Minnesota Parent- Ever Present

students forward fold at the carpet

“When I say focus, you say focus,” she says.

“Focus!” the group responds eagerly.

“I have citrus this week,” she tells students while holding a small brown spray bottle filled with an essential oil blend. As she walks around to each table, students hold out their hands if they would like a spritz, and fold them in their lap if not.

The juicy scent of ripe orange fills the room, and then it’s time to begin. Students take a deep breath, inhaling the sweet fragrance from their palms. Gervais rings a small hand chime. The sound resonates for a few moments while the students quiet.

Gervais — a social worker at the school — is leading a weekly 20-minute Yoga Calm sequence. The class starts with deep-breathing exercises. She slowly expands and contracts a Hoberman sphere breathing ball, which serves as a visual guide. A calm instantly blankets the class.

Next up is yoga. This week students are practicing while seated. They start in mountain pose, with feet grounded and hands at their sides. They breathe deep and raise their hands to the sky transitioning into extended mountain pose before exhaling into a forward fold. The kids slowly rise and then Gervais instructs them to place their hands at heart’s center.

“Think of someone you love. Send them healthy thoughts,” she says.

They go through this flow several times.

For the final minutes of the session, students double-stack their fists on the table and rest their heads on their hands in what’s called seated child’s pose. It’s time for a meditation reading, and today Gervais has selected a passage about mighty trees and feeling powerful on the inside and out.

Finally, the chime rings again and kids lift their heads. She congratulates them on completing the longest mediation session they’ve done yet. The kids grin enthusiastically as she tells them next week they get to try new poses — boat, cat and cow.

A school-wide program

Sessions like these happen regularly throughout the K–5 school. Gervais teaches 12 Yoga Calm classes a week to students, but many more occur when the teachers lead the sessions themselves. (More than half of Valley Crossing teachers are trained in Yoga Calm.)

These sessions are part of the school’s bigger focus on mindfulness and self-regulation. Gervais and her colleague, Tyra Raasch, have worked together to develop a school-wide program with a goal to empower students. Other core parts of the program include Social Thinking and Zones of Regulation. As part of the program, each teacher is encouraged to have a calm space in the classroom students can visit when they need to self-regulate through various activities such as deep breathing or silent counting.

“Students are taught that no emotion is bad, rather, how they can deal with that emotion appropriately,” Raasch said.

This speaks to the core of what it means to be mindful.

Sarah Rudell Beach, a former Twin-Cities-based schoolteacher and founder of the mindfulness training organization Brilliant Mindfulness of Minneapolis, shares her definition: “Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, with curiosity and kindness. When we are mindful, we are aware of what we’re doing as we do it, and what we’re thinking as we think it. We bring an attitude of kindness to our experience, so if we notice that we are sad or upset, we don’t try to push our feelings away or tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling that way; instead, we offer ourselves kindness during that tough moment,” Rudell Beach said.

Being mindful can be as simple as deliberately sitting down and paying attention to your breathing. When your attention drifts, you slowly bring it back to your breath.

“We can also be mindful throughout our day, simply noticing what’s happening, what we’re thinking, what we feel in our body or what emotions are present,” Rudell Beach said. “When we bring this kind of attention to our experience, we can eat, drive, do the dishes or play with our children mindfully.”

Modeling mindfulness

This type of calm focus on the present moment seems in stark contrast to the busyness that often plagues modern life. Digital devices, overwhelming extracurriculars and social demands have made many kids busier and more distracted than ever.

“I think we can say that, based on a cultural, perhaps global, tendency to simply keep adding more things — more technologies, more activities, more choices — many kids now lead lives that have very few gaps in them,” said Marc Anderson, founder of the St. Paul-based M2 Foundation, which offers mindfulness training in schools.

Of course, most adults’ lives aren’t any better.

“Adults model the behavior,” Anderson said. “We fill our lives with stuff, activities, jobs and leave the most important jobs of inner peace, well-being and community connection on the back burner. Kids get the message, and they follow our lead.”

In addition to parents being role models, teachers can have a big impact, too.

“A significant portion of my work is providing mindfulness training to teachers,” Rudell Beach said. “There’s now a growing body of research demonstrating that when teachers practice mindfulness, it has a positive impact on their students, even if the teachers don’t teach mindfulness to the kids. If teachers can manage their own stress, and be fully present with their students, it improves their relationships with students and, amazingly, can actually improve student behavior in the classroom.”

Reaping the benefits

Rudell Beach has conducted mindfulness training with teachers and students at numerous Minnesota schools, including in the Wayzata and the Anoka-Hennepin school districts.

“Students tell me that mindfulness helps them feel calm and relaxed, and that they use it to help them fall asleep at night, to calm down when their siblings anger them or to focus when they are worried about a test,” she said.

