the top of the head, pushing the wall, or stomping feet.

“Forward Folds create the need for more input.”

A seeker of vestibular input will move their body to get more input in a Forward Fold. This may manifest itself as difficulty holding still in the movement. In these instances cue the individuals to shake their heads yes/no or gently sway from side to side to give the body the additional input.

Offer Choice

The best option is to introduce small forward folds and gradually increase the depth of the fold. Along the way notice the affect on the vestibular system. Then, offer choice any time an inversion is cued so students can feel comfortable with the movement. Check out our Move Mindfully® Card Deck for photos and scripts to help you cue these movements.

Forward Folds with Increased Inversion

  1. Gaze Down
  2. Head on Desk
  3. Forward Fold Supported on Chair
  4. Child’s
  5. Standing Forward Fold
  6. Down Dog

Build a Sequence

We would not recommend doing inversions when starting a session, especially if  bodies are moving quickly. Start with a releasing breath, like Conductor, to meet the body where it’s at. After this breath work ease into standing movements and inversions (down dog, forward fold). Have the children try to activate the proprioceptive receptors by cueing to push the floor/wall away with hands and/or feet. When in doubt return to a breathing strategy.

Forward Folds are often a go-to movement to produce the desired relaxed/alert state. These few tips can assure that this movement is accessible for all bodies and all learners. Have you tried forward folds? What has worked? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Johanna McGough-Pose and Katie Novak

Warrior II

We don’t want to be stuck in the past, or too far into the future. Stay balanced in the present moment.

As we move into a New Year, many of us are working on resolutions. Reflecting on the past and setting goals for the future is important for personal growth. These skills can be taught to young children, and using mindful movement helps facilitate these life lessons. I recommend using the Yoga Calm® curriculum and the Past, Present and Future activity as a launching pad.

Past and Future Reflections

I began by having the students take two post-it notes (different colors) and write a positive word or phrase about the past on one and the future on the other.

Here are some examples:

Past: Learning to ride a bike, my baby sister, being on a football team.
Future: Learning multiplication, summer vacation, the Super Bowl (I have a lot of football fans in my class).

Then, we crumpled the pieces of paper in to tiny balls.

Students setting goals
See Warrior II from our Move Mindfully Card Deck for social emotional language on how you can cue the movement. Better yet, have students read the card and be the leader!

I personally struggle with Warrior II. For some reason, in my personal yoga practice, it always seems to creep into the flow when I feel I have momentum. Then, the instructor stops us in our tracks. Challenges us to stretch our arms. Bend our leg. Pause. Notice. The gravitational force weighing on outstretched arms and thigh burn combine for a one-two punch of total discomfort. However, the inner fire always seems to ignite a deep place, and I leave the pose feeling stronger.

Bring in the Movement

Back to the Post-Its. The students crumpled up the post-its, with the future and past phrases, and held one each hand. In the back hand was the past, noticing its effects on us and being grateful for where we are today. In the front hand was the future, eyes looking forward, dreams yet to be realized. However, where do we find the balance? Right in the middle. In the present moment.

warrior II in the classroom

After  intense physical and emotional exertion, we brought it back to the present moment. We took our crumpled up paper and had a “snow ball fight”, based on a Responsive Classroom greeting. After a few throws, students picked two pieces of paper (since they were all mixed up, no student picked up their own). We sat it a circle and went around, reading the word or phrase on the post-it we recovered. This is an effective sharing technique because the writer can stay anonymous.

Later that day, when we came back into Warrior II, I posed a series of questions while they held the pose. What does it mean to be present? What keeps you grounded? How can you stop and notice?

My students loved keeping noticings and observations in their journals. Keeping a journal is a fantastic way to increase present moment awareness. Check out our store for the 1000 Petals journal and commit to a journaling practice today!

moon noticing resolutions   noticing the good
How can you bring present moment awareness into your life? What activities may you try with your students? Leave a comment below!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly


If you’re going to rise, you might as well shine!

I love the word “shine”.  I think about people fired up internally and how that manifests itself on the physical body. You can actually feel it if someone is shining.

To teach students how to shine, we use star. First, it teaches students how to activate their bodies. Start with limp, wet noodle limbs. Allow students to get hunched over and small, then… ACTIVATE! Straight strong legs, spread slightly wider than hips, are rooted into the ground. A tall spine and crown reaches towards the sky. Finally, arms are straight and strong with fingers spread. Make sure to roll shoulders back and down… lock them into place. Viola: Star. To get started, download Star from our Move Mindfully Card Deck.

students shine in star

To really get the feel of activate, try playing Activate, Relax, Walk. This game from the Yoga Calm® curriculum develops self-regulation, focus, and transitions through a “Simon Says” like approach moving in and out of activation.

star outside in the snow

We even took our shine outside! It may be below freezing and snowing, but we can still shine!

mythology creative writing lesson

Science and ELA Standards

Then, we wove star into our science standards as we headed to the Star Lab! Our naturalist projected lights that mirror the night sky. With a laser pointer, she circled constellations and told the myths that have been passed down over thousands of years. To weave in writing and literature, students inserted themselves into a Zodiac myth!

