Category Archives: Body Awareness

Move Mindfully Card Deck and Sensory Systems

by Stephanie Kennelly

Therapro is excited to offer the Move Mindfully Card Deck, available at our store. This product helps integrate physical fitness, mindfulness and social emotional skills into practice. The deck not only offers individual poses, but also routines to address a variety of common needs, such as “accident prone” and “lethargic”.

As a Blog Bonus, we are offering a free download of three poses from the card deck to get you started with a simple routine.  Read on to learn more about each pose and how it relates to your Occupational Therapy goals.

Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing

Getting into the Pose:
Belly Breathing is often taught with the Hoberman Sphere. The brightly colored, collapsible tool offers a visual tracking point to feel the diaphragm expand and contract. However, hands can simply be placed at heart and belly when teaching belly breathing as well. To start, we recommend a seated position in a chair, for back support. As a modification, this pose can also be completed laying on the floor. In this position, try a small object or toy placed on the belly for extra visualization of the up and down movement.

Therapy Resource:
Belly breathing is a great way to work on postural stability while maintaining an upright position without a collapsed trunk or slouched shoulders. This pose also taps into interoception and body awareness as breathing is tracked.

More Info on Belly Breathing

Tree Pose

Tree Pose

Getting Into the Pose:
Tree Pose is an introductory balancing pose that all body abilities can enjoy. We start by cueing the heel to touch the ankle. As balancing progresses, the foot can be placed on the calf or thigh. However, make sure to avoid any pressure on the knee joint. The hands press together at midline, palm to palm, providing additional input.

Therapy Resource:
Like belly breathing, this pose works postural stability through core activation in a static hold. It also works on bilateral coordination as hands and feet press towards midline while maintaining balance and focus. The stacking of joints over the anchored foot (ankles, hips, wrists) taps into theproprioceptive system. If you need additional proprioceptive input in this pose, try stamping feet before attempting to hold static. Activate the vestibular system by experimenting with the foot and hand placement.. Also, try small movement, such as swaying, within the pose. Work on vision by providing various focal points experimenting with gaze up, out, down and even eyes closed. If you see the MORO Reflex in this pose, return to Belly Breathing.

More info on Tree Pose

Child’s Pose

Child's Pose

Getting Into the Pose:
Child’s pose is often used at the beginning or the end of a session. However, it can be used whenever there is a need to decrease overstimulation. It can be completed on the floor or at a table.

Therapy Resource:
As you cue stacked fists, you are working on bilateral coordination and proprioception as joints are stacked together at midline. On the floor, there is the additional tactile input from the legs and arms on the Earth. Seekers may need to rock, or add extra movement to the pose, while avoiders may have to stay more upright. Offer a vestibular system modification of seating in a chair, hands stacked on forehead and chin slightly tucked.

More Info on Child’s Pose

About Us-

This blog post is a collaborative effort of Sweet Inside Yoga and 1000 Petals.

Sweet Inside Yoga is a company providing resources for occupational therapy, physical therapy, mental health practitioners, classroom teachers, yoga teachers, professionals, parents, and others in the community to use with individuals who can be found seeking and/or avoiding yoga activities.

1000 Petals is a well-being training and consulting company based on the science and practice of mindfulness and movement. They provide integrative mindfulness and movement solutions in workshops, events, retreats and self-care classes. Subscribe to their newsletter to receive weekly tips and resources on integrating mindful movement into your therapy.

Saturday Seminar: An Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom

The energy at Therapro Headquarters was palpable on Saturday, April 8, in anticipation of Meg Durkin, MS, E-RYT, RCYT’s seminar: An Introduction to Yoga and Mindfulness in the Classroom: Tools to Improve Self-Regulation, Learning, and Classroom Climate. A totally different feeling in the room was achieved after Meg led a group experience of several yoga and mindfulness exercises in a sample “Morning Meeting Sequence” that included: Chime Listening/Pass the Chime which helped focus attention in the moment; Mountain, Washing Machine, King Dancer, and Imagination Vacation.

Meg is a licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms instructor, ChildLight Yoga Trainer, and founder of Yoga Magic 4 Kids. She is a registered adult and child yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. She teaches workshops to elementary school teachers about integrating yoga into the classroom. Her skills include mindful breathing, standing yoga poses, seated yoga poses at the desk, imagination vacations, be well topics, and mindful games. She has trained in Brain Gym and yoga for children with special needs.

According to Meg, increasing numbers of students lack the critical life skills of self-regulation, impulse control and focus that negatively affect their behavior, ability to learn and overall well being. In her seminar, she demonstrated how students can learn these skills. In her practice, she utilizes yoga and mindfulness techniques especially designed for the classroom that are convenient, effective and fun. Integrating yoga movement, breathing and mindfulness can be used in a variety of ways.  They can be used as an activity in and of themselves, and/or integrated in the typical class day, throughout the day. For example, she suggested that students could put their heads on their desks as they listen to Mindful Meditations read to them. The result is a positive, peaceful, and productive classroom climate for all students who are then in a better “learning-ready state.” Specifically in the Yoga for Classrooms curriculum, the focus is on providing a simple, accessible, sustainable whole child health and wellness program that includes 67 yoga and mindfulness based activities specifically designed for the “space and time-crunched classroom.”

