Feelings & Yoga for National Mental Health Awareness Week

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We are nearing the end of National Mental Health Awareness Week.

Here in Scotland, we are still in ‘lock down’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are shut, we have been told to stay at home, and not see anyone outside our immediate family.

That is HARD for me to deal with, as an adult. I imagine you are finding it hard to. If it is hard for us, imagine how it must feel for our children. Ugh.

It’s also been the first week back for my kids yoga block (I’ve taken it online) – I’ve got some children continuing on, I’ve got some new ones joining the block. I’m using this class as an easy way in to my version of yoga – which is all about moving your body in a way that feels good for you.

So, we are talking about feelings. Emotional literacy is key to helping your child deal with difficult feelings. If they can name them, they can talk about how they feel. This helps with both their mental health, and their day to day behaviour. If they can talk about how they feel, they are less likely to MELT DOWN when big unnameable feelings well up.

Enter my secret weapon for the class – a picture book called ‘The Colour Monster’, by Anna Llenas*. This book is a great introduction to talking about feelings – giving them colours. It can prompt a discussion about how these colours, or feelings make you feel in your body. The artwork is charming, and my own four year old LOVES reading it with me!

I’ll include my basic class plan for the book below –

The Colour Monster – a great story for discussing feelings, in and out of the yoga class.

Feelings Yoga Class – The Colour Monster (Online class edition)

WELCOME –

Say hello & introduce icebreaker – How has your week been? (use Fist to Five (clenched fist being zero, all fingers up being five) – great for kids that don’t want to speak at start of class) & What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

GROUNDING –

Vocalisation – imagine holding your favourite ice cream, breath in and as you breathe out, say the word YUUUUUUUUMMMMM – make it last as long as you can! Do it three times!

WARM UP –

Sun salutations. Go through simple sun salutations with the class – introducing sequence easily for beginners, and giving regular attendees a warm up they can feel good about knowing – instilling confidence.

INTRODUCE CLASS CONCEPT –

Talk about feelings – Read ‘The Colour Monster’ by Anna Llinas. At the end, introduce the idea of expressing feelings with our bodies as well as colours.

POSES –

Go through the feelings. Offer and demonstrate suggestions on some yoga poses they could try for the different feelings. Get them to try the suggestions, and also use their imagination by thinking about the emotions, and how it made them want to act. Explain it can be a pose they know, or one they make up – there is no wrong pose, their body knows the right one for them.

(suggested prompts)

Happiness – Star Pose (Utthita Tadasana) – or dancing around – personally, I feel happiness includes MOVEMENT!

Sadness – child’s pose (Balasana)

Anger – goddess pose (Utkata Konasana)

Fear – cat pose (Marjariasana)

Calm -tree pose (Vriksasana) / or Easy Pose (Sukhasana) using anjali mudra (prayer hands)

Reread the story, getting the children to act out the poses.

GAME –

In person, I would use different coloured pom poms or scarfs & get the children to sort them into the feelings. Online, this wasn’t logistically possible – so I introduced a yoga scavenger hunt – I choose two of the colours, and asked the children to find an object that was each colour. If time had allowed, I could have gone through all the colours – but choosing just two allowed me to set a challenge for the week – asking them to create a mindful picture with all the feelings colours.

Get the children to show their finds to everyone

SETTLE FOR RELAXATION –

(For the relaxation, I had planned on reading one a guided imagery exercise from the Relax Kids book ‘The Wishing Star’* I often use – but I had forgotten to bring it into the room I was recording in – so instead, I told my own one – based on a similar concept – finding a room they can go to to feel safe, and that the room can change colours, depending on how they felt – so that whenever they had big feelings, they knew they always had a special place in their mind they could go to to sit and breathe with the feelings. )

After the relaxation, let children share what came up for them.

CLASS END –

Speak about importance of discussing feelings.

As always – end class with reminder to think kind thoughts, speak kind words, and do kind things. From anjali mudra, push hands together and whoosh the kindness out into world.


If you are a kids yoga teacher – please feel free to use the plan, and adapt it to your needs – let me know any additions you make, or how it goes for you!

If you are a parent reading this, why not try some embodied poses with your child at home?

* Affiliate links – I earn commission if you buy the product after using these links, at no extra cost to you.

Self Care Sundays

You may have noticed that I often use my social media accounts to share or link to a post, using the hashtag #selfcaresunday. If you follow many baby or mental health blogs, you might find a lot of them do the same. I’d like to explain why I think it is important to get that weekly reminder to look after yourself; and what ‘self care’ means anyway!

A half empty glass with text reading You can't pour from an empty glassWhen we become parents, we go through a change. Suddenly, you are responsible for this tiny human. They are completely incapable of doing anything for themselves. It can be very easy to fall into the way of putting all of your energy and time into looking after your baby, and forgetting about yourself. Over time, however, if this continues, you will become depleted, and you can’t look after a baby if you are running on empty yourself. Although we should practice self care EVERY day, I hope my weekly nudge reminds you in case you have forgotten in the daily rush that is life with small children.

