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Brain Boost

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In collaboration with HERE for you for them

Mindful family sessions can offer clarity and calm amid the chaos that family life will inevitably bring. HERE and I have just completed an OM:POP series with Family Support in West London and can confirm that mindful practices deliver a sense of wellbeing even with a whole host of tiny tots in the room.

We have been working with Family Support to help children, young people and their families thrive by bringing weekly mindfulness sessions to West London families. Family yoga teacher extraordinaire, Jen Armstrong, and I created a 7-week series based on the metaphors that Family Support use to expand people’s understanding of brain development.

Our OM:POP series covers the following of their brain metaphors:

Each weekly session briefly touches upon the theory behind one of the metaphors and then introduces applicable yoga and meditation techniques that help build and strengthen the brain. During the last session we merge all our learnings and tools into a fully integrated yoga and meditation practice that embraces all of the covered metaphors. After a grounding and heart-opening family yoga practice, parents and caregivers are guided through a seated meditation to invite in a calm presence before their final send-off.

If you would like to experience for yourself how this practice can give you a comprehensive brain-building boost, feel free to take a comfortable seated position on a chair or cross-legged on the floor and try out the following shortened practice:

  • With your hands on your thighs, inhale while you circle your upper body to the left and then front. Exhale and circle your upper body to the right and back again to your starting position. Move fluidly with your breath while you make a large clockwise circle with your chest and shoulders, moving from just above your hips. Both sitting bones stay grounded throughout the circular movement. Repeat 3 to 5 times
  • After your chosen number of clockwise circles, change direction. Again, draw 3 to 5 wide circles with your upper body to open the hips and strengthen the core. Finish the circular anti-clockwise movements in the upright starting position.
  • If you are sitting cross-legged, now bring the other leg in front. If you are seated on a chair, move a little to the front of the seat. Interlace your fingers and extend your arms and palms to the front while you exhale and round your spine. Your ears will end up in line with your upper arms. Inhale, lift up your arms and bring your spine upright. Exhale to separate your hands and circle the arms down your sides. With the next in-breath, interlace your fingers behind your tailbone. Draw the knuckles of the fingers down towards the floor and lift your breast bone. Repeat this wavelike spinal motion 3 to 5 times.
  • Now sit upright again. If you are seated on a chair, slide back until your back is supported by the back rest. Close your eyes. Lift your breastbone and very slightly drop the chin.
  • Palms face up and are resting on your thighs. Bring the tips of your index fingers to touch the tips of your thumbs and extend your three remaining fingers out to the front.
  • Breathe smoothly through the nostrils
  • The lips stay sealed
  • Observe your breath’s rhythm
  • Allow the breath to be complete yet stay natural
  • Tune in to your senses: listen, feel, smell, see (with eyes closed), taste (with mouth closed)
  • Observe your mental activities and feelings
  • Accept all and sit with them for a few cycles of breathing
  • Now, let’s introduce our mantra. When you breathe in, silently say I AM in your head. When you breathe out, silently say the word CALM in your head. Inhale with the words I AM and exhale with the word CALM. Keep up the rhythmic repetition of the mantra and the breath. Each leading the other.
  • With every inhalation bring presence into the physical body and mind. With each exhalation drop into a sense of calm.
  • Repeat the mantra as often as suits you.
  • When it suits you, stop repeating the mantra.
  • Sit with your body, your breath and your mind.
  • When you are ready to come out, gently drop your chin to your chest, softly open your eyes and lift your head.

Once you have expanded your awareness back into the space where you are sitting, notice whether you are feeling a little more clarity and calm. Then remember that a mindful awareness practice, such as this body-breath-mind practice, can not only help us find inner calm amid outer chaos but also rewire our brain to boost our wellbeing!

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