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* Feedback from Grade 3-5 Students

The school counselor of a local school searched on-line for Yoga classes to help the students reduce stress before and during the state tests. She found my website and requested me to train the students in grade 3 to 5 in the ‘Focusing on breathing’ technique (1) as an optional after school activity. I conducted two classes on April 17 and 24, 2013 for 9 students.

In the first class I demonstrated different modes of the technique and we all practiced each of the modes on one hand. In the  second class I asked for their verbal feedback on how they practiced the technique after the first class. I asked each of them to demonstrate any one mode and corrected the wrong demos. Several of them said they liked the ‘Staring mode’ (3) or the  ‘911 mode’ (4).

At the end of the first class, I collected feedback from them in a simple form with 3 open ended questions. The scanned images of the completed feedback forms are presented at (2). A summary of their responses is presented below.

When I practiced the breathing in today’s class, I felt … 

  • Calm and relaxed – 3 responses
  • Calm/ Really calm – 3
  • Good and happy
  • Relaxed
  • Relaxed, Calm, Focused

I want to try this technique when I …

  • Go to sleep – 2
  • Am mad – 2
  • Mad or tired
  • Stressed with school
  • Mad at my sister or stressed
  • Mad, angry and stressed
  • Am taking a  test

I think this practice will help me for ….

  • NYS test/ Tomorrow before the state tests – 2
  • Calming down, Stop being stressed, angry and mad
  • After being bullied
  • Getting up in the morning
  • When my sister is mad at me
  • Settling down
  • Falling asleep and calming down
  • A lot of things

The principal also participated in the class and gave the following feedback in the same form –
During the class she felt relaxed, calm, focused and stress free. She wanted to try this technique when she needed to refocus, before running a race and after a stressful day. She felt that this practice will help her in refocusing and training.

Feedback from the school counselor after the first class: “I heard great things about your class from the principal and the students.  You will be here again next week for the conclusion. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to provide a stress free learning opportunity for our students!”

Honorarium: Before doing the classes the counselor inquired about my charges. I said I loved teaching the simple technique to children and if the school was happy with the classes, they could offer me whatever they like. I am thankful to the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) of the school for the generous compensation they offered me. My plan is to follow up this group of students till they adopt the technique as their own, practicing it whenever they needed to  calm themselves or maintain their focus.

(1) How to be Calm and Focused? – Handout for children
(2) Scanned images of the feedback forms
(3) Staring mode
(4) 911 mode

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Training children

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* Breathing breaks in the class room

This is a report from Lynn Schuster, a dedicated and innovative class teacher for grades 2/3 in Robert C. Parker School, Wynantskill, New York State (1). On my request, she shared with me how she developed the basic  technique of ‘focusing on breathing’ (2) to suit the needs of her students and herself in the class room. It is a wonderful model that has brought out the immense potential of this simple technique!

“I was introduced to ‘Counting Breaths’ along with my 2nd-3rd grade students four years ago. I watched my students, and felt myself, relax tremendously within a matter of moments as C.S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) taught us the technique. The practice is now an essential part of the daily life in my classroom. We begin our ‘Morning Meeting’ each day, by “going into our silence.” Students are asked to “unplug” from their friends and to give themselves the opportunity to breathe quietly. We sustain this silence for at least three minutes. This year, I conclude this silence with what I’m now calling our five magical breaths. I count and students follow as we breathe deeply, a minimum of five times, together.

Even children who find quieting down extremely challenging can achieve silence through the peer influence that comes with group practice. I sometimes have to be patient and wait until we’ve all quieted down. In the afternoon when focus can be difficult, I usually have to add in soothing words of encouragement and very deliberately lead them through our counting out a minimum of five deep breaths. I will roam the room, praise individuals and the class. Everyone comes around.

This year, I’ve consciously incorporated breathing breaks throughout our day—at every transition and before starting anything new. This translates into a minimum of 5-6 breathing breaks a day. This year, I also committed to pausing what we are doing when I see even one student getting antsy or moody. In the past, I would have plowed through my agenda and put up with interruptions or a less-than-focused atmosphere. It has been proven to me through my commitment to taking breathing breaks that these breaks do only take a couple minutes. BUT their impact is profound and can carry through big chunks of time. Breathing together brings almost every child immediately into a relaxed mindset. I feel impatience and stress wash away too. We become a community again, working together.

