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Body Mind for Children

Creative ways to learn from nature and themselves
by Susan Woodd

Over the past ten years an ever increasing amount of adults have been benefiting from ancient wisdom through such as things Yoga, T’ai Chi/Chi Kung and Meditation fused with modern techniques and exercise systems while taking into account different learning styles. 

Now there is an ever increasing awareness that by introducing these concepts as a fun activity for children, we can not only give them a strong personal foundation, but help to balance our highly technological world and give them the best possible start in life.

Childhood is a vibrant time when natural energy and creativity is rising, and when eyes and minds are open and learning can be fun, which makes it a perfect time for children to explore and enjoy these principles while at the same time developing new skills. 

However, the tendency of our fast pace society is to rush children into adulthood, brought about by the desire for them to succeed, which makes activities which are supposed to be fun; hotbeds of competition with jam packed schedules, leaving no time for family and play. 

Teachers and parents can so often feel inadequate or under stress in the face of this current social climate and its demands. So rather than drawing  from a exercise system taken from a particular manmade culture, learning can be based on the laws of the natural world: Human nature itself - which includes how to manage and balance our energy  and discover how our inner organs can effect how we think, move, feel and behave. 

This will not only give parents and teachers clear answers as to why this hectic pace happens, but also ways of restoring balance and increasing self confidence. It can also give constructive ways to address all areas of life from exercise to food, and social interaction to self awareness, so each child can be inspired to participate, not only in the management of their energy, health and well being, but that of their peers and the planet as well.

By demonstrating and sharing such concepts and ideas with children we will be taking on an active role in their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, getting them away from the television, computer and video games and helping to replace what, in excess, can be potentially harmful, with what is life enhancing. By understanding the nature and skills of their organs, you can show children how to unlock their inner powers and potential. 

Energy that is in excess or deficient, suppressed or repressed will always find an alternative way to express itself, and if blocked or misunderstood, can often take the form of a negative or inappropriate action or, if directed inwards, can compromise the health of the body. By channelling such energy and learning to respond and balance it appropriately, it can be released and redirected in a more constructive and life enhancing way.

This approach puts them in touch with their bodies, helps them to understand how their mind works, and introduces them to the study of human nature and how to work with the natural forces in and around them. It can be adapted to different age groups:

• 4 – 7 yrs:  through movement, feeling, imagination, pictures, rhythm and creating stories around these characters
• 7 – 9 yrs: introducing different techniques, sports, arts, dance and use the written word and modelling. This is the ideal time to start teaching discernment of what is good, and what is living against their true nature.
• 8 yrs:  is a time for encouraging more social interaction and learning how some behaviours can be supportive while others can be destructive or controlling.
• 9 -12 yrs: a time to discover how to incorporate these interactive skills and abilities and how to integrate them into both school and home life.
• From 12 upwards these same principles and skills can be used at school, university, and even taken into the work place as a self empowering foundation to maximise potential, improve social interaction and enhance self confidence and self awareness and maintain health.

We live in a world where more and more information is being thrown at us. The child in balance with solid foundations has more of an awareness of what is good and what is harmful, but still their reasoning power is often not mature enough to distinguish between what is best for them and what is not, which is why we can use carefully thought out games and different scenarios in a creative way to teach these necessary life skills.

The Core Fundamental aspects to consider:

Complementary opposites (such as the concept of day and night) addresses such issues as: Left/Right Brain Integration, natural energy cycles and sleep patterns to improve performance and wellbeing, and decrease stress.

So much of our modern lifestyle and what dominates our environment encourages imbalance in our body/brain integration and body/mind function. When we look at the typical school, work and home environment today, many activities and qualities attributed to the left brain emerge as dominant. An ever increasing number of school assignments, coupled with the rapidly escalating stream of information overflow into the home environment, which instead of being a place of rest, is now an extension of the school room. 

Children are under more and more pressure to keep up and this encourages a stress response - a left-brain activity. Even athletics, sports and music, all right-brain activities, often pressurise children to compete and perform. Add to this television, computer games and computers coupled with less and less time left for developing the right brain functions of non-visual concepts such as visualization, imagination, rhyme, rhythm and creative expression, the left/right balance is thrown out even more. 

