Crewe Football Team Get The Yoga Bug

We’re always on the look-out to see who’s got the yoga bug. In an effort to freshen up his team’s fitness regime, new Crewe manager Steve Davis has introduced yoga. “They’re not a very flexible bunch,” he said in an interview with Stoke radio. “If you can help flexibility, you prolong their careers. It will cut down the injuries and strengthen areas where they’re weak at the moment. It’s something different and it will freshen things up.” As Crewe have bounced back from four straight defeats by winning their first two matches in League Two, perhaps more teams will consider taking up yoga?!

Olympic Torch Carrier Nominee, Fenella Lindsell, On Why PE Doesn’t Need To Be Competitive

In this week’s Scrubbing Up, BBC’s Sports and exercise medicine expert, Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller asks whether the opportunity to encourage children to be more active is being missed in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics. He warns that the physical competence of future generations is being put at risk because of a failure to give PE the same priority as other subjects in the school curriculum. Contrasting the support available for children who struggle in maths or English with the approach taken to physical development, cardiovascular fitness and co-ordination, Dr Franklyn-Miller argues that there should be compulsory tests for key physical skills at each of the key stages as children progress through school.

With one in three 10 and 11-year-olds in England overweight or obese, childhood obesity is a serious problem. However the problem goes far beyond childhood obesity and the associated poor health outcomes. Recently Sally Goddard Blythe, Director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, concluded that up to half of children were not ready for school at the age of five because of their “sedentary lifestyles”. This was because pre-school children found it difficult to grip pencils properly, sit still, stand up straight and even catch a ball after failing to develop key physical and communication skills at a young age.

We’ve written previously about the critical links between the development of motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination and the development of literacy and numeracy skills. The development of fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination is similarly essential to sporting success. To reach age appropriate targets in the development of left and right brain activity, children need to practice mid-line activities such as crawling, marching and balancing. For some children, developing these skills is particularly challenging so making this fun is key.

That’s why YogaBugs developed its 10 week Impact & Change course for primary schools. This course has been devised to improve children’s physical, emotional and social development whilst giving schools real results. At the beginning and end of the programme, we evaluate the children on skills such as flexibility, balance, co-ordination and concentration. At the end of the course, the results are sent to the school with a full report showing their improvement. The course combines story-telling and magical adventures with yoga inspired moves so that children are encouraged to develop essential developmental motor skills.

We’re concerned about the physical competence and health outcomes of this and future generations and that’s why we’re absolutely committed and passionate about changing children’s lives. Our number one priority is nurturing a love and appreciation for physical exercise and healthy living in our young children. Competition can come later!

Meditation improves the immune system, reduces blood pressure and even sharpens the mind

New research suggests that mindfulness meditation – an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions – is an effective way of helping people to overcome stress and improve their quality of life.  This research indicates that this practice has health and performance benefits, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.  The research, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the Association of Psychological Science, draws on existing scientific literature to attempt to explain the positive effects.

Effective mindfulness meditation requires training and practice. It has distinct measurable effects on our subjective experiences, our behaviour, and our brain function. For example a study has found that people who meditate in the long-term have significantly larger hippocampi – the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. This study also found those who had meditated also had increased grey matter!

Stress is a major factor in heart disease; meditation experts say the technique can help control it. One study discovered that patients with heart disease who practised Transcendental Meditation cut their chances of a heart attack, stroke and death by half, compared with non-meditating patients.

You can

‘Stop and Think – Words Can Hurt’ – The Theme For Anti-Bullying Week 2011

Anti-bullying Week 2011 is running from 14th – 18th November, with the slogan ‘Stop and Think – Words Can Hurt’ this year’s campaign is focused on tackling verbal bullying. This year’s theme aims to:

  • Challenge the casual use of derogatory language in schools, colleges and communities;
  • Raise awareness of the consequences of using demeaning and harassing language through technology;
  • Encourage schools, colleges and other settings to create language charters that makes it clear what is and isn’t acceptable;
  • Give children and young people the tools to challenge others when they use derogatory language, to find new ways of expressing how they feel if they are angry or upset, and to make a conscious effort to speak positively and to compliment others;
  • Encourage adults to consider how they model the use of language with children and young people (this includes all practitioners working with children and young people but also celebrities and people in positions of power).

Ahimsa, or non-violence, is one of the five ethical principles (or yama) of yoga. Ahimsa is the foundation upon which all of yogic life is based and honours all life, however great or small. Ahimsa asks us to consider the consequences of our actions, both upon ourselves as well as the world around us to be mindful of how we speak and behave towards others.