Social Emotional Learning

Finally, try bringing the group together with Yoga Calm®’s Galaxy Game. This group pose is actually quite challenging. Students, as individual stars, have to come together to create a galaxy. Not only do students need to navigate the exact size of the circle, but also have to find the perfect amount of pushing pressure. Too much pressure and the circle is unstable. Too little and your neighbors can’t activate. The first time, it took almost ten minutes for the students to find the full expression. I love sitting back and watching the team problem solve! However, subsequent galaxy formations were quick and painless.

The stories of the stars. Shining bright in your own strength. Fully activated and present in the space. Standing together, individual stars contributing to collective shine.

Have you ever taught traditional literature with the star stories? Have you used star pose or galaxy to teach personal and group strength? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly


Autumn’s Beauty. The streets are lined with a parade of color.

Many times over the past few weeks I have stopped in my tracks to admire the beautiful fall colors. I find an even deeper appreciation for nature’s beauty when finding the balance, tree. This week I challenge you to get outside with your students for writer’s workshop. You’ll be amazed by the inspired poems that will emerge. To get started, download Tree from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck.

tree pose outside

While cuing tree, talk about grounding. How trees are rooted to the Earth and how we can find that same grounding. Talk about strength. How trees weather rain, wind and snow and how we weather the physical, mental and emotional seasons of life. Talk about stillness. How trees can stand still in the eye of a storm and how we can find stillness within chaos. Talk about community. In tree pose- we can hold each other up.

partner tree

Poetry Unit

My students were so moved that our movements inspired a mini poetry unit.  During morning meeting throughout the week, we compared our bodies to a tree. I prompted the students with a series of questions and recorded their responses.

How are your…

  • spine like a trunk?
  • hands like leaves?
  • feet like roots?
  • arms like branches?

tree to self comparisons

After our mind was full of comparisons, we embarked on a leaf hunt. Students carefully inspected leaves and finally chose one to bring back into the classroom.

outside tree pose in the fall

We traced the leaf with pencil carefully adding in all of the lines and intricate details…. the bug holes, the lobes, the veins. Then, we traced our hand. Again, carefully adding in the details… the hang nails, scars and veins. Next, we used water color to represent the various hues… crimson, gold, brown, leaves- peach, tan, ebnony skin.

Finally, we put it all together by revisiting our mind maps. Taking in all of these similarities, we wrote poems- “I am like a tree”. This inspired talks of similes (I am like a tree) and metaphors (My feet are roots). Once students have physically experienced the sensations, the poetic comparisons are no longer abstract.

We transferred these beautiful poems onto our work of art watercolors to create a masterpiece, worthy a permanent frame.

tree poem

The students not only experienced the ELA poetry standards, but also practiced holding a challenging balance. More importantly, we created an intentional opportunity to connect with nature and themselves.

Download our Tree Poetry lesson plan on our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

How have you integrated mindfulness into writing lessons? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Mountain and Line Basics

The body is the vessel for learning.

“Keep your hands to yourself!” If you work with children, you have probably uttered these words. Poking, pushing, budging, kicking… We’ve all been there.

Wherever you work, it is likely that students move through a communal space. In our school, we call it “line basics”. This week, mountain helped my students find their strength in line basics.

Start by describing what it means to be “grounded”. No, this doesn’t mean you are in trouble or time out… it means that you are present in your body. That you can feel gravity holding you to the ground. You are in total control of each and every movement. You are in your strength.

I taught mountain from a  standing position. Although the “traditional” mountain pose is taught standing, this idea can be experienced sitting on the floor, chair or even walking.

teacher demonstrates mountain yoga pose

After the lesson, we lined up at the door. I went down the line and gently pressed against each shoulder. Most of the bodies waved and tilted… some nearly falling over. With many bewildered faces looking at me, I reminded them about mountain. I went down the line again, pressing as I had, but this time, the bodies were solid. This, my friends, is what it means to stand in your power. (Download our Mountain lesson plan on Teachers Pay Teachers)

What does it look like to walk in mountain pose?

Imagine a ballerina or a taekwondo black belt walking down the hallway. They have presence. They exude confidence. My favorite cue is “walk like you have a crown on your head”.

In our school, with four classes, sometimes up to eight, moving through the hallway at the same time, being grounded and having body control is crucial for student safety.

student walk down the hallway in line basics

Go ahead. Teach mountain pose. You’ll notice that it will not only greatly benefit your students, but it will also have a huge impact on YOU! You’ll stand taller, move with purpose and ultimately have more confidence in your instruction.

Download Mountain from our 1000 Petals/Yoga Calm Card Deck and start teaching right away!

Please leave a comment on your experiences!

showing mountain pose


Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly