Five Parts of Practice
At Challenge to Change, we follow the Five Parts of Practice when we are teaching children our Yoga and Mindfulness program. These Five Parts of Practice are:
+ Seated Practice
+ Heart of the Lesson
+ Guided Mindfulness Practice
+ Close of Practice
Molly, our Founder and the CEO of Challenge to Change, created these Five Parts of Practice when she was receiving her certification to teach children’s yoga. As a former classroom teacher, Molly was aware that children learn best when there is structure and routine in their lessons. While Molly learned many wonderful strategies and ideas for teaching yoga to children in her training, she felt that the missing piece to making her lessons most effective was a consistent structure to her practice. Hence, the Five Parts of Practice were born.
This series of articles is designed to inform our readers what each part looks like and why we include it in our teaching.
Guided Mindfulness Practice
Our fourth part of practice is guided mindfulness, or a Yoga Nap. This is when we ask the children to quietly lie down and focus on their breath while they listen to a “yoga story” or a quiet song. This is otherwise known as meditation.
The benefits of meditation for children are numerous. According to recent research, children who are shown how to practice guided mindfulness reap several benefits including increased concentration and decreased anxiety. Studies have also found a connection between meditation and better executive functioning (planning and organization) skills, as well as decreased depression and increased feelings of happiness and kindness towards others (Forbes, 2016).
At Challenge to Change, when we introduce guided mindfulness, we tell the students that it is a practice. Specifically, in a guided mindfulness exercise, we are practicing lying as still as possible—something that is not always easy to do. We are also practicing ignoring outside distractions since we have no control over them, only over ourselves.
Most importantly, we tell students that we are practicing listening to our thoughts without needing to do anything about them. A common misconception among many is that in meditation we are striving to clear our minds of all thoughts. While we are certainly hoping to quiet and reduce the number of thoughts crowding into our minds, we also know that no matter what we do, we will always have thoughts. Instead, we encourage the children to think of their thoughts as leaves floating down a stream or clouds drifting across the sky—to see them and acknowledge them, but to know that their presence is temporary and to continue to focus on their breathing in their practice.
It is important to note that the reason we put this practice at the end of a lesson rather than at the beginning is that asking children to lie quietly and breathe is a very vulnerable practice, so we must first build up trust. This trust is built through working with the breath, healthy movement, and a mindfulness lesson of some sort—our first three parts of practice.
To help the children anchor their minds during a guided mindfulness practice, we always play a gentle song or “yoga story” (guided mindfulness script) during the exercise. Our scripts fall into three categories: guided imagery in which one takes an imaginative journey of the mind; exercises that focus on the physical self, such as a progressive muscle relaxation, a specific breath practice, or a body scan; and guided imagery practices, such as a kindness or Metta meditation, that focus on spreading good will to others.
No matter the form it takes, the end goal of a guided mindfulness practice is to give children the time and space to become comfortable simply being with themselves in stillness. The benefits of the practice are numerous, and we often find that the “Yoga Nap” is the favorite part of practice for most children. They end the practice calm and at peace with the present, at which point we move on to our final part of our mindfulness study—the Close of Practice.