There is an industry built on ‘self-care’ – things like bath bombs, candles, face masks – and if that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, or helps you relax, that’s great. However, I think it overlooks the small acts of self care that we all need to do to stay afloat. For me, that is things like having a shower, trying to maintain a tidy space (difficult with a toddler), and remembering to eat and drink on busy days! My personal exercise and yoga practice is also important to me – and as I have been struggling to make classes recently, I booked a one to one session with a yoga teacher friend recently, so she could put together an at-home personal practice to help me ‘move on’ in my yoga practice.  

It’s all about remembering to fit in time for yourself – which is something I incorporate into every baby and toddler yoga session I teach. The simple fact you choose a class for both you and your child is a great start.  In addition teaching you to share your yoga practice with your child, I ensure you get a chance to relax at the end of every session. The more you practice relaxing, both in class and at home, the more your child becomes accustomed to you taking the time to look after yourself. Modelling self care like this is an excellent lesson to be teaching your little ones! 

I’d love to hear from you on how you fit in self care for yourself – both the boring ‘brushing your teeth’ sort, and the fitting in a yoga class/massage sort too!

 

World Mental Health Day 2018

my maternal mental health story #maternalMHmatters

 

TODAY is the start of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and here at Child’s Pose Yoga, I am giving the week over to a series of blog posts on maternal mental health matters – which is a matter that is very close to my heart, as I suffered from mental health issues following the birth of our honey badger.

I could ramble on and on about the subject for days, so to give my posts some sort of structure, I am going to attempt to follow the themes laid out for the week. So – first post is ‘What is perinatal mental health?’

You can read a variety of articles online to find out exactly what perinatal mental health encompasses, so I am not going to inexpertly replicate any of them – instead I will talk about MY perinatal mental health.

Due to the hyperemesis gravidarum I suffered from throughout my pregnancy, I was probably at least a little bit depressed before I gave birth, I don’t really think my issues started properly until afterwards. Any lowered mood I felt then I blamed on the fact I was being sick all-the-blimmin’ time.

If I were to describe what exactly I am still recovering from, I would say it was a mix of postnatal depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress. My medical notes in the year and a bit I was signed off work for after my maternity leave simply said postnatal depression.

Happy Mummy face and Baby
What I showed the world – my FB profile pic when Honey Badger was about 3 months old

From the moment my son was born, I was very protective of him, I didn’t like being away from him, and if someone else was holding him when he cried, I got very very anxious. I was exhausted from a tough pregnancy, and lack of sleep following that – honey badger refused to sleep in his cot, or indeed anywhere except on me or his daddy. I had grazes following the birth that were situated right at my urethra – so whenever I went for a pee, I was in absolute agony – I felt like the pain was worse than labour itself. My husband started a new job three days after our son was born, so he wasn’t able to take any maternity leave, and I felt suddenly all alone with this tiny being, and completely unprepared for parenthood.

I got very teary, but was advised that this was probably just the ‘baby blues’. However, they didn’t go away, and I would spend hours crying, feeling like I was wasting the time I had with my newborn. I would end up shouting at him as he woke up every time I tried to close my eyes for a bit of sleep, and I would manically sing nursery rhymes to try and calm him as I tried to grab a quick shower. It got to the stage that his crying became a trigger for my anxiety – I would do anything to try and stop him crying, I felt like I was a terrible mother if I let him cry at all. On top of this, I started having intrusive thoughts – of dropping him down the stairs, or shaking him to stop him crying – and although I was certain I would never act on any thoughts that would cause him harm, they were very distressing, and I was ashamed of having them.

Teary eyed me with baby boy
This was how my husband would find me on return from work most days. Welcoming, no?

I did try to seek help from the doctor, but I was told that to take antidepressants, I would have to stop breastfeeding. Stopping the one thing I felt I was actually good at as a mother would have made me feel worse, so I decided not to take the pills that were offered. No other help was really forthcoming at this point, so I continued on the way I was.

My anxiety got worse. My crying got worse. I started having postpartum rages, where I would be inexplicably FURIOUS at something, and I felt like I no longer knew who I was. I would frequently fall out with my husband, and this would trigger more unwelcome thoughts.

I started to think it might be better if I was no longer around. One night, after another argument, I lay in bed and started researching suicide methods. I was ‘trapped’, feeding my son, so couldn’t act on any urges to hurt myself – and it was the thought of my son growing up without a mother, even one as rubbish as I thought I was that made me reach out to a friend. She told me to tell my husband how I felt – which I did, and the next day was a whirlwind of scary activity, that saw my at the GP, then at the hospital, then home again with a prescription for the same antidepressants I had been offered months before, but this time I was told I could breastfeed whilst taking them.

That was almost two years ago, and I have since gone through talking therapy, taken up yoga and mindfulness, (started teaching baby yoga!) – and I still take the pills (and I still breastfeed!).

I am on the road to recovery. If you ever feel like I did, know that, with help, you can recover too.

10/10/2018 edit : 

This article has just popped up on my timeline – It’s by Eve Canavan, a rather brilliant woman who has become an ardent campaigner for perinatal mental health awareness, following her experience of postpartum psychosis. It’s well worth a read.