Here are some ideas you can try out at home and in the classroom:

  • ‘Thought for the day’ at home, in class and at assemblies;
  • Making a ‘kindness’ chain with interlocking strips of paper each of which has on it a kind deed. This could instead be a ‘wall of kindness’ made with cut-out paper bricks;
  • ‘Trash Trash Talk’ – unpleasant names are written on individual slips of paper and put into a rubbish bag;
  • Discussion around ‘Sticks and stones…..but names will break our spirit’;
  • Play co-operative games;
  • Hold a compliments day;
  • Have a ‘Secret Pals’ day. Students anonymously give compliments and carry out kind deeds for their secret pal;
  • Discuss what to do if you see someone else being bullied verbally.

A Yoga Routine For Winter Warming

During the winter, we may feel more like curling up but that actually makes us colder. When it’s chilly outside, yoga is a great way to get the body moving, warm up the muscles and get the blood circulating. You could start this routine with a song. “The Grand Old Duke of York” is great for pre-school children as you can march up and down the hill as you sing.

Cycling: Start off by lying on your back. Cycle up the hill – slowly at first and then faster. Slow down to a stop.

Rocking Horse: Roll up and down on your mat. As you do, try to touch the floor behind you with your feet. Do this 5-6 times. Come up to a sitting position with your feet together in butterfly pose.

Butterfly Pose: Sit up tall, bend your knees and bring the bottom of your feet to touch. Flap your butterfly wings to warm up your hips.

Cat Pose: Kneel on the floor on all fours. Arch your back like a cat and make some meowing noises!

Cow Pose: Kneel on the floor on all fours. Raise your head up and sink your back down into a deep curve.

Sun Salutations for YogaBugs

Hello Sun: Stand up tall and stretch your arms overhead. Shout “Hello Sun!”

Hello Earth: Bend down to touch the floor into Ragdoll. Shout “Hello Earth!”

Lunge: Step one foot backwards into a lunge, the way runners do when they’re starting a race. Shout “beep, beep!”

Dog Pose: Take both legs back so that your hands and feet are on the floor and your buttocks are in the air (the shape of an upside-down triangle).

Lunge: From dog pose, bring one foot forwards between your hands. Shout “beep, beep!”

Ragdoll: Bring both feet together. You will now be folded forward with your arms and shoulders completely relaxed. Come back to standing.

Repeat this sequence of moves three to four times. 

Monkey Jumps: Finish off by doing three to five big star jumps. Start from a squat. Jump up as high as you can whilst making monkey sounds.

To wind down, you can finish by singing a favourite song to keep the energy positive.

Life Is Now A Series Of Adventures!

It’s not often that you’re able to take a supersonic trip to space, sail the ocean waves on a pirate galleon and head off to the jungle as part of your job but that’s now part of my everyday life. This year, 2011, has also been a constant series of adventures, starting back in January when I had my first child, Dylan.

The decision to set up a YogaBugs business is a new venture for me professionally and one that I’m very excited about. Originally I trained as a nursery nurse and went on to do a degree in Early Childhood Studies at Wolverhampton University. Whilst working as an early year’s teacher, I was shocked to find pre-school children becoming obese and suffering from poor health, bad diet, asthma and allergies. I also noticed how few families encouraged their young children to exercise. When in 2009 the opportunity came to work for one of YogaBugs’ franchisees, I saw that as my chance to make a positive difference to children’s lives. I helped to roll out YogaBugs Impact & Change programme in local primary schools and saw at first-hand how an exercise such as yoga helps children to calm and focus, whilst keeping them keeping flexible and mobile.

I’ve always been interested in keeping fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Aged 13, I was diagnosed with scoliosis (which causes curvature of the spine) and advised not to exercise so that I didn’t cause any further pain and damage. Now I know that this was the wrong advice. Gentle exercise and yoga especially, can aid injury recovery and is an excellent complement to other forms of sport. My condition was very painful growing up, but I loved sport so started to swim and run regularly. I went on to run for my school in the county school races, and completed the Great North Run. One day I’d like to run the London Marathon.

When I became pregnant, I gave a lot of thought to how I could continue to work and achieve a work-life balance with a young child. Coincidentally YogaBugs introduced a new range of franchise options making this affordable at the time I was thinking seriously about running my own business. Aware that YogaBugs is a well-known company through its involvement with Dragons’ Den and Waybaloo, and being so passionate about yoga and fitness myself, making the decision to take on a franchise was relatively easy. Using my previous experiences, I set about putting together a plan over the summer so that I’d be ready to turn my dreams into reality in time for the autumn term.

Through children’s yoga, I strongly believe I can help children to have a happier and healthier lifestyle. Running my own franchise allows me the freedom to manage my own time and work around Dylan. I now have the perfect work-life balance! I teach classes one day a week and have fantastic teachers who teach for me the other days.

I’m really excited about introducing our innovative yoga inspired programme to schools, nurseries, children’s and community centres in the Birmingham & Solihull area. I’m also creating employment opportunities in the area, particularly for those who would find it helpful to work around school hours. As demand for classes is growing, I’m going to train up to five more teachers to join my team.