Research indicates that mindfulness activities help kids improve their concentration and focus, decrease stress and anxiety, increase self-awareness and impulse control, and calm them when they’re upset.

“In short, mindfulness can help them develop the executive functioning skills that all children and grownups need,” Rudell Beach said. “There’s also some indications that mindfulness can help improve sleep as well as children’s conflict-resolution skills.”

At school and at home

It was apparent that the Valley Crossing students in Gervais’ class had embraced the idea of mindfulness wholeheartedly. They all willingly participated and were remarkably focused.

But how have parents responded to the program?

“Parents love the attention we’re giving to mental health,” Raasch said. “We’re addressing it in a non-confrontational way. It helps support social and emotional development, both at school and at home.”

Raasch and Gervais have developed resources for parents so they can extend mindfulness and regulation activities into home life. They’re encouraged to use the same language and terminology that their kids are hearing at school to make it as easy to do at home as it is in class.

While mindfulness initiatives like these are available at some Twin Cities schools, it’s still a new concept at many. There are numerous barriers to implementing programs, including administration constraints, funding and lack of teacher buy-in.

Without everyone on board, a program like Valley Crossings’ would be impossible to implement, Gervais said.

Fortunately, mindfulness is something you can do at home, even if your child’s school doesn’t currently have a program. Rudell Beach recommends starting with kids who are 3 or older, noting kids younger than that are actually already inherently mindful.

“We could learn some lessons from them about being totally engrossed in the present moment and not letting past regrets and future worries trouble us,” she said. “Executive functioning skills develop throughout our life, but early childhood (ages 3–4) and early adolescence are the two critical periods when these skills develop rapidly, so kids at those ages can especially benefit from mindfulness.”

By Laura Malm

January 1, 2018

See Original Article minnesotaparent.com

Stillwater Elementary Students Manage Stress With Yoga

Elementary students in Stillwater, MN participate in Move Mindfully Residencies

Elementary students at Stillwater Area Public Schools are learning basic yoga.

Stillwater Students Move Mindfully® Residency

By Amelia Santaniello

December 19, 2017

See Original Video WCCO CBS Minnesota

Students Visit Regions Hospital

Third Graders visit Regions Hospital to share knowledge about Mindfulness and Movement.

Mindfulness is the current buzzword when it comes to health and well-being. But what does it really mean?

“Being mindful means being calm, focused and ‘present in the moment’,” says Regions Hospital health coach Brooke Campbell. “And it applies to everyone, from children to adults!”

In fact, children might have some of the best ideas on how to be mindful. That’s certainly the case when it comes to a class of third graders from Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul.

students present for Regions HospitalTheir teacher, Ms. Stephanie Kennelly, extended the practice of movement and mindfulness into her classroom after receiving training from 1000 Petals. And now it’s something the students work on every day.

Recently, the class visited Regions to share their strategies. Here are 4 tips the kids gave on how to relax and manage stress:

Focus on positive intentions.

“Think about how you want to show up today.” This is a phrase that Ms. Kennelly repeats each morning to her students. And it’s something you can do every day, too.

Wondering how you can hold yourself accountable to your intention? Try putting it in writing! On the day the class visited Regions, the students wrote down their intentions for the day on the back of their name tags so they could refer back to them. One child’s intention read: “I will be focused, strong and kind.”

Bring breathing and yoga techniques into your day-to-day.

Yoga techniques like balance poses, stretches and deep breathing can help a lot! The “volcano” is one pose that the third graders say is especially useful. You start with your hands together at the heart, lift your arms up over your head and out. It allows you to relax and stretch the shoulders, where many of us hold tension.

The “wood chopper” is another favorite. You put both hands together over your head as if holding an ax. Then you throw your arms and body down with a “huh!” The exhalation and movement is a good way to let out frustration.

“When you go there in the body, you go there in the mind,” the class said during their visit. And according to Ms. Kennelly, using essential oils like peppermint and pinwheels for breathing exercises can enhance these techniques.

Remember the five S’s when you get stressed out or mad.

Stop, sigh, stretch, shake and smile. The five S’s allow you to refocus, get calm and loosen up.

And remember to “be where your feet are,” as one third grader says. Our minds are racing from one thing to the next all day. If you can take time to pause and check in with your body, mind and emotions, you will feel a sense of calm and focus. And that’s what helps us feel better and be more present for what we really want to focus our energy on.

At Garlough Environmental Magnet School, a child isn’t sent to the principal’s office if he or she misbehaves. Instead the first stop is the “Relaxation Station.” There, the child can take a moment to slow down, refocus and create a positive experience rather than a negative one.

“Sometimes you will wonder where the teacher is. And you’ll find her in the relaxation station,” Ms. Kennelly said with a smile.

Eat better. Get power.

Eating at least five fruits and vegetables per day is the key to feeling healthier and more energized. So be mindful with your snacking!

