Meet Meg

I am a Grand Rapids, Michigan based yoga teacher with a strong emphasis on building self-esteem and self-confidence. I have several programs designed to target anxiety, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence to help you live a mindful and authentic life. Whether you are looking for an in-school program, private lessons, corporate events, studio classes, or a custom themed class event, I have a program to fit your needs. I look forward to working with you!

Contact me at mthorntonyoga@gmail.com

Ahimsa: Compassion and Yoga

I have been working with a teenage girl for several weeks now, and yesterday we were talking about the Yamas and Niyamas. We have been briefly touching on them since we started our yoga lessons, and she requested that we dig a little more in depth with them. I thought the idea was fantastic, and I had just finished a workshop as well as 3 books on the topic, so I was itching to spread my spiritual wings. I was humbled by how incisive and discerning her questions were. In fact, several required a next day email so I could think them through before answering.

I decided to break down the first Yama, Ahimsa, a little more based on her insights and those that I have acquired throughout trainings and readings. With her permission I summarized our conversation and put it into a digestible format to show how easy it is to incorporate the yamas into your life.

Wait, what’s a Yama?

Yoga is made of 8 different limbs.

Yamas- Moral restraints – How we interact with the outside world- There are 4

Niyamas- Practices – How we interact with ourselves and our environment – There are 4

Asana- Poses – Movement – What most people envision when they think of yoga

Pranayama- Breathing techniques

Pratyahara- Turning inward – Detaching from the world

Dharana- Concentration – Calming the mind

Dhyana- Meditation

Samadhi- Bliss – Zen

Ahimsa is the first yama. It literally means abstention/restraint from violence. Most today refer to Ahimsa as practicing compassion or not causing harm.

Cool, I’m not violent so I’ve mastered this one, right?

Okay, I’ll admit, this was my first thought when I started learning about the yamas. No, I do not go around physically inciting violence, but ahimsa stretches beyond physical violence and includes violent words and thoughts.  When we hear the word violence, most of us think of weapons or fists, but in yoga, violence means anything that causes harm. Most of us are far less innocent on that front.

But as long as it remains a thought, it can’t hurt anyone.

Your thoughts cannot hurt other people, but fostering harmful thoughts in your mind will hurt you. Can you be a non-violent person if you have aggressive thoughts running through your mind? Most likely not. That aggression will come out in one form or another. It may be a hurtful look, unwelcoming body language, or an unkind slip of the tongue. Unfortunately, conquering thoughts is the hardest part of the process. You literally have to learn a new way to think.

So be kind and compassionate to every person and I’ve got it?

Not quite. Ahimsa does not only apply to people; it applies to all living things. Those little ants on your picnic blanket, the mouse in your garage, and the cow in the field all deserve compassion. This is the tenant of yoga that leads many, but certainly not all, yogis to a vegetarian lifestyle. Trees and flowers and rivers and oceans are all living things that deserve to cared for and exist free from violence. So your non-harming lifestyle must reach out to every being on the earth.

Okay, so compassion to people, animals, and nature and then I’ve got it?

Almost. One of the most important people to show kindness and compassion to, is yourself. You cannot be a compassionate being if you think violent or harmful thoughts about yourself. I do not mean this in a form of reprimand for those self-deprecating thoughts, but as something that everyone needs to watch about themselves. Your needs and your well being matter. You are just as worthy, if not more, of your compassion as everyone else you encounter. You need to remind yourself of all the good inside and outside of you. Tell yourself how smart, attractive, funny, amazing, and fantastic you are. You need your kind thoughts, and those kind thoughts will make every aspect of your life better.

Seem easy? Here’s where it gets tough.

The tough part about living Ahimsa is that you do not get to choose who to bestow your compassion upon. EVERY LIVING BEING is one that you must treat with compassion and non-violence. Many people are easy to be kind to, but just as many make it difficult. You do not get to give up Ahimsa if you are dealing with a difficult person, or in a bad mood, or have different religions, or different political beliefs, or … I could go on and on. If they are alive, they deserve to not be harmed by you in any way.

