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+ Feedback from Elementary School Children

I conducted 3 after school classes on ‘Focusing on breathing’ at Robert C. Parker School for 2 boys and 1 girl  in March/April 2014 (1) (2). The way the classes were done is explained at (3).The feedback form the children and parents is presented below.

Parent’s feedback
  • “I think breathing practice is beneficial for my daughter  in managing her impulses. She seems to enjoy the breathing practice in your class. When I prompt her to practice, though, she sometimes insists that she does not want or need to do it.  I am working on coaxing her to do the breathing practice with me. I would like to make it a regular practice for both of us. I think it would be good to do in the mornings and evenings, and then hopefully the practice will help her managing through the day as well”. My response to this mom is at (4).
  • “My son tends to do his breathing while he’s trying to fall asleep. I’ve observed him utilizing it over the past week, during an anxiety provoking situation.   The mode he tends to use is deep breathing while counting in his head.”
 Children’s feedback 

What times did they practice?: Most common were bedtime and morning. But some practiced at breakfast and evening also.

What modes did they practice?: Collectively – Folding mode, Tip mode, Segment mode and Counting mode.

Why did they practice?: Each of them gave different reasons.

  • Felt tired in the morning, practiced and felt awake
  • I got up before my mom and she didn’t wake me up as she was doing before
  • When I got home from school,  I was mad and I did the breathing.
  • Middle of the day – helped me not watch TV
  • When I had a headache I did the breathing and my headache go away.
  • When I was mad with my friend

How did the breathing help?

  • Helped me get to sleep, wake up and eat breakfast
  • When my dog got crazy, I did the breathing and my dog calmed down! (watching me doing the breathing)
  • Helped me go to sleep
  • It calmed me down when I was mad
  • When I was hyper, I would do the breathing and it calms me down

I like the breathing because

  • It is fun and relaxing
  • It is good for me. My mom wants me to teach her. I will teach her when I learn all.

(1) How Can I Focus On Breathing?
(2) Robert C. Parker School
(3) How were the classes done?: In the first class, they were shown and practiced the ‘Folding mode’, ‘Tip mode’ and ‘Counting mode’. In the second class, we reviewed the previous modes and they were shown’ ‘Staring mode’ and ‘911’ mode’. In the third class, they were suggested how they could use the techniques at bedtime, on waking up and any other times they needed. In every class, they filled out a feedback form with the questions (a) When did I practice? (b) What mode did I practice? (c) Why did I practice? (d) How did the breathing help?
(4) My response to the girl’s mom: (a) It is better for her long term success not to coax her. Let the practice grow organically over some months, so that it becomes a part of her coping skills to help her all her life. (b) Our role is to encourage her own practice without making her feel like she is doing a chore. She is basically right that she would practice when she needed it. The exceptional situations where we should proactively suggest to practice are at bedtime which most children love to do anyway, when we see them upset, hyperactive, angry etc. (c) When she is in a good mood and you feel it is the right time, you can try practicing along with her, allowing her to practice her favorite mode and you can practice your own choice mode.

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* Dramatically helped me when driving

Testimonial from a client who attended 3 of my classes. 

“My husband and I recently completed three classes on stress management and “focusing on breathing” with Suryanarayana Chennapragada (C S) (1).   I can’t recommend it enough.

In addition to helping me sleep better, it has dramatically helped me when driving.   I practice my breathing when I am stopped at red lights as well as when I am caught in traffic (2).   It really helps relax me and slow down.

I also practice my breathing when I am cooking, while at work and at night when trying to unwind from a stressful day. I practice my breathing on a daily basis in all types of situations and the more I do it the more I love it (3).

It is so simple and yet so effective.   Hard to believe that something so easy could be so helpful.

Try it.   I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.  C S is very personable, friendly and informative.”

(1) Seminars and classes by appointment
(2) Focusing on breathing during driving interruptions
How to drive like a Buddha
Staring mode
(3) Daytime practice

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* I am building a ‘New Me’!