I must thank YOU for teaching me to pause, breathe and help my students relax. I used to think the fun and laughs we had–and the connection/trust I strive to create with each student–would ensure focus when the time required it. But from your guidance and teaching, I saw that I needed to do something more. You’ve changed the way I live in the class and made me pay closer attention to what’s really happening in front of me.”

+++

I am grateful to Lynn for developing this great class room model of the technique. She helped me realize the dream I have been nurturing since the year 2002, ever since I realized the great potential of this technique in helping children calm themselves and focus.  I am  also grateful to Meg Taylor, Head of the school who let me, an uncertified and unlicensed person, experiment with this technique, unknown in the educational field and for creating an environment that lets such innovations flourish. I am happy they both let me publish their names.

I dream of more teachers drawing inspiration from this model and developing their own versions. They will be helping their students develop self awareness, the ability to calm themselves whenever they become aware of their anxiety or stress and act with self control. I feel these skills are more fundamental than reading, writing and counting and will be of immense help to them throughout their life.  Parents can also use this model at home to reinforce the class room experience. I feel when these children grow up, they will become better moms and dads with this additional technique in their parenting tool kit.

When I was working in a paper mill in India, I used this technique when I conducted small group meetings.  We all breathed together for a couple of minutes in the counting mode. It helped us focus better and be good listeners.

(1) Robert C. Parker School
(2) How can I focus on breathing?

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Relevant pages
Endorsement by Meg Taylor – Head of sdchool

Parent page: Training children in ‘Focusing on breathing’

* My anxiety decreased by 50%

“I have been practicing the ‘Focusing on breathing’ method for almost two years. I was introduced to the methods by CS my office manager. Even after doing the breathing for about an year, I was still experiencing high levels of anxiety. Anxiety has been something I have dealt with for many years but never really addressed it because I would drown it out by obsessing over other things. It got to the point where the people I worked with and hung around could tell when my anxiety was at it’s peak. Thankfully by this point, I could feel my levels increasing too. I needed to do something about it.

I sought help from CS once again. His word of advice was…..”just breathe”. So after him telling and showing me other times that I could use the breathing, I tried it out on my own.  I first did my breathing at bed time to go to sleep. And also when I wake up, I breath for at least a half hour in the bed, turning on all sides, as advised by him. To decrease my anxiety, I have also started exercising six days a week, after my breathing in the morning. I work out for an hour, depending on the day. I noticed that even after breathing in the morning and working out, it seemed that my anxiety had increased. So C S explained to me to try to breath for another half an hour after my workout. So here I am a few months into increasing my breathing and I can say my anxiety has decreased at least by 50%. Not only can I feel the difference but I have my friends and peers telling my of the difference they see. I was told that my anxiety levels with my children decreased. When I didnt practice the breathing, I  would go from 1 to 10 in a matter of a few seconds. Now, I go from 1 to 3. I can definitely feel my stress level is down too. I  can get a full nights sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. To this day, I try and encourage people to at least try the breathing. I have even introduce the method to my children who actually practice it. It may not work for everyone but I an living proof that it has worked for at least one life.”

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Related pages
Relief from anxiety – Success stories

* Boy practicing at doctor’s office

Yesterday I went to the “Hope club’ of the American Cancer Society to offer a seminar. I asked Alana Streifert, the coordinator for the children’s programs at the club whether the children who were introduced to the technique were using it (1). She happily replied –

“Yes. They do. Recently I got a call from a mom to ask what was the breathing technique her son learned at the club. When the mom was at the doctor’s office she found her son touching his fingers and doing some breathing. She asked him what he was doing and he explained it to her. So she was curious to know about the technique from me. ” This is a case of the son teaching the technique to his mom!

Alana also said one of the parents who learned the technique was teaching the technique to other children.

This is one more proof that children will benefit from this technique, as it is simple, easy to remember and use  and seems to help them calm themselves on their own, with no prompt from the parents. Does it not make sense to teach this technique to every child, like we teach A.B, C, D and 1, 2, 3?