So should I not fight for my political/social beliefs?

Yes, please do! The world needs passionate people working to make things better! Just make sure you do it without attacking individuals. It is a mark of maturity to be able to voice an opinion without attacking all those who have different views. Can you disagree with their beliefs without allowing violent thoughts toward them? Not everyone makes this easy, especially if a passionate issue is the topic, but the point is to strive for that one good thought.

So I don’t have to remain neutral on all topics?

No! A key aspect to Ahimsa is intention. What you do is less important than why you do it. The example that I use is 2 people applying for the same job. 1 person applies because he finds out he’ll be the boss of a guy that was mean to him in high school. Person 2 applies for the job because she thinks she could do a lot for the community by improving the state of this business. Applying for the job is not what matters, what differentiated the 2 was their intention. The same is true when working towards a political project; are you doing this to crush the opposition, or because you truly believe your cause could improve lives? Check your motivation and you will have your answer.

What if someone is being rude to you?

Ahimsa absolutely does not mean complacency and it does not mean that you should accept mistreatment. Sometimes, it is an act of compassion towards yourself to cut someone out of your life, or remove a toxic relationship. If someone is mistreating you and there is simply no way to resolve the situation, there is nothing wrong with ending the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s part of life. Love and respect yourself enough to know that you deserve kindness from others. Ahimsa will come up again in how you talk about this person to others, and in how you respond if/when they attempt to remedy the hurt they caused. Once again, check your motivation and think about the greater good.

It’s also worth noting that Ahimsa does not mean that you will never feel angry again. Anger is a very natural emotion, and it inevitably will come up sometimes. The important thing is what you do with that anger. Yelling, cursing, berating, and physical violence are not acceptable ways to handle anger. See your anger for what it is: a temporary emotion. It only has the power over you that you allow it to have.

What do you mean by greater good?

Sometimes the most compassionate choice is one that may not look very compassionate on the outside. An act may not look very Ahimsa on first glance, but it is not a black and white topic. Physical violence is wrong, right? What if a parent hurts someone attempting to abduct their child? Then that parent chose the greater good. The greater good is making the choice that benefits the most people in a situation. Like the mouse in your garage we talked about earlier – leave him be if he’s not bothering anyone. Now, if he starts chewing up your wiring or spreading diseases to your pets, then removing him may be the most compassionate choice.  What was harmful to the mouse may have saved the lives of several dogs or cats. Again, look at intent not necessarily the act.

 

That concludes my Ahimsa run down! One thing that I did not have in my notes, but is worth mentioning, is that I urge you to practice compassion with yourself in those moments when you fail to master Ahimsa. This is a big and broad teaching, and not something you can conquer in a day. It is a process, a beautiful process, but a process none the less. There will be slip ups and mistakes but I truly believe that anyone who is dedicated to changing their life can master this.

Check back soon as I will run through all the yamas and niyamas and be releasing a daily journal to help you on your yoga path!

Namaste my friends!

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Event – My Fabulous Future

July 18 from 1-4 in my home

This event is for preteens-young teens with a focus on relieving fear and anxiety about the future. We’ll have a soothing yoga flow, guided imagery relaxation/meditation, snacks, and make vision boards.

All materials provided. Mats are available to borrow.

$25

Call, message, email or comment to reserve a spot. Spaces are LIMITED and materials are purchased based on the number of reservations. I cannot guarantee spaces without a reservation.

What’s In My Yoga Bag?

This isn’t the type of post I would normally write, but a surprising number of students have expressed curiosity about what I bring with me to teach yoga. For some reason, the contents of the yoga instructor’s gym bag are always of interest to my students, particularly my teenagers. It always makes me laugh when my students are peeking to steal a glimpse of what I brought along for my day at work. I know I’ve said it before, but yoga does not require a lot of gear. However, there are definitely ways to add some comfort to a day of teaching.

