October is Non-Violence Month

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CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World was founded on the principle of AHIMSA, which means respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards oneself and others. CK believes that fostering peace by training young people in techniques proven to promote harmony, nonviolence, and positive interactions will eventually phase out violence from our world. October is Non-Violence Month, and it is kicked off by the UN International Day of Non-Violence on October 2, which is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. For Gandhi, AHIMSA meant non-injury, nonviolence, non-harm, the renunciation of the intention to hurt any living thing, the abstention from hostile thought, word or deed, and compassion for all living creatures. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.”

CK promotes nonviolence in young people, but it was inspired by violence perpetrated by and against young people – the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Our children are a barometer for the health of our world, and CK’s primary goal is to promote a positive, peaceful attitude leading to calm and effective communication among members of the school community. Since 2004, CK has impacted countless students, teachers and schools, sharing this “greatest force” that Gandhi spoke of with the people who will lead the next generation.

As we enter Non-Violence Month, you might contemplate ways that you are promoting harmony through the things that you think, speak and do. When you have an impulse to speak with anger, can you pause, breathe, and remember your intention to refrain from hostile thoughts, words, and deeds? What happens in your own body and mind when you think about speaking or acting in a way that would harm another being? And how can you practice AHIMSA – compassion – towards yourself? Black Elk said, “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves.” Perhaps in that brief moment of awareness before word or action, we can remember that if we think, speak or do something harmful to another, it very likely will bring harm back to us. It is especially obvious when it involves our spouse, child or student, and perhaps less so with a stranger, but the harmful impact on ourselves is just as real.

Martin Luther King Jr, who firmly believed in nonviolence as a means for social change, said, “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love.” This month, practice your commitment to the way of love…even and especially when that is difficult. Let the “greatest force at the disposal of mankind” give you the power to be the change you wish to see in the world.

And see HERE for a free lesson plan on bringing non-violence and communication skills to young people!

Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plan FREE

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Kids yoga teacher training for all teachers and instructors PLEASE use the following syllabus guiding you through the proper method to present a 6 Day Yoga program to your Kindergarten or Elementary School classroom ensuring these proven outcomes:

Yoga Mat

  • Kids Yoga Enhances Confidence
  • Kids Yoga Improves Concentration and Focus
  • Kids Yoga Helps Kids Manage Stress Through Breathing
  • Kids Yoga Promotes Inclusivity
  • Kids Yoga Introduces Kids to Mindfulness
  • Kids Yoga Promotes a Healthy Body
  • Kids Yoga Improves Coordination & Balance

Classroom Yoga ~ a solution to school violence and it works!

CALMING KIDS: Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom
2018-2019 Study Results

Students reported: 2018 – 2019
Feeling good about themselves 48%  increase     
Standing up for themselves 48%  increase 
Focusing in school 30%  increase 
Feeling angry for no reason 55%  decrease
Physical altercations in school 38%  decrease
Trouble controlling anger 35%  decrease 

In addition, three times the number of students reported that they could handle others making fun of them in school as compared to before learning the CALMING KIDS techniques (178% increase).
Statistics based on 100 students between the ages of 11 – 13 reporting their experience before and after 6 sessions of movement, mindfulness & meditation training and practice throughout the school year. CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World since 2004


Day One – What is Yoga?

The Balance of Body and Mind

Gather the kids into a circle and seated on the floor, ask: What is yoga? By beginning your presentation to the children with an explanation of the purpose of doing Yoga, you open their minds and begin the discussion regarding the benefits of yoga. This gives a foundational knowledge and they will be eager to learn what is next. The Day One, online training video gives a concrete image for the students to understand these concepts and get excited to learn more.

Game Plan: Here’s where the fun begins:

Begin with the CALMING KIDS Opening Pledge or a Namaste song, depending on the ages of your students. CK has some Namaste songs found in our “Songs & Pledges” booklet and soundtrack, or the CK Opening Pledge can be recited to engage the kids as we begin to unify the classroom.

Stand everybody up and begin some yoga balancing poses.You will then begin positions or exercises to limber, ground, strengthen and stretch the body. At the end of the movement session, you finish with the floor or seated relaxing stretches.

Explain that the yoga system gives us ways to come into balance.

The complete CALMING KIDS program for school classrooms includes videos of children and teens explaining how to help all aged students with mindfulness, movement, and body and breath awareness.