(1) Tip mode

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Training children

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* Seminar for kids at the Hope Club

I offered a short seminar of about 30 minutes to the kids and their coordinators and facilitators on Oct 4, 2011, at the ‘Hope club'(1). It was attended by about 10 children and 5 adults. Three of the kids had lost a parent due to cancer and other kids had a cancer survivor as a parent. The proceeding at the seminar is summarized below.

The participants introduced themselves. I demonstrated the ‘Tip Mode’ (2) to them, using one hand. We all practiced together, on one hand, counting the breaths aloud. They did one hand, counting aloud while I was watching their finger movements. Then they alone practiced the technique, till they completed 4 hands (alternating both hands), counting the breaths silently. They were given the choice of keeping the eyes open or closed. Most of them practiced eyes closed. The practice lasted for about  5 minutes. When they opened their eyes all the faces were smiling! This is a common observation.

I asked each participant to share with the group how he or she felt about the experience. They said that they felt relaxed or calm or good.

I asked each of them to share when they intend to use the technique.  Most of them said they would use the technique at bed time. Other ideas were – on waking up, when angry and when stressed.

I distributed a 2 page hand out of the technique “Calm yourself anywhere, anytime” (3), to every participant and the ‘Relax Anywhere, Anytime’ hand out (4) to the adults.

One adult asked whether the breathing should be deep or normal. I clarified that one should breathe normally. One should watch the in and out breaths like watching the waves in the ocean, sitting on the beach. This breathing is a passive observation of the in and out breaths, unlike Yoga breathing, in which the breathing is to be regulated, to meet given guidelines. The facilitators said they would reinforce the practice on the days the kids meet at the club. They would try it during the transitions from one activity to another.

We agreed to meet again after a month, to review the practice and share individual experiences. The tentative date set is Nov 1, 2011.

(1) The Hope club is located at 1 Penny Lane Latham NY 12110 is a part of the American Cancer Society. It offers free programs to support individuals suffering from cancer and their families, including children. I volunteered to offer my periodic seminars and follow up classes at this place to help its members with support from Tracy Pitcher the Director. The children’s programs are coordinated by Alana Streifert.
(2) How can I do it?
(3) Calm yourself anywhere, anytime
(4) How to be calm Anywhere, Anytime
(5) Report on the follow up visit

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* Able to sleep without drinking beer

A woman’s feedback about her ex-husband
“I have been practicing the  ‘Focusing on breathing’ technique (1) since last 6 months. I have experienced many positive changes including losing my excess weight. Many people who knew me before, including my mom, noticed these visible changes and commented about it. One such person is my ex-husband whom I meet often, as we share custody of our 2 children. Recently my ex commented on how I looked happier and more focused. He asked what was behind this change. I told him about the technique and gave the two hand outs – one for quality sleep (2) and another, containing the comprehensive guidance about the technique.

My ex is a night shift worker and had difficulty sleeping during the day. He also has some heart problems. Against the advice of his heart doctor, he was drinking beer to be able to sleep.

He read the hand outs on the ‘Focusing on breathing’ technique and practiced it since last two weeks. Two days back, he said that he was no longer dependent on beer to get sleep and drinks only occasionally.”

(1) How can I focus on breathing?
(2) How can I enjoy quality sleep?
Relief from insomnia – Success stories

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* My sleep quality has improved phenomenally

Received this testimonial from a Rheumatologist M.D, who attended 5 of my classes.

“Meeting Mr. Suryanarayana Chennapragada was more than a sheer coincidence. I called him hoping for ‘Srimadbhagavadgeeta’  (Geeta in short) (1) sessions, just to realize that he had come up with a very easy, yet pragmatic strategy to control the mind (one of the major aspects of Geeta).

I have benefited from this technique and continue to hope for ongoing experiences. Focusing on breath (2) using the ‘tip mode’ and ‘counting mode’ has been very beneficial to calm the mind. My sleep quality has improved phenomenally and so has the ability to reduce the impact of the stressors of day to day life.

Both our children have learnt the technique from him and hopefully will continue to reap the benefits. They are realizing their inner strength every day through constant practice.

We are even hoping that Mr. Suryanarayana will teach this technique to my younger sister, who is deaf; and her daughter (both visiting us from India) so that they can improve their quality of life even back home.