Disclaimer: This post does contain affiliate links. I make a small commission if you make a purchase via the images on my post. The opinions are all mine, and any money made simply allows me to keep up my blog.

HERBIVORE FACE MIST

This spray is my post class toner, cooling spray, and freshener all in one. Teaching is sweaty business, and I’m often not super fresh after one class, let alone 4. It’s nice to freshen up a bit between teaching. It also feels symbolic to me like cleansing away the last class so that I can be fully present for the next. The super light floral scent also helps.

Price: $16.00 for a 2 oz bottle

L’OREAL ELNETT SATIN HAIRSPRAY

I have super smooth pin straight hair that loves to poof up in heat. Updo’s slide right out and wearing my hair down has me looking like Sideshow Bob half way through class. Then this hairspray came waltzing (mailed) into my life from heaven (or a subscription box) and my hair has actually been able to survive class. It’s not sticky at all, but has serious holding power. It’s not perfect, but it’s by far the best hairspray I have ever used.

Price: $11.17

STRAP

Yes, most studios have straps available, but I will let you in on a dirty little secret (emphasis on dirty) those straps are rarely cleaned, and even more rarely cleaned well. I have seen studios pick up the strap basket and just spritz some Lysol in there completely neglecting the straps at the bottom or the inner area of the straps. It’s a little gross. I always bring my own. This is the set that I usually recommend because for a few dollars more than a strap, you also get 2 blocks.

Price: $18.90

DEODORANT

This is a personal one, and everyone has a trusted brand, and this is mine. On days that I’m teaching multiple classes, I always bring a clinical strength deodorant so that I don’t have to worry about reapplying.

Price: $7.92

TARTE GYM DAY SET

I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup when I teach. I work with a lot of teens and specialize in self-esteem building, so it sends mixed messages if I show up caked to the max. This set is a great toss in the bag for improvement while still looking natural. It’s not full blown makeup by any means, but the moisturizer gives a little highlighting sparkle without looking over the top. The makeup removing wipes are great for cleaning up before or after class. Admittedly, the mascara is not my favorite and I don’t use it often outside of teaching. It does, however, serve the purpose and leaves my lashes looking natural and fanned.

Price: $12.00

WATER BOTTLE

If a water bottle exists that can rival S’well, I haven’t found it yet. I can teach for 4 hours and still have ice cubes in my water bottle. They are not cheap, but they are so worth it. The lids are not the most convenient, but that’s what allows them to keep everything so cold. Plus, they come in lots of fun colors and designs.

Price: $35.00

TOWEL

A quality absorbent towel is a must for teaching. Somehow I always end up sweaty after class, even if I didn’t move along with my students. Like the face spray, I love to wipe down as much as I can and cleanse away the last class to start fresh at the next. If I have plans after teaching and can’t get to a shower, it’s a definite plus to whisk away the sweat. This brand is my favorite hand/body towel of those I have tried thus far. You can also get a matching hand towel and mat towel to prevent slipping during hot yoga.

Price: $8.95 for hand towel $24.97 for hand towel/mat towel combo

MAT CLEANER

Whether you borrow a studio mat or bring your own, cleaning the mat is just good manners. I always cleanse pre and post class, because I love the way this cleanser smells. Plus, at savasana would you rather smell lavender or days worth of sweaty feet? I like this set because it comes with a towel that is very gentle on your mat. Some of the wipes available are very abrasive and can shorten the lifespan of your mat.

Price: $10.62

AROMATHERAPY

I don’t bust this out in all of my classes because some of my students are very sensitive to smell. However, many of my students enjoy using my oils and can find one to target a problem that they are experiencing. I usually bring a bag full with several choices for them to try before purchasing their own. In small classes I will sometimes add some essential oil to almond oil and give them a little foot massage during savasana. And, to be real and honest, sometimes I need a minute to take in the focus essential oil before class.