Our booklets “YOGA KEEPS ME Calm, Fit & Focused” and “YOGA KEEPS ME Feeling Just Right” demonstrate both easy and more difficult positions to practice balance.  The simple movement routines that you can all do together each day will calm the community and strengthen the connection in the classroom.

[From here, you would continue with your regularly scheduled classroom curriculum.]

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.

Day Two – How Do You Breathe?

Practices to Regulate the Breath 

Begin the day with the CK Opening Pledge or a Namaste song.

CALMING KIDS breathing videos explore the proper mechanics of breathing. Within the online training, simple visuals are explained as a way to convey breathing mechanics using various props and interactive skits. Age appropriate explanations of breathing correctly and the importance of good breathing are included because the breath connects the body and mind. Students enjoy this concept and they can be playful as they learn the breathing techniques which are also illustrated in our program booklets and our manual handouts.   

Kids Yoga Breathing

  • Basic Breath Training
  • Breathing Questions
  • Breathing Diagrams
  • Diaphragm Activity
  • Breathing for Self Regulation
  • Calming Breathing Techniques
  • Lion’s Breath 
  • Bees Hum
  • Rabbit Breath
  • Snake Breath
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing

Preschool, kindergarten and young elementary aged children love the CK “Body Awareness Tunes” downloadable from our website store. This keeps the momentum going and the learning fun. We have songs to move with and follow along called “Breathing,” “Two Little Holes,” “Belly Button” and “The Walk Song” among others. Then students lay down quietly so they can listen to their breathing and feel the Hum inside.

The CALMING KIDS music from our “Songs and Pledges” list includes, “The Sun Salutation Song” and “A Circle Dance.” Both offer ways to increase the respiration rate and breath awareness. If time permits, you can repeat some of the yoga asanas (postures) you practiced on Day One – focus the students’ attention on their breathing during this session and for all sessions from now on. Notice that they get a little better implementing the breathing with some of the standing still asanas (postures).

Next, take 2 – 3 minutes to sit or lie down to rest the body and become mindful of rhythmic breathing. “The Sleep Poem” from “Songs and Pledges” is great to recite to help their inward focus. 

The students start to understand that the connection of the body to the mind is their breath.

[As you return to the school curriculum, if you see some ‘fidgeting’ going on, mention a mindful breathing practice and have them practice it on the spot.]

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.

 

Day Three – How Do You Feel?

Checking in: emotional awareness, communication and anti-bullying

Begin the day with the CK Opening Pledge or a Namaste song.

Seated in a circle on the floor or at their desks, get students’ feedback by asking them: 

“What do you remember from what you have learned so far in yoga?”

“Have any of you started to be mindful of your breathing outside of class?”

“Has thinking about your breathing helped you control your energy, mood, or sleep?”


Then we listen to their answers and smile.

Then ask them if anyone has ever been bullied. Have them describe the situation and how they handled it. Discuss some of the bullying that the students see in the world and the feelings they experience around bullying behavior. Tell them about a time you were bullied and how you dealt with it.

Then, set up some anti-bullying role playing to help students learn effective communication and to help empower them for the rest of their lives. They can create the scripts based on their imagination, or they can use the bullying stories the kids have previously revealed. Or you could use the CALMING KIDS scripts which were created for us by elementary aged students, found within Day Three of the CK Online Teacher Training.

Print out copies for each of the actors involved, to read and play out the scenario. Skits and Role-Playing offer the kids a chance to learn together as a team. Once a skit is performed, the audience (other students) can suggest a good plan of action to solve the negative encounter. Remind them to use a strong grounded stance, speak with confidence, and take time to breathe.

The CK videos for role-playing within our online training are performed by The Rocky Mountain Theater for Kids. Bullying encounters happen in: The Lunchroom, On The Bus, On The Playground, In a Classroom, etc. These videos include confrontations with other students, with an adult, or self-bullying. Instruction is given on how to approach communication in a calm, centered, confident manner, with self awareness and compassion, as well as guidance for when it is important to ask for help.

[Before returning to the regular school curriculum, give a homework assignment: Teach anyone in the family something you have learned this week.]

  • Yoga Postures
  • Breath Awareness
  • Concentration Practices
  • Peaceful Communication Strategies 

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.

[Here’s Naomi, a Calming Kids Yoga Teacher with a personal comment about A Chakra Guide Book]

Day Four – Community 

Finding Our Heart 

Begin the day with the CK Opening Pledge or a Namaste song.