Children and adults alike are also sometimes not getting adequate exposure to nature, movement, natural light or good quality seasonal foods, so this encourages elevated stress levels in the body which again stimulates left-brain activity over the right. This can lead to obesity and the use of drugs, as they try to compensate for the imbalance they feel.

Which side of the brain dominates has strong implications upon our learning capacity and preferences. By using games and exercises that reunite mind and body, and encourage optimal brain balance and function thus stimulating both sides of the brain goes a long way to correct imbalances common in the playgrounds and homes of today. We need to encourage spontaneous exercises (rather than programmed), the use of rotational and spiralling movements for body/mind integration and the inclusion of art, music, improvisation, variety, creativity, breathing exercises, helping to empower social interactive skills.

Our vital energy or life force
We acquire our energy (Chi or Prana) by what we inherit from our parents (our constitution) and then, after birth, through what we eat and drink, the air we breathe and from the environment around us. Maintaining a balanced flow of this Chi energy relies on awareness throughout our everyday lives of how and where our energy is acquired, expended and then restored. We can increase or waste this vital resource through how we think, feel and behave.  So we need to address all these three levels and teach children how to manage their energy and its natural ebb and flow.

To manage the planets vital resources we must first have a concept of the value and management of our own, which includes the importance of living, eating and exercising in harmony with the seasons and our body clock.

Meridians
These are the channels or pathways through which energy (Chi ) flows to nourish our organs and systems.  Movement, stretching, breathing and mental focus can direct and unblock these channels and specific games and exercises can keep the body energy flowing, release accumulated tensions or irritation, improve posture and keep illness at bay, thereby teaching simple but powerful health self management.

The Philosophy of the Five Elements of Nature
As well as experiencing the complementary opposites and how they create balance we can explore the Five Elements System, which provides the groundwork in which learning takes place. It helps us to explore the different qualities of the energy in nature and ourselves, how these elements are expressed in the movements that we make, the thoughts we have and our feelings and behaviours, enabling us to detect signs of excess or deficiency. In this way the training also has a deep influence on the organic function of the body as well as on psychological states.

As our energy ebbs and flows it gives us a rising energy to get us up, an outward energy to send us out, and energy to draw us back to our centre and re-group, there is also an energy to help consolidate and concentrate and energy for resting and relaxing. The true art of living is to have the correct energy for the time of day, season of the year, work we want to do and games we want to play, and the people we interact with. Understanding this 5 element System gives both children and adults an invaluable tool to help balance and support and integrate or communicate constructively with others.
 
The aims are to :

• Help children to learn from nature and draw out their full potential as learners and discover their innate skills and preferences.
• Assist them to concentrate and focus the mind
• Introduce them to the fundamental concepts of nature and human nature
• Connect them to the source of who they are and can be, and deepen self awareness and build up self esteem.
• Relaxation techniques to clear the mind and enhance learning
• Introduce games to encourage social interaction, co-operation and sensitivity
• Enhance listening skills and the ability to follow instructions
• How to work constructively with their five senses and make a smooth transition from play to learning, and from home to school.
• Encourage emotional literacy and group interaction
• How to work as a team yet value their uniqueness
• Develop awareness of their body and how to manage their health.
• Recharges the immune system, enhances flexibility of mind and body
• Link moves and exercises together with themed stories and sequences, and encourage them to make up their own
• Breathing exercises that helps calm anxieties or alter moods
• Peaceful postures and stillness so they can find quietness
• Meridian stretches to balance and unblock their energy
• Learning a form or sequence of moves gives them a learning objective
• Help teachers and parents and those actively working with children to observe and recognize patterns and make the learning experience more enjoyable and healthier.
• Explore the food and behaviour connection and design personal action plans
• How to recognise, support and balance over or under active behaviours and encourage self empowerment and self worth

Mind and Body Classes can vary from 30 – 60 minutes depending on where and how they are taught. They need to consist of warm up exercises, exercises for health, fun themed classes, partner work and interactive games. Ending with relaxation, visualization and breathing techniques.

The next UK training in on 8/9 November 2008. For further information courses in the United Kingdom: Sue Woodd: susan.woodd@virgin.net or visit www.suewoodd.com 

The next  training in Sweden is on 29/31 August 2008 For Europe and Scandinavia please contact:A. Hedrėn:  tina.hedren@tele2.se or visit www.bodymindconcepts.se

 








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