Price: $18.99 for the set

BOOKS

It’s usually a safe bet that I will have a book on me at any given moment. I love to read and I usually keep a few around just in case. Calm is a book of soothing photography and quotes. I have formed a sort of game where I try to incorporate a quote from it into each class that I teach. The photographs are beautiful and calming, and have served as inspiration for guided meditations and relaxation exercises. Untethered Soul is a book that I keep on me so that I can pass it off to students. I will often announce that I am leaving it at the front of the room and if anyone is struggling and would like to read it they are welcome to borrow it. I have read it a few times and 99% of my students who read it have loved it as much as I do. Mindfulness On The Go has been a great way for me to show my students how they can work mindfulness into their everyday life. No matter how many times I tell them that they don’t need me, many of them only practice it when I lead a session. To remedy this, I have used this book to create mindfulness homework. I give them an exercise that they can do at home or work without my help.

Price: Calm is only available used starting at $2.11, Untethered Soul $14.73, Mindfulness On The Go $10.62

So there you have it! That is everything I have in my yoga bag at the moment! What do you keep in yours?

10 Things Your Yoga Teacher Wishes You Knew

Becoming a yoga instructor has changed my life in many ways. One of those ways was the insight that I gained about my teachers. I take classes and understand more about what makes my teachers tick, why they say the things they do, and why they respond to disruptions certain ways. Here are the 10 things I misunderstood before becoming a teacher.

1. Bodily noises barely phase us

I have kids, and I get that bodily noises are funny at home, but when you are in my class preserving your dignity is my top priority. With the twisting, bending, stretching, and relaxing it’s not uncommon for a noise or two to escape. We get it. You will be more concerned about it than we will. Just continue on and know that we won’t be laughing after class, and it will most likely happen at our next class.

2. It’s okay if I’m not your favorite teacher

The first time I taught a group class I decided to ask for feedback. One student said I talked too much, and another said I talked too little. One said my class was too intense, and another told me they didn’t feel the class was challenging. This was my wake up call that everyone is seeking something different when they come to a yoga class. I would love it if every student that walked into my class thought I was just the best thing since sliced bread, but that is highly unrealistic and not the standard by which I should measure myself. Finding a teacher that speaks to you is a very personal process, and it’s okay if I am not that teacher.

3. We have off days

Some classes I leave feeling like the god of yoga teaching. Some classes I don’t know how I made it through. I’m human, with good days and bad. Some days I have more to give my students than other days. As a teacher, I always do my best, but my best today might look different than my best tomorrow. Just know that I always strive to be great for you, but some days it just won’t flow the way I’d like.

4. It’s okay if you cry

Many poses in yoga draw emotions and memories to the front of your mind. Certain sections of the class are also likely to bring up tough emotions, particularly restorative poses; this is even more true after an intense strengthening sequence. We know this. We understand the physiology behind this. It’s okay. For most of us, the physical benefits of yoga is not the only thing that drew us to teaching. The emotional and mental benefits combined with the physical is what we love. It can be a process, and one that is often hard. Tears may or may not be part of that process, but if they are, it’s okay.

5. Our practice isn’t perfect

I have super tight hamstrings. Some days my practice flows smoother than others. There are days that I can balance better on my right side than my left. Some days my headstands flow effortlessly, and some days I tumble. My practice isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have to be. Training gave me the knowledge I need to improve my practice and to teach, but there is no end game in yoga.

6. I can’t be your doctor

Mainly because I am not a doctor. If it hurts, don’t do it. I have to trust you to know the difference between muscle building uncomfortable and shooting electric pain. If you signed up for a private lesson, I can work with your past injuries and help you find ways to modify the pose. But, if we are in a group lesson, I typically offer 1 or 2 modifications that may or may not work with you. For the most part, my advice to you will be to listen to your body and make the right choice for yourself. Beyond being a liability issue, that is simply responsible teaching.

