As the concept of children doing yoga and mindfullness continues to make its ways into mainstream culture, we thought it would be important to share one of our favorite mindfulness and meditation books for kids. Please read the review below followed by a point reflection on how the skills in this book impacts students learning yoga with histories of trauma and physical disabilities.
Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel is one of our favorite books for 5-12 year olds learning a mind body practice for the very first time. The author creates age appropraite analogies between meditation and real life situations that kids interact with day to day. One of our favorite analogies from the book was looking at meditation like surfing; the point is to be able to learn how to move through hard emotions and thoughts like a surfer moves over waves.
One of the other parts of the book and it’s exercises that I really liked were the sections for the parents (or teachers). It is just as important for parents and teachers to have a mindfulness practice as it is for our students. In many ways, we are their best yoga and meditation teachers since children model and learn the behaviors they are exposed to over a long period of time. If more children were exposed to more adults practicing a yoga and mindfulness meditation as a part of their daily routine, I really think we would see some big changes in the aggressive behaviors many student act out towards one another.
The book covers a variety of themes exercises including learning how to breathe, becoming aware and increasing attention, handling difficult emotions, learning to be kind, establishing a sense of trust, addressing the worries in our minds, and many more emotional intelligence skills every child faces internally and should learn in childhood. Of all the skills this book offers, the absolute best foundational skill the book spends an entire chapter exploring is the teaching students (and parents +teachers) how to get out of their heads and into their bodies.
The author writes:
“Your body can tell you a great deal. Like a finely tuned instrument, it responds to emotions such as shock, tension, fear and happiness to cheerful thoughts or a head full of worries. These signals are all there for a reason, telling you something about this moment, about your limits and your needs. Stiff shoulders, heart palpatations; knot in your stomach, feeling too tired to get up or the opposite, bouncing out of bed, feeling freshin and in high spirits. Your body registers it all.” (pg. 40)
The reason it is so important for all kids but especially our Fit Abilities students to understand to learn how to read their body signals (called somatic skills) is that as a yoga program for students with a wide variety of special needs, we recognize that the remnance of neurological,social emotional and psychological trauma live in the body. When our students (and adults) learn to tune in, read our body signals and learn yoga and mindfulness excercsies to get us out the fight, flight, freeze response (which is the normal response to the long term impact of trauma), we/they have taken the first step to learning how to trust ourselves and experience a neurophysiological freedom. That is the beginning of true social emotional healing for anyone, regardless of the presence of trauma or disability.
Two Final Points About This Book:
1.The book was written mostly for typically developing children: physically and social/emotionally. It’s important to understand the high prevalence Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) or childhood trauma can be present in a group of children. Some the activities mentioned in this book are not necessarily trauma informed or appropriate for students with known histories of trauma. You should always give students the option to close their eyes, participate in any guided imagery meditation or to sit at all. In fact, the very thought of “sitting still like a frog” might trigger some students into a fight, flight, freeze response. We say this in hopes that you can read this book as a way of getting ideas for your own class and know which ones would or would not be appropriate or know that a student who might be hestitant to these practices might be apprehensive for a completely psychologically soundsreason. To understand more about making yoga and mindfulness trauma informed, please consider reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk or Overcoming Trauma with Yoga by David Emerson.
2. For students who are visually impaired or experience other disabilities some of the analogies used in this book may seem esoteric and conceptually out of reach as many children with disaiblities but especially those with visual impairments learn through personal experience. Many of individuals with visual impairments only know as much as they have personally experienced since what they see is limited. If they have not experienced seeing, hearing or possibly surfing themselves, this analogy we stated in the beginning might not make the cognitive connection the author intended to. For more information on accessible yoga and the benefit of people who face issues with physical access, please see the Fit Abilities Yoga Teacher’s professional page UD Yoga
You can find the guided imagery recordings from the book for free at the link below:
You can purchase the book here