I would very strongly recommend this simple and effective technique to anybody and everybody. Thanks to Mr. Suryanarayana for being a catalyst in our evolution!”

(1) An ancient spiritual text from India known World over
(2) How can I focus on breathing?

Related pages
How to enjoy quality sleep and conquer insomnia
Relief from insomnia – Success stories

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* I constantly direct people to your web site

Response from a practitioner and Birthing coach:
“It’s lovely to hear from you.  Thank you so much for the information on your seminars.  I will help to spread the word on your awesome work. –  Unfortunately both of those nights I have already booked up with my children’s sporting events- but if anything changes- like maybe a rain-out  I will contact you and try to attend.  Your work has helped me so much that I constantly direct people to your website.”

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* ‘Focusing on breathing’ helping three generations

Here is a wonderful feedback from a woman narrating how this simple technique is helping her, her daughter and her mom, all three generations

“Well I guess I should start out by saying that I am a 31 year old single mother that needed a little assistance with some unneeded stress in my life. Being a mother of two has been a wonderful, trying experience. I work full time and had a part time job to make ends meet. I was first introduced to the breathing (1) by my co-worker C S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada). I’m a very open minded person so I was willing to try anything to reduce the production of any grey hairs. On top of me being a full time mom and employee, I also had other added issues that needed to be attended too.  I have arthritis in my lower back which causes me a lot of pain.  I started the breathing mainly for this reason.  I would start breathing at night before I would fall asleep.   I noticed it didn’t take me more than 5 mins to pass out. I was able to clear my head and focus on sleeping instead of the 15 million different things I had to accomplish the next day or week. As I continued to do the breathing and speaking with C S, I was able to then use the breathing other times for many different things. I use it for when I’m stressed out and going through difficult situations.  I can see a difference with my attitude and how I carry myself and just how I feel. It’s been very uplifting for me so far………so I decided to share with my children and with my mother.

I have two children who are 12 and 8 years of age. The breathing didn’t go over so well with my 12 year old due to the fact that she isn’t that open minded and set in her ways. Now my 8 year old definitely needed the breathing. She was having problems in school with friends and her attitude along with taking instruction from her elders.  I started the breathing with her before she would fall sleep. She first found it to be a game that would buy her a little quality time with mom plus allowed her to stay up longer. After about a month of doing it together she would take it upon herself to do it alone. I could see the change in her attitude when she woke up and with her attitude in school. It was nice for a change, to receive positive reports from her teachers, instead of the usual negative ones. As time went on, I would catch her midway into the breathing and she must have fallen asleep before she got done counting the breaths.  I’d catch her with her finger stuck at a segment. She is also doing much better now with her relationship with her sister. They haven’t stopped fighting totally but the arguing has calmed down a lot.  She just is much more pleasant and fun to be around. The progress still continues……

On to my mother. My mother has many different health issues. Some that she has brought upon herself and the others she has developed.  For many years of living in the same house, she just always seemed to be very tense and unhappy. Plus she is a heavy smoker that smokes 4 packs of cigarettes a day.  I told my mother about the breathing and I also mailed her some flyers. She didn’t really believe that it would have an effect on her.  She put it off for a while until one day that she had to face a tough issue head on. She would call me up on a daily basis to inform me that she tried the breathing and she felt like a new person when she got up in the morning. From then on, she was doing it on her own. She realized that she could also use it with her daily lifestyle as well. This made a world of a difference. My mother always had a short fuse. My father has even given me his input. He called me thanking me for sharing this technique with my mother because she was so much nicer and easier to get along with now.  When we do spend time with my parents, I noticed it myself. She isn’t so quick to jump to conclusions and start yelling.  She still hasn’t tried to change her smoking habits but this is a bridge that I’m still trying to cross with her.  She at least listens to me talk about stopping smoking and how the breathing would help but she isn’t quite ready for that big step yet. I will continue to encourage the breathing for my family and friends. I figure if it worked for me then it can work for anyone………”

(1) How can I focus on breathing?

Related pages
Training children in ‘Focusing on breathing’
How to quit smoking by ‘Focusing on breathing’

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