7. We won’t judge if you fall

On the contrary, I love seeing my students challenge themselves and try something new! Sometimes if my students look too balanced in tree I will challenge them to close their eyes. It’s not to be mean, it’s because I love seeing the ‘Aha’ moment when you challenge yourself and succeed. Which brings me to number 8…

8. I love sharing in your successes

When you have a breakthrough in your practice physically or mentally, I love when you tell me! It really makes my day when I can witness a breakthrough or help someone reach a new level. It’s my favorite part of what I do.

9. I’m not here for a paycheck

To be blunt, no one goes into yoga for the money. For every six-figure yoga teacher, there are 500 barely scraping by. I’m here in your class because I love what I do, but know that most of us work other jobs too. Yoga is my passion and I am excited to share it with you, and that is the only reason I’m here.

10. There is more to yoga than what I teach

I teach the asanas, aka the poses, but there is so much more to yoga. In fact, there are 8 limbs to yoga, and the asanas are only 1. Some studios may encourage students to incorporate the other limbs into their teaching, but most will not. If you’re curious, ask me after class or jump on google. Just because I don’t talk about them doesn’t mean I don’t find them important.

So those are the 10 things I wish my students knew. Fellow teachers, anything you would add? Students, anything you wish your yoga teacher knew?

25 Yoga Gifts Under $50

The yoga industry is a $16,000,000 per year industry. That’s a little mind boggling when you consider that all you really need is a mat, a body, and hopefully a teacher. Piles and piles of “stuff” is not necessary, but may be helpful if you are committing to a yoga journey. As a yoga instructor, yoga related gifts seem to be a theme at birthdays and holidays, so I decided to compile a list of the favorites that myself and my colleagues have been given.

This post does contain affiliate links, meaning that I make a small amount from purchases made through the photo links. I never let this impact my integrity, and work hard to be as honest as possible in my business and writing. Thank you!

THE BEGINNER YOGI

Straps and blocks are the most commonly used yoga props. The straps build flexibility and allow for deeper stretches, and blocks can be used for safety and restorative poses. I like that this set comes with 2 blocks and the strap. Most of the time blocks are sold individually, but for many poses, having 2 blocks that are the same size will be helpful.
Current Price: $18.90

Looking for a yoga mat can leave your head spinning. For beginners, I typically recommend a Gaiam mat. They are affordable, decent quality, and comfortable. As you continue on with your yoga, you will likely have a better idea of what you want and need from a mat, but a Gaiam one is a great way to get started without a large investment.
Current Price:$35.97

Whichever mat you choose, it is wise to purchase a quality cleaner. Mats can get smelly, fast. I typically suggest cleaning your mat after every practice, if for no other reason than because sweaty foot smell is not the most relaxing during savasana. A lot of antibacterial cleaners out there are not made for yoga mats and will dry them out leading them to crack. Mats are an investment, a worthy one, but one that should be protected.
Current Price: $10.95

THE ON THE GO YOGI

Having a bag to transport your yoga mat is always a great idea. It provides protection from drying UV rays in your vehicle as well as the elements as you head into your studio. I personally prefer tote style bags as I find they fit the widest variety of mats. This bag comes in many patterns and has room to store valuables and a phone.
Current Price: $24.99


This is my preferred bag for when I am running to the studio from work. It’s big enough for a change of clothes, my purse, and shoes. Having a front holder for the yoga mat keeps valuable real estate for everything else I have to carry. Just make sure not to leave your mat in the sun as the UV rays can dry it out.
Current Price: $29.99

THE RELAXING YOGI


Bolsters are my new yoga love. Gentle support during restorative poses is one of the most therapeutic additions to my yoga practice. Pop it under your back during legs up the wall or reclined butterfly. Put it under your chest for thread the needle or sleeping pigeon. Savasana with your feet, knees, or hips raised. There are so many uses for the bolster, and it can really up your savasana game.
Current Price: Both round and rectangular are $37.99