Next, Check In with how the students are feeling on this day. It is OK for a child not to say anything and not participate. Then, discuss the homework assignment to discover who has been ‘taking in’ the concepts and passing this knowledge on to their friends or families.

Day Four videos within the online training include ‘Inner Light Introduction’ in order to teach the concept of caring and compassion.

In order to keep it very child friendly and understandable, CALMING KIDS presents our connection to ourselves and our community as the word picture: Our Heart’s Inner Light.

We use metaphors and similes to describe the inner connectedness we have with ourselves and others in order to find connection and compassion. 

Kids yoga musicIt’s a great day to do teamwork activities. Circle dancing can be effective. CK has created choreography to music found on the “Playful Yoga” soundtrack. 

If you choose to repeat the standing and floor poses, begin to hold the poses longer than before. Encourage students to, “Hold this position and take 4 – 6 deep breaths.” Do this in order to deepen the students’ inward focus and connection to the feelings in their body and the feeling of their breath.

A wonderful concentration practice at this stage can be eye exercises in order to strengthen, stretch and ultimately tire the eyes from looking outward. Then, close the eyes and direct the attention inward with a guided journey or inward visualization. Our Inner Light is a metaphor: the sun, a candle, or a flashlight can be used.

“We all have this light within. This light connects us to each other.”

Guide the children in a way that helps them understand that the light within each of them resonates in their heart and mind. And that light is important enough to respect in each other.

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.

 

Day Five – Why Exercise?

The Benefits of Exercise

Begin the day with the CK Opening Pledge or a Namaste song.

Check in: Get feedback from the class as to any changes in their lives due to what they have been learning. How or when have they been able to use the breathing or respectful compassion?

Day 5 is about moving the kids smoothly though the ‘asanas’ and “Vinyasanas” (series of poses). 

Guide them through the poses and encourage them to focus on their breathing while holding difficult poses. Practice moving poses, standing asanas, and floor asanas or seated positions for 20 – 30 minutes.

Yoga Exercise

There are CK supplemental kids yoga videos of children and teens practicing yoga which guide the class as they watch the postures and follow the routines.

While the students hold the asanas for a few moments, take them on a mental journey that brings  joy and peacefulness, and the remainder of the school day can go more smoothly.  

NOTE: If this routine (Opening pledge/song followed by the Vinyasanas) is regularly followed daily within a school curriculum, the results can be astounding. See the research results found on our website: calmingkids.org-StudyResults

Have a discussion at the end regarding the benefits of yoga. Explain how yoga has a multitude of benefits: not only can it improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina, it also reduces anxiety and stress, improves mental clarity, and even helps one to sleep better. When done regularly, it can help them to focus on their homework, and control their thoughts & feelings. The power of strengthening their inner core as well as their outer physical bodies while having an awareness of the breath allows for improved personal connection and communication. 

[At least 80% of the class will develop a new mindset from the program at this point.]

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.

 

Day Six – Relationships 

Anti-Bullying – Relationship Games – Bring It All Together

Begin the day with the CK Opening Pledge or a Namaste song.

Ask the question: “Who has been sharing the yoga information and concepts with their friends or families?”

“Has there been a time when you have personally used a CK yoga technique to help shift any situation?”

Once you hear what students report, then you can decide which area of the yoga practices need more attention. Review any specific concepts that you have presented over the past few weeks with an open discussion in order for students to understand how important it is to use these ideas within our lives: The yoga exercises help us to come into balance in our bodies and minds and breathe better. Good breathing allows us to focus our mind and balance our emotions. When we feel balanced we can communicate better and our relationships improve. With practice, we can deflate any negative confrontation.

Find a comfortable movement routine that your students respond to positively that can be done daily. Our CALMING KIDS supplemental videos include a simple range of motion sequence called the “AM Wake-Up” which can be done seated or standing.

Follow the exercise routine you have chosen with a mindfulness, reflection and relaxation session. The CALMING KIDS little book “Finding Calm in a Moment” has relaxation, creative visualization and mindful practices to read to your students. This book gives ideas on how to instruct the meditation.

Starting with movement and mindfulness is a great way to start each day!!

[As you return to the regular school curriculum, give the lifelong assignment: Teach your family and friends these yoga, mindfulness and communication skills. Share the tools that help you to calm down, self regulate and balance your mental health. Someday you may help someone in serious need.]