Twice a week, fresh fruit and vegetables are brought into Ms. Kennelly’s class for everyone to try. Students discuss the flavors and textures of the food. And it’s gotten more kids willing to try new foods.

Mindfulness applies to nearly every part of life. It includes everything from mindful commuting, to being mindful of what we eat (and how it smells and tastes) to being mindful of opportunities to sneak in some physical activity – or rest – during our busy days. And for adults, a good place to start learning the art of mindfulness is from these third graders!

June 26, 2017

See Original Article Health Partners

Mindfulness Benefits Third Graders

As teachers are reflecting back on the success of the school year, a classroom in West Saint Paul is crediting a program that is quickly expanding across the metro.

At Garlough Elementary in West St. Paul, third grade teacher Stephanie Kennelly says yoga, breathing, and being mindful of one another are just a few of the key elements that are helping her students find stress relief, focus, and calm.

“Especially after recess when kids are wound up, before tests we’ll do the focusing routine,” said Kennelly.

Kathy Flaminio started a company called one 1000 Petals 10 years ago after two decades as a social worker with Minneapolis Public Schools. Since then, she has helped train more than 20,000 educatorsand service providers across the country. Flaminio says five of the largest school districts in the state are in some way integrating ways to connect the mind and body.

“I know test scores are a piece of it and it’s a big piece in education, but it’s like the social, emotional, and physical elements are just as important as the academic,” said Flaminio. “When I started integrating that  movement into my work, within six weeks we saw changes we hadn’t seen in 10 years.”

Many students are using what they’ve learned at home as well including techniques in the relaxation station, a quiet corner in Kennelly’s classroom where kids can find their own peace of mind at any time.

“I do not think I sent one student to the office this year because of that,” said Kennelly.

Next year, more Yoga Calm elements will be expanded into the entire Garlough Elementary and the district is considering further expansion. As they reflect on the school year, it’s hard to tell who gets the most out of the relaxing rituals – Mrs. Kennelly or her students.

“I like that we are all like jiggly in the beginning, but then we all get calmed down, and the room just feels nice,” said one student.

“I feel like I can move forward with greater patience and clarity when I take that time for myself,” said Kennelly.

By Leah Beno

May 31, 2017

See Original Article Fox 9

A Breath of Fresh Air

Bringing Mindfulness and Movement Into the Classroom

Winter sun filters through the windows as Stephanie Kennelly, ’06, helps her third-graders gather in a circle. Some sit on chairs, some on square mats at the center of their classroom.

A student, right, demonstrates tree pose as teacher Stephanie Kennelly and classmates follow.

Today’s focus is strength. Five student leaders welcome their peers into the session with muscle tension-and-release exercises paired with deep breaths. Then the rest of the circle offers up compliments to the leaders on their tone of voice and technique.

Flaminio and students practice warrior pose inside Kennelly’s classroom.

“Think of a person, place, or thing that helps you feel strong,” Flaminio tells the class. Together, they discuss examples of physical, emotional, and mental strength. Then they practice “volcano breaths”—hands lifted together above heads and released out to the side and down, like a hot lava flow.

Combining mindfulness with physical activity can help foster social-emotional growth and train students to deal with stress in healthy ways. Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul serves many students who have experienced trauma and adversity. But Flaminio and Kennelly emphasize that mindfulness practice is beneficial to all students, no matter their circumstances or abilities. Kennelly’s third-graders say that Yoga Calm activities help them focus in class, calm down before tests, and get along better with their families at home.

“It empowers them,” Kennelly says later of her class’s yoga routine. “This has been not only life-changing for me and my family but for my students and their families.”

In addition to Flaminio’s sessions, Kennelly finds smart ways to slip Yoga Calm practices into the everyday curriculum. Her students do mountain pose while they wait in line, and everyone takes a minute for breathing and centering themselves whenever the class transitions between subjects or activities.

And because of Garlough’s environmental focus, Kennelly says, the school’s framework lends itself to her class’s practices. Themes of biology, health, and environmental connectedness translate well to the physical, mental, social, and emotional components of yoga.

“As we start talking about these topics, the students have a really solid foundation,” says Kennelly. “We’re big on observation here. Once a week we go outside with a naturalist, and anytime we’re outside, we do lots of outdoor Yoga Calm practices.”

The real-life impacts of yoga mean a lot to Kennelly as she watches her students apply in-class practices to other parts of their days.

“They’re taking ownership of it in their own selves and own lives,” she says. “The real practice happens off the mat.”

Channeling positive effects

Kennelly and Flaminio’s partnership began in spring 2016 when the two met through a mutual friend. Flaminio’s business, 1000 Petals LLC, offers well-being training and workshops based on mindfulness and movement to schools and therapeutic environments. Her sessions at Garlough—which began in fall 2016 and were so successful they continued in winter 2017—are a part of a set of Moving and Learning residencies that she has implemented in more than 100 classrooms. A study in Minneapolis schools in 2007 showed that regular use of Yoga Calm practices improved feelings of student community, decreased behavioral referrals, lowered general classroom volume, and increased the amount of time students spent on task, especially during reading.