Want to take your savasana to the next level? Introduce a lavender eye pillow. I am new to aromatherapy, and I am on the fence, but this pillow is phenomenal. I purchased mine, but for the craftier yogis this can be a diy project.
Current Price: $16.95

 

My favorite yoga studio provides these blankets. They can be rolled up and used as a bolster but double at providing warmth during savasana. Being cold during savasana can break the bliss pretty quickly.
Current price: $14.29

THE SWEATY YOGI

If hot yoga or vinyasa yoga is your jam, then you probably sweat. A lot. Having a towel that grips to your mat and absorbs the sweat is not just a comfort issue, it’s also a safety precaution. A wet mat and wet feet can quickly make balancing poses a wipe out hazard. This is my favorite of the yoga towels out there, but it may be wise to own a few if you practice frequently. They absorb all your sweat which protects your mat, but also leaves them smelling like they, well, absorbed a lot of sweat.
Current Price: $19.99

 

If you will be practicing power yoga, hot yoga, Bikram, vinyasa, or any other style of yoga that works up a sweat, I highly recommend investing in a sticky mat. The surface of the mat is sticky to give your feet traction no matter how sweaty you get. If you use a towel, it will provide extra grip to keep it from bunching and sliding. I use HeathYoga’s mat as I find it comfortable for any style of yoga meaning I don’t have to swap my mat out based on which class I attend.
Current Price: $31.95

 

For the sweaty yogini or long haired yogi, a sweat band is a life saver. These are moisture wicking meaning they not only keep the hair out of your face, but they also absorb the sweat. I also use them when I teach to keep me from fidgeting with my hair if I get nervous. They are also machine washable, but remember to skip the fabric softener with your moisture wicking gear.
Current Price: 12 pack for $16.99

THE SPIRITUAL YOGI

This is my favorite book for those looking to explore the spiritual aspects of yoga. The yamas and niyamas are broken down very clearly and applied to modern life.
Current Price: $8.99

Less intensive than Living Love, more of an overview, but still a great resource for those exploring all of the yoga philosophies. The topic is complex, but this is a simple and easy to read guide that also has activities designed to deepen your understanding.
Current Price: $8.99

THE PLAYFUL YOGI

Yoga wheels are a popular prop at the moment. I have mixed feelings on them, but they seem to be well loved by many. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas for how to use them.
Current Price: $33.97

These are a fun way to shake up (terrible pun intended) your yoga routine. Roll the dice, and you have thousands of new sequences for your home practice.
Current Price: $15.26

THE SORE YOGI

This is my only yoga prop that always ends up missing. My husband uses it to massage his back, my daughter uses it to massage her feet at her desk, but I keep it in my yoga room to massage tight muscles during stretches. If you have tight hamstrings like me, one of the fastest ways to release them is to massage during stretches, and a foam roller is quite helpful.
Current Price: $15.99

Tiger balm is my gooey tingly pain reliever. I have a tendency to push myself too hard and since I’m not 19 anymore, my muscles let me know when I have exceeded my limits. This balm works after yoga when my muscles ache, but I also find I have extra comfort using this before I practice. Learn from my mistake though, wash your hands after applying this. It stays on your fingers and will burn if it gets in your eyes.
Current Price: $7.25

This massage stick is a lifesaver for tight knots and all those aches that need firm pressure. While foam rollers provide gentle, soft support, this one is firm while still having a soft foam layer. This is my favorite for deep knots post-practice, but it is also helpful pre-yoga class. I find if I start class with my muscles loosened up, I can get a wider range of movement.
Current Price: $34.95

THE FUNNY YOGI

The kind of gift that can only be appreciated by a yogi with a sense of humor.
Current Price: $19.99

These were given to me as a gift, and they still crack me up. My son has basically stolen them though.
Current Price: $28.99

THE MINI YOGI

The set comes with 50 cards with sections on breath, balance, standing, forward folds, twists, back bends, partner, game, and time in. Each card has kid-friendly information on the poses as well as positive affirmations to say during the pose. I typically recommend these for the 5+ crowd as some of the poses may be too difficult for tiny yogis.