At the close of each day, a quiet moment is taken and you all recite together the Closing Pledge: 

With great respect and love, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.


Calming Kids

 

Allowing 10-15 mins at the start of every day for this type of centering will increase focus, social emotional balance, and positive communication skills.

 

 

 

 

 

The CALMING KIDS (CK) Six Day On-Line Kids Yoga Teacher Training Lesson Plans includes:

  • Handouts illustrating all the concepts presented with coloring pages, activity ideas and songs. 
  • Scripts with non-violent communication models for the play acting scenarios.
  • A discussion forum with thought provoking questions and insights shared by other teachers.
  • An easy quiz at the end of each module of learning to review what you have learned.
  • Open access to the online site for reference and to enhance your capacity to teach mindfulness and non-violent education to elementary age students.

CALMING KIDS offers two levels of certification. One is given upon the completion of the online course. Participants are issued a downloadable certificate to hang in the classroom, school or studio. For teachers who would like to receive continuing education credit, CALMING KIDS offers a deeper level certification in order to become a nationally accredited CALMING KIDS Children’s Yoga Educator for Elementary Age students. This is achieved by teaching a minimum of six hours of the CK program to children and keeping a detailed log. This log is submitted to CALMING KIDS for evaluation and certification. A small additional fee is applied. To enroll in the full course please CLICK HERE.

 

Dee Marie at Yoga International

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teendramadee
Teenage years aren’t for the faint of heart. During this time, there are many physical and energetic changes that cause imbalances. Reactions to external stimuli may be heightened, and teens require rest from day-to-day demands. Relaxation and restorative asana poses are most effective for rebalancing frazzled teens; and tuning in to yoga media, as well as positive, uplifting music, helps them utilize their technologies as a bridge to a more nurturing lifestyle. At the end of the day, knowing where they are and simply being there for them is everything!

Bullying | Local Non-profit Addresses School Violence

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With all the tragedy and violence in our schools today, teaching kids self regulation and stress reduction is more important than ever. Since 2004, CALMING KIDS (CK): is a local Boulder non-profit, has been focused on immediate and direct impact to reduce bullying and increase self regulation in kids and teens. 

On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida experienced one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. This tragedy Bullying in schoolshas left Americans across the country heartbroken, frustrated, and wondering how we, as individuals, can make a difference in stopping this vicious and violent behavior.

CALMING KIDS has been addressing this issue for years. CK, a Colorado 501(c)3, was created after the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, for this exact reason. For the past 13 years, they have worked with teachers and students in Colorado and around the world to reduce bullying and violence in schools. In addition, to helping develop better coping mechanisms and increasing students’ compassion for one another.

Calling your state representatives and supporting today’s youth in creating safer schools in the long term is undeniably important. But, what can we do right now, TODAY?

If you want to make a positive difference and feel passionately about ending school violence, then the best place to start is in the schools! This is exactly what CALMING KIDS is doing with their classroom programs.

CALMING KIDS has impacted 3,500 teachers and over 40,000 students through their work in schools locally, nationally and globally.

Anti Bullying Teaching Program

There is still so much more to be done. CK is looking to expand its impact and wants to get the word out to as many school teachers and administrators, students, parents, and to those who feel concerned about this issue. We CAN make a difference and help to create a non-violent world, stop bullying in schools and help kids focus.

In addition to classroom programs, CK has also produced a variety of support materials for teachers and students:

  • including classroom workbooks,
  • self regulation posters,
  • educational films

and a new pocket sized movement, mindfulness and meditation book, Finding Calm in a Moment. This book guides students of all ages through a variety of simple practices to release stress and self regulate immediately. Get involved NOW! Visit our website to learn more www.calmingkids.org

For more information contact: calmingkidsyoga@gmail.com or 303-530-3860.

Anti Bullying Program: Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle School

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Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle hosts social emotional learning week

By Amy Bounds Staff Writer Boulder Daily Camera

POSTED:   10/01/2017

Learning from anti bullying programAnti Bullying Program

Southern Hills Middle School students learned about yoga, meditation and other mindfulness activities along with participating in team-building activities with Avid4 Adventure. Students took a walk around a nearby lake to learn about mindful movement, learned calming breathing techniques and heard about the importance of a growth mindset during a day of workshops.