Thank you to More Than Mummies for featuring this story –

In The News: The Benefits of Yoga For Pre-Schoolers

Waybaloo, the popular CBeebies programme, has introduced basic yoga moves to a whole new audience of pre-school children. This in turn has generated interest from nurseries and children’s centre as they see the benefits of this inclusive form of exercise. This month Practical Pre-school magazine ran a feature about the benefits of children’s yoga. The article looks at how yoga can help children with developmental challenges to develop essential co-ordination skills.

New Research Shows That Yoga Helps Adolescents Deal With Asthma

Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. In the UK, over 1.1 million children have asthma; that’s about 1 in 10 children. The good news is that up to three-quarters of children with asthma will grow out of it. Now researchers at the University of Cincinnati say that their findings on the benefits of yoga could help physicians and other health care providers find other ways of help children and adults self-manage this condition.

The University of Cincinnati study, led by Sian Cotton, Assistant Professor at the Department of Family & Community Medicine, looked at how adolescents deal with their asthma and  which coping methods best affected their mental and physical health outcomes. As part of their study, the team analysed 10 forms of complementary and alternative medicine used for the management of asthma symptoms – including meditation, yoga, massage, herbs and dietary changes. Researchers found that these methods proved helpful, improving both mental and physical health outcomes.

These results came as no surprise to Fenella Lindsell, founder of YogaBugs.

“Children nowadays, especially teenagers are under a lot of stress. We tend to hold our breath and breathe more shallowly when we are under stress. Breathing correctly is important as we tend to use as little as a third of our lungs; capacity. In yoga, we learn how to breathe deeply and evenly. Abdominal breathing is an easy way to increase the supply of oxygen to the lungs. You simply sit up straight and then breathe in and out steadily through the nose.”

Downward facing dog is a great posture to practice as it helps to get more oxygen into the lungs, increasing blood flow and improving circulation. This also has the benefit of rejuvenating the brain cells and invigorating the brain. Simple backbends such as Cow, Cobra and Bridge are great for opening up the chest area and strengthening the immune system. It’s important to bear in mind that children’s bodies are forming so any yoga postures and breathing exercises should be practised with care.”

Space breathing, using the Butyko Method, has been proven in clinical trials to help people with respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis and COPD. It consists of a series of safe, simple and effective breathing exercises, which restore natural patterns in the body systems and decreases symptoms so reducing the need for medication.


Yoga Poses For A Calming Bedtime Routine (Pre-School Children)

Yoga is a great way to wind down from the day’s activities as there are so many calming postures you can do as part of the bedtime routine. It will help to settle your child before they climb into bed and prepare them for a good night’s sleep. So here are a few ideas you can incorporate into your evening routine.

Start by sitting on the floor with your child. S/he can be seated on your lap, beside you or face to face. Inhale a few deep breaths, filling your belly with lots of air. Then place your hand on your belly. Count to four as you inhale, hold for one count and then breathe out smoothly as you count to four again. Repeat this three to four times.

Now you can introduce some yoga poses, always starting in a quiet pose such as child’s pose. Then move into more active poses to help the muscles to unwind. End in a child’s pose to quiet the body and the mind. Finish the routine with a relaxation pose; a guided visualisation will make this time extra special

Child’s Pose: Sit on your heels, with your arms at your side. Lean forward, head to floor.

Cat Pose: Kneel on the floor on all fours. Arch your back like an angry cat!

Cow Pose: Kneel on the floor on all fours. Raise your head up and sink your back down into a deep curve.

Dog Pose: Hands and feet on the floor with buttocks in the air (the shape of an upside-down triangle).

Gentle Spinal Twist: Sitting with your legs out-stretched, twist to one side. You’re your back straight. Place your hands on the floor and look behind you. Rest in the twist for a few moments; then repeat the twist on the other side.

Sleepy Star: Sitting upright, bring your legs into a diamond shape. Extend your arms out to the side. Sway gently over to one side and then to the other, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as you do so.

Kiss Your Knee Pose: Sit opposite your child. Stretch one leg out in front and bring the other foot against your thigh. Inhale to stretch your spine. As you exhale, bend forward to kiss your knee! Repeat on the other side.

Relaxation Pose: Lie flat on your back, arms at sides, feet slightly apart. Close your eyes and rest. End with a guided visualisation:

Imagine that you are lying outside, looking up at the dark, velvet sky. The sky is so clear that you can see lots and lots of stars twinkling brightly. Each star has a special meaning. When you look at the Peace star, you feel calm and silent inside. When you look at the Love Star, you feel warm and loving. And when you look at the Happy Star, you feel bright and happy. Spend a few moments looking at your favourite star.