We appreciated Meg citing research to support the use of yoga and mindfulness in the classroom setting. An interesting pilot study she discussed in which Yoga for Classrooms was used with 2nd and 3rd grade students was conducted by an Exercise Physiology Department and measured salivary cortisol levels, performance on an attention network test, and teacher surveys.  Overall results in perceived improvement occurred in a broad number of areas including social interaction, attention span, ability to stay on task, ability to deal with stress/anxiety, etc.

The classroom is a busy, bustling environment.  Meg taught us that taking “yoga breaks” is an effective way to refocus students and the energy in the classroom. Meg’s skill as a yoga instructor was apparent to all of us today who left with a more calm, focused energy to tackle the rest of our weekend.

Here are some comments from attendees:

“It’s very practical in today’s fast paced world – I have integrated both breath work and yoga asanas into my classroom and have seen the improvement in my students.” Kristine P., Teacher

“I learned great activities to help my students to focus and concentrate.” Anonymous, SLP

“Interesting. I like the positive attitude and incremental approach offered; not a ‘do it all or nothing’ message.” Maura, Teacher

“Great way to get additional ideas to incorporate into OT sessions (groups & classroom). Definitely could see incorporating “count down to calm” & “imagination vacation” into sessions that typically only include Zones of Regulation. I like the emphasis on movement at accessible level.”  Meredith, Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Meg!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Saturday Seminar: Yoga as a Therapeutic Practice: Treating the Whole Child

Lori FitzpatrickAt the most recent Therapro Saturday seminar on November 7th, Lori Fitzpatrick, OTR/L and Certified Yoga Instructor, presented: Yoga as a Therapeutic Practice:  Treating the Whole Child. Currently Lori is an occupational therapist in the Plymouth (MA) Public Schools System and also works as a yoga instructor with local social skills programs and special needs programs.

Lori’s review of the history of yoga and the different styles of yoga gave us a basis for understanding how and why yoga can be a wonderful adjunct to school-based practice by therapists as well as an effective practice for teachers to use in the classroom.  The audience included OTs, PTs, Teachers, Grad Students, and Parents who praised the workshop for offering yoga as a medium that can be used by everyone.

It was evident that Lori uses yoga in her school-based practice thoughtfully and in conjunction with more traditional therapeutic modalities. She reviewed the numerous physical and mental benefits of yoga for all children, including those with special needs. Lori explained how yoga creatively addresses many IEP goals including: body awareness, motor planning, bilateral coordination, directionality, memory, attention, etc. Lori recommended using yoga as a complimentary therapy for self-regulation programs such as Zones of Regulation and Social Thinking Programs. She included in her talk a discussion on how yoga benefits the classroom in countless ways. For example, yoga enhances attention and focus, improves listening skills, eases test-anxiety, decreases impulsiveness, improves posture for long periods of sitting, and creates a calm atmosphere and a non competitive environment where all students can experience success.

Audience members openly shared how they used yoga in the school setting. One therapist shared the website https://www.yogaalliance.org as a place to examine published research on the efficacy of yoga for children and adolescents. Several studies are highlighted that discuss successful use of yoga in the school environment with a variety of diagnoses.

Lori’s presentation style was interactive and open. She shared many beautiful videos of her group treatment sessions that clearly demonstrated what a gifted instructor/therapist she is in adapting the sessions to each student’s individual needs and strengths. She demonstrated yoga games that can easily be incorporated into the classroom daily routine. Some suggestions included creating “yoga stations” where a student can practice several poses before a scheduled activity or using yoga for “motor breaks.” Lori guided us through teaching children pranayama (breathing). Controlling the way we breathe is very powerful and is beneficial in helping reduce anxiety. Lori’s creative use of props such as LED candles, visualization, bubbles, help engage and focus students.

We all left the seminar with a new respect for an ancient practice that is quite meaningful in today’s school environment and is a powerful and effective modality for therapists and educators. The seminar concluded with all 50 attendees learning the yoga pose – “Breath of Joy.”

Take a look at some glowing reviews from attendees:

“This seminar was great! Lori gave a lot of practical ideas for how to use yoga in schools as a therapist or teacher.”   Amanda B., Occupational Therapist

“ Very informative – everyone can use it. Great suggestions for “tools” to use with kids. I really didn’t know the history of yoga.  I like the concept of “practicing” yoga instead of “doing yoga.” MJH, Teacher

 “Relevant to teaching children about their bodies and how to deal with stress, anxiety, body movements, exercise, breathing, & self awareness.” Laura P., Teacher

 “Enjoyed the practical applications to practice. Wonderful video clips – great ideas.”  Anonymous Occupational Therapist

 “Speaker was well versed on the subject.  Liked the user-friendly presentation and the interactive style of the presenter.”  Maureen M, Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Lori!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L