Feedback from a client who achieved life changing benefits by practicing the ‘Focusing on breathing’ (8) initially on his own from my handouts and then attended 10 of my classes so far over last 6 months (3) . His previous reports are at (9).

“As someone who has fought the proverbial battle of the bulge most of his life, I know how hard it can be to make life changes. I have been through the crash diets, to doctors and so on with varying degrees of success. However the weight would always come back. I had pretty much given up.

Then one day, I picked up a handout on breathing mostly because it said it could help with my insomnia (1). To my surprise, it did help a lot and with more then just my lack of sleep (2).

Eventually, I was convinced to try taking the classes. Through the classes I have been keeping a food diary and trying new changes in my diet (4). I was even watching a subliminal video (5). This isn’t like the crash diets I’ve been on and its not pills.

In keeping the food diary, I am able to keep track of what I’m putting in my body (when you fist start, you may be shocked) (6). I started my changes gradually and in a way that I didn’t feel deprived. The changes I have made so far are

  • Drink water at least a half hr before food (7).
  • More whole unprocessed foods like vegetables and whole grains like brown rice and rye bread.
  • I added beans and salad to at least one meal a day.
  • And the real hard part – I cut down on my drinking beer and my meat (didn’t eliminate just cut down).

As I implemented these changes, I found my tastes have changed as well as my waistline from 46 to 44. I now only feel deprived if I miss my daily salad.

I have lost about ten ponds, in a sustainable way (300 lbs to 286 lbs in 5 months). I no-longer fear going back to the way I was.

I am building a ‘new me’.”

(1) How to enjoy quality sleep and conquer Inso

mnia PDF
How to enjoy quality sleep and conquer Insomnia Webpage
Relief from Insomnia – Success stories
(2) His first feedback on Insomnia and Stress
(3) Seminars and Classes
(4) His diet ‘before’ did not contain any significant vegetables, fruits or whole grains. Daily calorie count was above 3000 calories. He was drinking 20 measures of beer a week.
His ‘after’  classes  diet has regular salad, fruits, whole grains and beans. Beer cut down to 3 measures a week.  Daily calorie count gradually came down to around 14oo. He is steadily losing weight, coming down from 300 lbs to 286 in 5 months. Waist girth came down from 46 inches to 44. Best part is he developed taste for the healthier diet items and confident of keeping it up.
(5) I shared with him the free Subliminal video referred by another a person who came to my seminar and became a practitioner.
(6) I opened one google spread sheet for one week and shared with him. It is pre formatted so he can just post items and calories consumed through the day and instantly see the calorie count, daily and weekly. Just seeing the calorie count tremendously motivated him to control high calorie foods and empty calorie items like  like beer. I have been suggesting small changes periodically and motivating him to sustain the changes during the classes and on-line.
(7) Drinking water right quantity at the right time<
(8) How can I ‘focus on breathing’? 
(9) His previous reports
Relief from Depression, Addictions, Anger and Disturbing thoughts
Anger, Anxiety and Disturbed thoughts relieved
I cut back my mental health medicines
Insomnia and stress relieved

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@ 9th Grader with ADHD improves

Prakash (not his real name), a 9th grader with ADHD attended 8 of my classes over 5 months (1) . He has been attending special classes at school. His class performance was reported to be very good. His mom was averse to medication and wanted to try ‘focusing on breathing’ and related techniques to help improve his symptoms (2). He is my first client with ADHD. 

Prakash, his mom and younger brother in 6th grade jointly attended first 5 classes. Then he continued with solo classes.

What were his problems?
Anxiety, Anger, Impatience, Stress, Lack of focus, Nervousness, Frustration, Uncontrolled laughter and Lack of eye contact.