My son put Meddy Teddy on his birthday list (still months away) and that was the first I had heard of this bendy posable little bear. Absolutely adorable, and he also has a book all about him!
Current Prices: Bear $38.90 Book $12.35

THE MYSTIC YOGI

Harness the power of healing crystals through your water bottle. I do not know a lot about healing crystals, but I have (and love) this water bottle. I was looking for a glass water bottle for health reasons, and this one was given to me by a student. I definitely notice that the taste is very fresh and pure. The pod inside contains Smokey Quartz and Clear Quartz. It also comes with a protective sleeve for the clumsier yogis like me.
Current Price: $49.99

I will be the first to admit that this is one aspect of yoga that I know absolutely nothing about. This recommendation comes from a friend/fellow yoga teacher, but she has had a lot of fun with these. The cards tell stories about the origins and spiritual messages from different poses, and she will often share these stories in her classes.
Current Price: $19.99

The 7 Best Mindfulness Books for Kids

As a yoga teacher who works with children and teens, I have found that incorporating mindfulness into my teaching has made a far greater impact than yoga alone. At the risk of aging myself, kids are living in a different world than the one I grew up in, and it is not a world that encourages living mindfully. Between busy schedules, homework, and electronics, young people are just not given the opportunity to learn how to tap into their mind and bodies. Helping children and teens learn to live in the here and now comes with many benefits like improved academic performance, improved behavior, and relief from anxiety.

Before I began teaching mindfulness to children and teens I started by reading up on the subject. I knew how to teach mindfulness for adults, but not for children. Children and teens need it simple, engaging, and relatable. I started off by purchasing dozens of books, most of which were a waste of money. To save you from the same mistake, I have put together a list of the books that I actually use on a regular basis and the ones my children and students actually enjoy.

It is also worth noting that in my experience adults can benefit from mindfulness activities designed for children, but not the other way around.

*This post does contain affiliate links, meaning that I may make money if you purchase from the provided links. I truly appreciate the support!

Not a book, but these cards provide 50 different mindfulness activities for children. Many are customized for specific events, like when your child is trying something new. More importantly, they are all made for child sized attention spans. Almost all of the activities can be accomplished in under 5 minutes which makes them great for use in a classroom or yoga studio.

This book is one of my favorites, but I recommend it for younger age ranges. I use it mainly with 3-7 year olds when I teach in schools. The illustrations are beautiful, and I have incorporated it into many of the yoga classes I teach with kids.

This is the book I use with the widest age range. I should note, this is not a book like the others that I can simply read aloud to kids. It is intended for parents and teachers who are looking to introduce mindfulness. It has many activities that can be incorporated in school or at home. While the book is designed for children, I use the activities with teens and adults as well. My favorite activity from this book is to have kids learn to associate their emotions with different types of weather and then look at their emotional weather the same way we look at the weather outside. It becomes a quick check in to just ask them to sit quietly for a moment to check what their weather is like. The book also comes with a CD that can be used in classes and in school classrooms.

I chose this book for the list because it is the favorite of my 11 and 7 year olds. My 11 year old has found it helpful with her anxiety, and my 7 year old has found it helpful for his temper. I enjoy the fact that it is broken into different sections based on whether you want to help kids relax, focus, energize or more. To incorporate into a yoga class, I have to add breaths and some fun descriptions, but it is definitely worth the small investment if you plan to teach mindfulness.