“We felt compelled to do this,” said Kristen Kron, a counseling intern at Southern Hills. “With the stress and anxiety students are feeling in this crazy world, they weren’t feeling very present. We wanted to give them strategies to help them be healthy and happy.”

Southern Hills counselors Victoria Valencia and Chris Congedo developed the Boulder school’s first Social Emotional Learning week with help from Kron and Dee Marie, founder of Calming Kids.

“No matter where you go, there’s this constant bombardment of stimuli,” Marie said. “There’s no way to disconnect. To shift to empathy, compassion and higher reasoning, we have to strengthen the part of the brain in middle schoolers that’s not fully developed.”

Southern Hills’ efforts are part of an overall school district focus on social emotional learning. The district previously brought in a five-member team from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning to conduct an analysis.

This school year, the district also hired 10 elementary counselors, two behavioral health advocates and a half-time coordinator. Before, only middle and high schools had counselors, with elementary counselors identified by schools at all levels as the highest budget priority.

At Southern Hills, Valencia said, she’s seeing lots of anxious kids.

“We want them to have tools available to help them cope with difficult situations and emotions,” she said. “We want kids to learn how to assess what they’re feeling and learn how to self-regulate.”

Kron added that the goal is to keep the project going by consistently integrating the practices students learned from the anti bullying program into the school day.

During the week, she led a session on meditation, asking students to sit with backs straight and focus only on their breathing. Then, she had them relax their muscles, one after the other, with music playing and lights dimmed.

“Right now, I just want you to breathe,” she told them.

Some students said they found the lesson relaxing, while others said it was challenging to stay still or not be distracted by noise around them.

Seventh-grader Julia Abboud said she liked that the workshops provided practical advice, but preferred more active ones to those with a lecture format.

She added that she would like the school to add a regular meditation time.

“That was pretty relaxing,” she said.

Classmate Tory O’Brien said her favorite was yoga.

“My mom goes to yoga every morning, but I’ve never been to a class. I was surprised, but I was actually pretty good at it. It was really fun.”anti bullying program for kids

Checking In for Self-Regulation

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Click here for a 2 minute video demonstrating Checking In: CALMING KIDS ~ Checking-In

Checking InThe First Step Toward Mindfulness At CALMING KIDS, we strongly believe that a child who practices nonviolence is also a child who practices self-awareness and mindfulness. Children who are aware of themselves also tend to be more aware of the effects their actions have on others.

anti bullying videoOftentimes, kids who feel frustrated or angry will lash out by bullying or hitting one another before even taking a moment to assess what they are feeling and why they’re feeling that way. We created the CALMING KIDS curriculum for schools to teach children to pause after experiencing whatever it is they’re feeling, so that they may understand it — and themselves — better. As a result, the amount of bullying and violent acts among children is greatly reduced.

The first step to helping children achieve mindfulness is to teach them to “check-in” with their bodies and minds. With younger children, ages preschool through third grade, it can prove extremely helpful to start with an introduction to body awareness.

For children of all ages, CALMING KIDS approaches mindfulness with an exercise called “Checking In.” Children are encouraged to check in once or twice a day, especially when not feeling their happiest. They are taught to observe their postures and breath, which will help bring awareness to which emotions they’re feeling, and the kinds of thoughts that are coming to mind. In checking in, kids are learning how to get in touch with themselves and gain more control over how they express themselves. For a short video tutorial on Checking In ~ click link above

How to Find Calm in a Moment: Getting Out of Busy-Ness for Yourself and the Kids in your Life

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Posted November 2016

Learning how to calm the mind and check in with our body sensations and emotions is a challenge for most of us. Responsibilities and social media tend to keep us running from one task and distraction to another. As adults and teachers, we model to our kids and students the ‘cult of busy-ness’ and then feel frustrated when our kids are glued to screens at every free moment. When I was a school teacher, gone all day and then busy in the evenings with grading papers and planning classes for the next day, my 10 year old son was ‘kept busy’ with his smartphone and computer. Now at age 15, when he’s not at school or sports, he has his headphones on and is on his smartphone, the tablet they gave him at school, or his computer…it’s hard to even get his attention or initiate communication when we’re in the same room!