What modes did he practice?
First I introduced the regular modes of ‘focusing on breathing’. He liked them but the restless movement of his body and uncontrolled laughter ware not showing much reduction. On a hunch, I introduced the ‘Dynamic modes of ”focusing on breathing’ as an experiment (3). He liked these techniques a lot and practiced them on his own with very little prompting from his mom.

When did he practice?
Bedtime, Waking up, waiting, Stressed, Walking, Tired

His mom’s assessment of his improvements.

Anxiety: Reduced by 60%

Impatience: Reduced by 50%

Focus: Improved by 70%

His younger brother in 6th grade wrote his own impressions with the permission of his mother during the evaluation session.  

Anxiety: Decreased a little   

Patience
Before: He couldn’t wait
Now: He entertains himself doing the 911 mode and enjoys it.

Focus
Before: He couldn’t make eye contact. His head always faced the window.
Now: This is slowly decreasing.

Frustration
Before: When he was mad, he was yelling and out of control.
Now: This is slowly decreasing.

He does some chanting/ prayers taught to him by his grandma. He has been taking 1000 mg of EPA+DHA per day in the form of Fish oil on my suggestion.

I added waking up  routine and simple stretching and moving based on Yoga to his daily routines (4).

(1) ADHD – Page from National Institute of Mental Health 
(2) How can I focus on breathing?
(3) Dynamic modes
(4) Waking up routine    Loosening exercises – Yoga

Updates:
Feb 9, 2014: His mom said that in he recent PTA meeting with Prakash’s maths teacher, she said his focus improved and he could be put in regular class instead of the special class next year.

April 19, 2014: During the class 2 weeks back, his mom said his behavior was sometimes out of control at home. He was in the habit of pinching her and his younger brother and apologizing soon after. But he did nothing of that kind at school or outside. I told her privately his out of home behavior showed he had enough self awareness and self control with other people. I advised her that if he pinched her next time she should immediately tell him firmly “I don’t like to be pinched”. She should not get angry or blame him or comment on him at all.

Today when I called her to know how this new response to his pinching was working she said it had drastically reduced and she was happy for this improvement.

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@ “Easy and Effective. It works! “

I thank Chaitanya Mudivarthy Ph.D (1), my nephew, for posting this recommendation for me in Linkedin.  I am delighted that he highlights the most important aspect of the techniques – that it suits today’s busy people who can’t spare time for Yoga and such practices.

“CS Rao (Suryanarayana Chennpragada) is an excellent yoga practitioner. He is one of the few who realized the problem with current generation – impatience and lack of time to put yoga into practice in their daily routine. His solution to this is simple and practical – ‘counting breaths’ (2). This technique works!

I have been practicing this technique since 2006 with great results.

I have suggested the technique to numerous friends with ADD, anxiety disorders, and depression. One thing I hear back is how easy and effective the technique is.

Above all, CS Rao is an excellent human being with tremendous knowledge in general in the fields of science, medicine, and spirituality.”

(1) Chaitanya Mudivarthy – Linkedin Page
(2) ‘Counting breaths’ is an ancient technique devised by the Buddha 2500 years back. My adaptations of this technique to suit busy beginners are two. One is using the fingers. This practice leashes the mind far more effectively than just counting the breaths in the mind. The second adaptation is for beginners to practice lying in the bed at night and morning to make the practice ‘excuse free’ and get them hooked on it. These have  made this ancient technique available to people of all ages and cultures.

The ‘focusing on breathing’ practices presented in this site are radically different from Yogic breathing practices. Yogic breathing practices require you to change the current pattern of breathing, to conform to the given guidelines. We are warned to learn those practices from a trained teacher, to avert potential harm from wrong practice.

In contrast, these breathing practices do not suggest any pattern for breathing, except in one mode. We passively watch the breaths, like watching the actors on a movie screen. These practices are totally safe whatever way you do them, even for children.