According to Kennelly and Flaminio, the effects of Yoga Calm practices are long lasting, even for younger students. Once kids learn it, they’re able to apply it to their lives outside of school as well.

Many of Kennelly’s students practice mindful breathing on their own.

At parent–teacher conferences in the fall, Kennelly began to hear from parents who’d seen remarkable changes in their home dynamics. Some have even reported being led by their kids in calming exercises when it’s clear that they’re stressed out about something.

“When I ask what was good in school today, I’m as likely to hear about new poses or practices as I am other activities,” says Derek Schwartz, the father of a student in Kennelly’s class. “I’ve seen her at home, for example, when she’s handling one of our pets, she’ll often take a breath to help center herself and get calm.”

“The parents of my students say this is the best year they’ve had,” says Kennelly. “The kids are advocating.”

Paths to practice

Flaminio was a college student in social work when she earned fitness certifications and started teaching yoga. After completing her master of social work, she began integrating mindfulness and movement as a school social worker.

“I’d always had these two passions in my life—working really hard and then doing yoga and fitness to unwind and de-stress,” Flaminio says. “These passions came together when I tried yoga with some students who were particularly challenging.”

“I realized I had been doing my work from the chin up—cognitive therapy—when trauma is in the nervous system, and I need to work from the chin down—that is, with the body. The changes I saw were so dramatic when I started working with mind, body, and heart.”

Flaminio spent a sabbatical year studying the relationship between yoga, mindfulness, and mental health. That’s when she learned about Yoga Calm, designed by a husband-and-wife team in Oregon for schools, hospitals, and other community-based settings. She incorporated Yoga Calm into the mission of 1000 Petals.

“We’re raising really smart kids, they make it to college, and they’re not surviving because they’re anxious,” Flaminio says. “We can’t keep raising smart, anxious children. We’ve got to raise children that are strong physically, emotionally, and mentally. Growing these three areas equally is the key to a happy, well-adjusted child.”

Meanwhile, Kennelly has been practicing yoga since high school. It was somebody at the studio she attends regularly who introduced her to Flaminio.

Motivated by the importance of yoga practice in her own life and the needs she saw in her classroom, Kennelly brought the idea to Garlough principal Sue Powell, ’89, ’96.

“Our school was having a huge issue with students affected by trauma,” Powell says. Kennelly and Flaminio’s collaboration offered a way for all students to learn about healthy stress reduction.

“Maybe they don’t have control of what’s going on at home, but they know that they can be in control of themselves,” says Powell.

First steps

A successful mindfulness practice in the classroom requires commitment to a nontraditional instruction style, Kennelly and Flaminio agree.

“It’s a very different way of teaching,” says Flaminio. “When you’re breathing with students, you’re at the same level. In fact, they’re teaching, too.”

The sense of teacher–student equality is important to Kennelly.

“It’s not about an adult being in control,” she says. “I can’t as your teacher be the one that tethers you down—you have to have something inside yourself, like a compass to get you through the day.”

Students at Garlough Environmental Magnet School, located next to a 320-acre nature center, practice Yoga Calm indoors and out.

Flaminio recommends teachers start by focusing on their own presence and the kind of energy they bring to class.

“Whatever you can do to be conscious of how you’re showing up and how you’re using your body is absolutely critical,” she says. “In the education system, we’re all givers—we don’t put self-care at the top of the list—but it has to be at the top because that self-care is the intervention.”

Kennelly was recognized by the districtwide wellness committee with a Healthy Hero Award for her good work with Yoga Calm. Like all teachers, she deals with an always-busy class schedule, but Kennelly believes her strategic incorporation of mindfulness and movement is achievable and worthwhile.

“People always say, ‘How do you have time?’” she says. The time spent on mindfulness makes the rest of the day run more smoothly and efficiently. “I don’t have to give directions twice. I don’t have to stop. The kids get to task right away.”

For teachers looking to bring mindfulness practices into their own classrooms, Kennelly and Flaminio say it’s okay for first steps to be small. Introducing one concept, like mindful breathing, can make a noticeable difference.

“This isn’t magic, but we look for moments,” says Flaminio. “It’s that moment when a child says, ‘I have never felt this peaceful or relaxed before,’ and realizes that, no matter how messy life gets, it is not messy deep inside. And she has the skills now to find that peace inside.”

Kennelly recommends a minute of silence during class transitions and practicing breathing together as a group.

“It’s like getting a fresh breath of air,” she says. “You recharge your battery.”

By Ellen Fee

April, 2017

See Original Article CEHD Connect