Recently, Dee Marie and Gina Kane of CALMING KIDS came out with a new pocket-sized book called Finding Calm in a Moment: 108 Practices in Movement, Mindfulness and Meditation for All Ages. I decided to commit for a few days to taking 5 minutes every morning to practice a super short meditation or two. I was drawn to the two page section on the heart, called “Heart Health.” In it are four simple practices to connect with your heart…two involve putting your hands on your heart and checking in with your heartbeat and breath, and two suggest diving in to your heart with your mind’s eye, visualizing an expedition into the heart, or a beautiful lotus flower blooming on a lake in the heart. All four meditations probably took about 5 minutes total, and at the end I felt refreshed, and connected to my heart and my emotions as well as my breath and the warmth and beauty within me.

By the end of 3 days, I had all four of the meditations memorized, adding them to my personal toolkit of ways to find calm in a moment.

It occurred to me while I was doing the meditations one morning that a child who was being bullied (as I was as a child), or a child who was a bully, would be so helped by connecting with their heart in this way. By practicing self-awareness, by being willing to feel our own warmth and aliveness, we automatically are connected to resources within that we could never get by staring at a screen. Something so simple as putting your hands on your heart and feeling the expansion of your chest for a minute could have such a profound effect on yourself and your day, and the children in our world!

Here’s a quote from the CALMING KIDS website (https://calmingkids.org):

“At CALMING KIDS, we strongly believe that a child who practices nonviolence is also a child who practices self-awareness and mindfulness. Children who are aware of themselves also tend to be more aware of the effects their actions have on others.”

Being self-aware leads to non-violence towards yourself and others. It just takes a few short minutes to build a habit of self-awareness that can last throughout your day, potentially making a major difference in your life.

As adults, instead of (or maybe in addition to?) modeling ‘busy-ness’, we could model for the kids in our lives a commitment to taking a few moments in our day to put down what we are doing, and check in with the sensations in our bodies and the emotions swirling through our hearts. Can we get into the habit of practicing self-awareness, especially when we are upset, anxious, overwhelmed, or frustrated? Can we commit to creating non-violence within, first, and then see that spread into the world around us?

For a short and simple guided practice to show teens how to check in with their bodies and emotions, visit

 http://streamlearn.com/2016/06/21/calming-kids-in-class-films/

“The Yoga Lady” – CK in the Boulder Weekly, October 20, 2016

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How relaxation and mindfulness are helping kids self regulate, an article by Angela K. Evans in the Boulder Weekly, October 20, 2016:

Often, someone will stop Dee Marie on the street in Boulder and say, “Hey, you were the yoga lady at my [school]. I still remember to breathe when I get tense. I still remember the things we learned.”

As the founder of CALMING KIDS (CK): Creating a NonViolent World, Dee Marie has been teaching yoga in Boulder Valley schools for more than a decade. Centered around the Sanskrit wordahimsa, which she translates as “non-violence towards self and others,” her curriculum is part of a national effort to combat violence in schools. October is designated Stop America’s Violence Everywhere (SAVE) month by American Medical Association (AMA) Alliance. Started in 1995, AMA Alliance members have implemented more than 700 SAVE projects around the country.

As the SAVE representative for the state of Colorado, Dee Marie, a long-time member of the AMA Alliance, started CALMING KIDS in 2004 in response to a growing concern with the increasing number of school shootings taking place around the country.

“We did four years of study to prove that if we teach in the schools, we can decrease violence and help children with relaxation and self-regulation,” she says. 

First Dee Marie trained teachers in the curriculum, but it quickly expanded to teaching the school staff how to practice the same principles of relaxation and self-regulation, as well as conducting classes for the kids with the goal “to try to create the new paradigm in the schools which is (she inhales and exhales slowly) that we can relax,” Dee Marie says. “The schools just need relaxation. Everybody needs the ability to focus, relax, come into their center to help them in all aspects of their life. With children, it’s to help them with test taking and their anxiety as well as their communication with each other on the playground. And with the teachers, it’s to help them with the bureaucracy and to keep going day after day in an environment that is very demanding.”

A large part of the SAVE campaign is combating bullying in schools. According to DoSomething.org, approximately 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and 17 percent report being bullied two to three times a month or more. Bullying can lead to kids skipping school and even dropping out. Moreover, 71 percent of students report that bullying is a problem in their schools and 67 percent say their school doesn’t handle bullying effectively.

CALMING KIDS yoga helps kids process their emotions and create an opportunity to improve their dialoguing skills.

With CALMING KIDS, Dee Marie hopes to change these statistics by equipping kids with personal and relational skills through the practice of mindfulness.