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* Traditional style of teaching meditation failed

Today a woman in her fifties came to my classes interested in learning and practicing meditation. Her case is a classic instance showing how traditional way of teaching this great technique lets down the genuinely interested beginners with potential. After learning ‘focusing on breathing’ in my classes, she could make a successful beginning on the path of meditation and making progress in relieving her problems (6). 

Asked how she knew about my classes she explained. She searched on-line for Diwali (An Indian Festival of Lights) (1). She found the local Indian residents’ website Alabnydesi.com and in it, found my classes under ‘Stress management’ (2).  Asked about her interest in the ‘focusing on breathing’ technique, she said that she attended the 10 day residential program of  ‘Vipassana’ (also called insight meditation)   at a nearby center, 7 years back (3) (4). During the program, she was asked to sit on the floor and practice the ancient technique for hours. She was given minimal food for breakfast and lunch and an apple for dinner. She successfully endured the rigors of the program in spite of the the mental and physical demands on her. At the end of the program, she was asked to practice at home, for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. She found the practice useful and liked it but could not practice at home, under the guidelines given to her. She therefore totally gave up on it!

While I was in India, I knew 4 people in the company I worked for who did the same program earnestly for 10 days  but never practiced at home. One of them even did the program twice but could not practice at home due to the time pressure of job and family with children.

This is the reason why I have adopted the unconventional method of teaching the technique (5). In my seminars and classes, I ask the clients to practice the first step of of ‘focusing on breathing’ sitting in chairs or sofas, using their fingers. At the end, I suggest that they practice the technique at home, lying in the bed at night, to fall asleep! After they get used to the practice and get hooked on it, they  are likely to advance to the next steps as explained in this website (5).

(1) Diwali (Indian Festival of Lights)
(2) Albanydesi.com/Stress management
(3) How Can I Focus On Breathing?
(4) Vipassana (Insight meditation)
(5) Why do most people accumulate stress and suffer?
(6) Insomnia, Anger and Anxiety relieved

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@ Much easier to deal with the “stressors”

Feedback from a participant in my recent seminar.

“I have been using the techniques (1) and believe me…they came in handy…as my daughter (who is dealing with MS) fell and went to the ER by ambulance Tuesday morning. She had 8 stitches and they did not admit her, just observed her for the day…and then sent her home. So, for the past few days, I have been busy caring for her and helping my granddaughter.

She seems better now, and I am now taking the time to catch up with things in my life. It is much easier to deal with those “stressors” with your breathing techniques!! (1)”

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(1) How Can I Focus On Breathing?

Category: Relaxation to Meditation  Tags: , , ,  Comments off

@ Mindfulness at Robert C. Parker School

Here is a wonderful blog by Meg Taylor Head of Robert C. Parker School (1) on how the school is introducing mindfulness in various modes. Focusing on breathing (2) is a popular mode in the elementary grades, now being extended to the middle school.

” Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions.

As one part of our effort to help children build emotional resiliency and self control, we use mindfulness techniques with them every day. Our faculty has worked with C S Rao (3), a grandparent in our school, to learn a form of breathing (2) that allows us to quickly relax and tune out distractions. He calls it ‘Counting Breaths’ (2) and it has the effect of feeding oxygen to the brain, calming emotions, clearing a busy mind, and giving a sense of peace and focus.

Teachers have adapted CS’s ideas for classroom practice. In Pre K 3, a chime is rung and children breathe smoothly and quietly, as the chime sound diminishes.

In Pre K 4, students use the image of falling leaves while they breathe.

In K-1, Liliana has adopted the language “going into your silence” as children sit quietly in both mind and body and breath slowly.

Grade 2-3’s practice taking five slow clearing breaths as do the 4-5’s. (4)

This year middle school teachers are going to teach the students CS’s method of using the fingers to count breaths. As CS says, the technique can be used anytime – when you can’t sleep at night, or if you are feeling anxious (5). And it works! I use it in the middle of the night when my mind is racing (6).