Another favorite from my 8 and under students. What I like about this book is that it helps children see that bad days and bad feelings are normal, and helps them learn to cope with those feelings.  It also comes with instructions for a fun craft/activity at the end, and my students have really enjoyed making their own “mind jars.” It may be a little long for younger crowds, so with preschool age kids this book may be best after a recess or yoga session when they have had time to get their wiggles out.

While this is not a true mindfulness book, this is my favorite book for teaching children about self-talk. I use this during lessons geared toward anxiety, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Children give their thoughts a lot of power, and I love that this book helps them see that their thoughts are just that, a thought. It provides ideas for eliminating our negative self-talk so that we can feel our power. At the end of the book there is a great list of activities and discussions that parents can use to build their child’s self-esteem. And don’t we all need a reminder that we have some magic in us?

For your students teen through adults, this book has been another favorite. It provides mindfulness activities that you can use in your teaching as well as ideas for how they can incorporate it into their everyday lives. These are all made to be fast activities which seems to be preferred by teens. I also feel like this book helps to dispel some misunderstandings about mindfulness. So often students seem to think they have to wait for me to lead them, or wait until they can find a quiet place where they can just sit. This book shows them that mindfulness can be done anywhere, at any time.

BONUS BOOK:

This is the only book that I was hesitant to recommend, so I will make it a bonus on this list. This book has come with mixed reviews from those students whom I have used it with. The ones who found it helpful absolutely loved it, and those who did not absolutely hated it. There was no middle ground. First off, it reads like a text book and is designed for a school counselor or teacher. There are very few exercises that I would offer in a mindfulness class, but this is a common one for students to borrow from me. While many of my teens did not like the activities, I do think the introduction and explanation of mindfulness is valuable. It explains why mindfulness can be beneficial to their lives, and provides mindfulness activities for real life teen events like before an athletic event, driving, or college interview.

6 Yoga Poses for Happiness and Clearing Negative Emotions

Happy Summer Solstice! After your sun salutations, take the opportunity to throw in some poses known for clearing away the negativity inside of you.

If your foot doesn’t reach your hip, that’s okay. Just bring them as close to your hip as you can comfortably. Keep your bum on the floor. Keep your shoulders back and down to open your heart. Switch sides after 3-5 breaths.

Avoid if you have knee or back pain.

Start in tabletop and slowly lower your head as close to your knees as you can get comfortably. Grab your heels and breathe. Feel the safety of being tucked in and covered. You can modify by rolling a blanket under your knees.

Avoid if you have knee or neck pain.

Begin in Hero and slowly lean back. Stop several times to check for comfort before lowering all the way to the floor. After a few rounds of breath, come up to your elbows for a few breaths before rising up. This pose moves energy to the mind while opening the heart.

Avoid this pose if you have knee, ankle, or back pain.

Begin in Downdog. Lift your right leg, then slowly swing it in front of you. Extend your back leg straight behind you and keep your hips parallel. Slowly lower down as far as you can comfortably. If there is enough space, place a block under your hip for support, comfort, and to keep hips parallel. Exit this pose slowly. Switch sides after a few minutes.This pose does relieve stress, but it also relieves deep seated emotions. This is a good pose to really check in with yourself to see what comes up. Feel the emotion it brings, and allow it to pass through you. Healing starts by accepting what is buried underneath.

Avoid this pose if you have knee or hip pain or injuries.

After feeling emotions, Pyramid pose quiets the mind and makes us feel grounded. Step one foot back 2-3 feet and rotate it 45 degrees out. Face your torso forward and come down as far as you can with a flat back. Hands can be behind your back, or in front of you on a block. Switch sides.

Avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure or back pain.

Tree pose is great for feeling strong and big! Your foot can rest on your thigh or calf, but avoid your knee. If you need time to build to balancing, then allow your toes to touch near your ankle. You can really have your arms in any position, but for happiness and confidence I always recommend up and out. Make yourself big because you deserve to take up space!

Please practice all of these safely. Consult a physician if you have injuries or are new to yoga.