“It’s deep program in a child-like and fun way,” she says. “We’re going after some deep concepts here — how we breathe and how we think affects how we act and how we feel.”

In addition to the physical aspects of yoga, the CALMING KIDS curriculum includes practical role play so the kids can practice dialoguing what they would do in certain situations. The program allows the kids to think about potential situations and how to react to them.

“What do you do in this situation? Is it appropriate to walk away? Is it appropriate to say something? Is it appropriate to tell the teacher? It’s really important to understand the three choices and when to use them,” Dee Marie says. 

Other questions she asks the kids are: “How can I have a compassionate heart? How can I find calmness even though you’re being mean to me? How can I stand up to you and know it’s not about me, it’s about you? Where are you coming from? Where is the other person coming from? Is it good for the community is, it good for you? What are the repercussions going to be?”

These are big questions for all of us, especially kids. But that doesn’t deter Dee Marie from asking them anyway. And, as her research shows, it’s working.

“What we found was that not only did we help the kids that were targeted, the bullied, rise, but the bullies relaxed and started to understand what they were doing,” she says. “… We empower the targeted, we relax and bring some consciousness to the bullies and then we get the bystanders to show up. Bystanders have to chime in and talk, not just sit back and watch or laugh.”

Dee Marie knows from personal experience just how rehabilitative and freeing these principles can be. In the early ’80s she was a professional dancer in New York City, performing mostly modern jazz and theatrical dances. But one snowy night, the cab she was getting into was hit by a truck.

“I was told I would never walk again and I definitely never would dance again,” she says. “[But] I rehabilitated myself through many techniques and the best of them all was yoga therapy.”

Fully recovered from the accident, Dee Marie had found a new passion. She went on to study at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Pennsylvania and became a certified yoga therapist in 1986.

For the last 25 years, Dee Marie has been in Boulder working with people of all ages and abilities, teaching yoga and offering yoga therapy to people with brain injuries, kids with disabilities and others.

adventure-10-20Courtesy of Dee Marie

Dee Marie first implemented the CALMING KIDS program in Boulder Valley schools, but it quickly expanded into Summit County, Denver, Arvada and most recently Jefferson County. And it’s spread internationally as well. Dee Marie has developed an extensive training curriculum bringing educators from Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Palestine, among others, to train in Boulder.

“My mission is to get yoga to everybody and anybody,” she says. “Yoga is not a system of exercise. In classical yoga we do movement in order to get our body comfortable. We do yoga in order to regulate our breathing. We do mindful meditation and concentrations to focus the mind. In classical yoga, we look at our communication skills and how we’re appearing to the community.”

She’s also written several activity workbooks for children to accompany her classes, the first of which, “Yoga Keeps Me Calm, Fit and Focused” has been translated into multiple languages, and they are being used in schools Mexico, Central America, Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

“The more we get the body, the breathing, the mind in a calmer, more loving and more released place within themselves, the more they can handle anything that is happening in the outer world,” she says. “Negative confrontation will come to us no matter what age we are. It’s understanding just how to have a compassionate heart and the compassion that you can give to others whether they are your friend or enemy.”

Dee Marie says the goal is to make the ideas behind CALMING KIDS mainstream by 2020, hopefully decreasing violence in schools both here and around the world.

“I’ve devoted my life to it and I feel like I make this much (she depicts about an inch with her fingers) of a difference considering where it’s going,” she says. “It’s scary, we watch the media and the type of movies that are coming out, and what they are teaching the kids is to pick up a gun and shoot. So I feel like I have so much work to do.”

The yoga lady

Bullying, Addiction and the Lifeline of Yoga ~ By Rachel Z – posted October 2016

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In 1983, when I was in third grade, the bullying began. The popular girl in class wanted my best friend to be her best friend, and so she made it her task to belittle me, scorn me, and gossip about me, until my best friend betrayed me and went over to the dark side. So not only did I lose my best friend – someone I had spent a lot of time with, shared personal secrets and hopes with, and relied on for support – but now I was openly bullied by her, and the popular girl. I remember being surrounded by about 10 kids on the playground – taunting me, pushing me, throwing things at me – and looking over at the teacher on duty, who was carefully looking in the other direction. I didn’t view the adults at the school as any kind of solution or offering help, so I just tried to tolerate the abuse the best I could. As the school bus rounded the corner to enter the school driveway, I would get panic attacks, my heart rate went up, cold sweat on my skin. That year, I developed a strange habit of hyperventilating…my breath was out of control, and the more I tried to breathe, the more out of breath I felt. I would get sent to the nurse to ride it out by breathing into a paper bag, then sent back to class. No one – not my parents, the teachers, the school nurse…ever stopped to ask why a 9 year old girl was hyperventilating at school.