The effect with children is very positive. They have a strategy to calm themselves that they can use anywhere. It is a great tool for successfully negotiating frustrations, stress and anxiety and gaining attentiveness and focus. Having the ability to be mindful gives children confidence that they can handle difficult things (7). That is a gift for any individual.

You can read more in this complex and fascinating article “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”, in Mind/Shift (8).”

(1) Perspectives on Parker Blogspot
(2) How Can I Focus On Breathing?
(3) Suryanarayana Chennapragada
(4) Breathing breaks in the classroom – Report by Lynn Schuster
(5) Daytime practice
(6) How to Enjoy Quality Sleep and Conquer Insomnia?
(7) Benefits for Mind, Body and Relationships
(8) “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”  Post in Mind/Shift

Related pages
Training children

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@ Getting off the Hypertension Medication

Feedback from a client, a patient of my daughter Padma Sripada MD (3) who attended 4 of my classes. Before attending the classes he was under severe stress due to his fiancee’s verbally abusive behavior. Practicing the breathing technique (1) and adopting my suggestions for effectively dealing with his fiancee (2), helped him take a decision to break off the toxic relationship. Apparently the relief from breaking off the stressful relationship combined with the relief from overall anxiety by practicing the technique resulted in significantly lowering his long standing high BP (high blood pressure/Hypertension) (4).  His recent mail reads –

“I met with Dr Padma Sripada this morning.  My BP was 140/90 – not too bad since I have not been taking my BP medication for the last 6 weeks. Also I have been eating out for the last 2 weeks due to my kitchen being remodeled. She has lowered my dose and said that once my stress is over and if it is OK,  I can stop taking the BP medication altogether.”

(1) How can I focus on breathing?
(2) Relationship related articles
(3) Padma Sripada MD
(4) He was under medication for high BP for more than 6 years. The BP readings over the last 6 months were – 135/98, 175/124, 172/109 and 163/111.

Related pages
His previous feedback
Relief from Hypertension – Success stories

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@ Insomnia and stress relieved

I was periodically meeting an young person in a store. He was obese. I gave him my handouts (2) and suggested to try the technique (1) at night, to enjoy good sleep (4).  Whenever I met him on business, I inquired about his practice and spoke a few encouraging words. I also loaned him two books on eating healthy (6). He practiced the ‘focusing on breathing’ technique (1) by himself for about 9 months. He told me that he had severe insomnia and depression for many years and was on medication. He shared the following feedback when he came to my first class. His previous report on cutting down his mental health medicines is at (5). 

Insomnia

Before: He had insomnia almost all his life. Sometimes he could not sleep for two days in a row.

Now: He has been using the segment mode (3) and enjoying sound sleep.  His insomnia is completely resolved.

 Stress at work

Before: He works in a packing and shipping store. Being the person responsible for handling customer complaints about damaged parcels, he had to face the angry outbursts of some customers, sometimes even threatening physical gestures. Such situations were unnerving and extremely  stressful to him.

Now: He is able to keep his cool in such situations. The claims due to damaged parcels upset the owner of the store as she had to bear the losses. She used to take out her frustration on the employees. One day all the employees were almost walking out of the store. This guy was the one who kept his cool and persuaded the other employees to stay back, explaining that the owner was behaving like that due to her own stress and she did not mean to hurt their feelings. He is surprised at this dramatic change in his own attitude and attributes it to his practicing this calming technique.

(1) How can I focus on breathing?
(2) Documents for download
(3) Segment mode
(4) Hows to enjoy quality sleep and conquer insomnia?
(5) His previous feedback on cutting down mental health medicines
(6) Two books:  “Eat more, Weigh less” by Dean Ornish M.D and “Mindless eating” by Brain Wansink Ph.D. He liked these books and started using the ideas from them, like cutting down his meat consumption. He also started practicing Yoga at home using a DVD. He lost about 20 lbs. as  a result.

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