The popular girls began writing on the bathroom walls, graffiti about how I was the “scum of the earth”. Which I believed and internalized. But in some effort at self-defense, I wrote back on the bathroom walls. So we all got a week of detention after school, forced together into a room to stew in anger and hatred for each other. There was no effort at intervention, at opening a conversation about what was going on, about the hateful things that were written on the walls.

In the 4th grade, I stopped going outside at recess. It wasn’t safe. I dreaded the lunchroom. I begged to eat my lunch in the classroom with the teacher – which wasn’t ever allowed.

By the 5th grade, some strange behavior started up. I would dress every day from my mother’s closet, wearing clothes that were too big for me, and putting on lots of make-up. Some sort of effort at willing myself into adulthood, out of a situation that was so out of my control, and so intolerable.

And in middle school, the truly self-destructive behavior began. Cutting myself, smoking cigarettes, drinking, being promiscuous with boys much older than me, fantasizing about suicide, smoking pot…the long road of addiction, co-dependency, and self-hatred had begun.

Here are some statistics about the current state of bullying in our country:

Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.

Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.

1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.

Source: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-bullying

Of course, I’m just one example…but I believe that being alienated by and an exile from my peers at an early age, helped to set in motion the self-destructive and addictive behavior that lasted throughout my 20s and well into my 30s.

Here’s an abstract on a study called “Bullying at school—an indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders”

A number of 14–16 year old Finnish adolescents taking part in the School Health Promotion Study (n=8787 in 1995, n=17643 in 1997) were surveyed about bullying and victimization in relation to psychosomatic symptoms, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use. A total of 9 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys were involved in bullying on a weekly basis. Anxiety, depression and psychosomatic symptoms were most frequent among bully-victims and equally common among bullies and victims. Frequent excessive drinking and use of any other substance were most common among bullies and thereafter among bully-victims. Among girls, eating disorders were associated with involvement in bullying in any role, among boys with being bully-victims. Bullying should be seen as an indicator of risk of various mental disorders in adolescence.

Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197100903518

That study confirms my experience, and is a clear sign that if we want to stem the tide of destruction that addiction is causing in our country, bully-proofing schools is an important step.

One bright spot, for me, however. When I was 12, I learned Sun Salutations, a basic yoga series from the Ashtanga tradition. I practiced that series every day all throughout my teens and 20s. It was a small raft of self-care in an ocean of self-hatred. A few minutes of taking care of my body, instead of trying to hurt it. It felt good, but didn’t cause guilt or shame afterwards. Somehow, that little bit of light helped me hang on through the darkness.

Today, I’m a yoga teacher. Yoga has, at several points, literally saved my life. Taking the time for self-care, moving my body, breathing deeply, and making a connection with something beyond what I can see, has been a lifeline. Let’s offer that lifeline to anyone ready to catch it.

Please support CALMING KIDS: Creating a Non-Violent World in bringing yoga into the schools, and help children like me find yoga!

Effective Breathing: How DO We Take Deep Breaths?

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From a yogic perspective, the breath is regarded as Prana, or the “vital force.” The breath is what governs our mental and emotional well-beings, having the capability to quiet our rage and soothe our nerves.

In the CALMING KIDS curriculum, we train instructors to teach breathing exercises to children and teens. On numerous reported occasions, these lessons have resulted in a decrease of bullying and violence — such as when children stop to take a deep breath and check-in when frustrated, rather than lashing out at others. It’s the deep breath that acts as a momentary reprieve, or gap, to recenter the self.

For this deep breath to be most effective, it must be executed properly:

Sit or stand with a tall spine, and imagine your lungs as balloons that expand and collapse as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Visualize the expansion of the balloon as the air fills your lungs, traveling through your chest, waist, abdomen, and back during inhalation — and then visualize the inward softening of your body as the air leaves it upon exhalation.

There are numerous techniques for teaching children the importance of breathing and how to breathe effectively. To learn how to teach mindful breathing to children, enroll in our CALMING KIDS Teacher Training

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