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Meditation and Yoga classes for children

I offered classes on ‘Gentle Yoga stretching’ and ‘Meditation on breathing’ to thirty nine boys and girls from 5 to 13 years at the Albany Hindu Temple on Aug 14, 17, 18 and 19, 2017. Each class was for 40 minutes and repeated on two days (1).

Meditation: All of them practiced the ‘Counting mode’ and ‘Tip mode’ , multiple times, counting the breaths aloud along with me (2) (3). We all practiced at simulated times of practice – at bedtime lying down to get sleep, on waking up still lying, to drive away the sleep, sitting on the bed cross legged as in sitting meditation, standing on the floor like waiting in a line, walking  and running.

  • When asked how they felt, a few commented
    • I felt calm
    • I felt relaxed
  • Asked when they would like to practice the meditation, some replied
    • At the doctor’s office
    • When tired
    • When I have an argument with my friend about which game to play
    • At bedtime
    • On waking up
  • Other comments
    • An 8 year old boy said he practiced at bedtime and also told his mom to practice, as she does not sleep well!

One kid’s mom said that her 6 year old son had been practicing at bedtime from day one and claimed that he felt more fresh on waking up.

Yoga: We all practiced the movements shown in the video ‘Stretching for beginners’ (4). These movements gently move and stretch all the muscles from fingers to shoulders, toes to hips, neck to eyes. All the joints get a gentle massaging movement at the same time.

(1) Albany Hindu Temple
(2) Counting mode
(3) Tip mode
(4) VIDEO of stretching for beginners

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+ Feedback from Middle School Children

I conducted 3 classes on ‘Focusing on breathing’ for 2 boys in Gr 8 at Robert C. Parker School over 2 months – April to May 2014 (1) (2). These were after school classes for an hour. The way the classes were done is explained at (3). Their combined feedback is presented below.

When did they practice? 

  • Bedtime
  • Math class
  • Before homework
  • Mad at my brother
  • At School

What modes (s) did they practice? 

  • Folding mode
  • Tip mode
  • Segment mode
  • Counting mode
  • Feeling mode
  • Staring mode
  • 911 mode
  • Waking up postures on the bed – Phase I (4)

Why did they practice? 

  • I started to lose focus
  • I was mad at my brother
  • To calm myself
  • I was tired
  • To relax
  • Before I went to my thesis presentation
  • I could not fall asleep
  • Could not focus at school

How did the breathing help me?

  • It helped me get all the distractions out of my mind and just lets me focus
  • It relaxes me
  • I was less mad at my brother who was bugging me
  • I was able to do my homework
  • I was able to sleep

I like the breathing because

  •  It is very effective
  • It is relaxing and it works
  • It is relaxing and it is not hard to do
  • It helps me focus and it relaxes me

(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 all the 7 modes and practiced them briefly – ‘Folding mode’, ‘Tip mode’, ‘Segment mode’, ‘Counting mode, ‘Feeling mode’ , ‘Staring mode’ and ‘911 mode’. They were advised to practice at bedtime. In the second class, we reviewed all the modes and corrections made. I suggested they use the technique on waking up in the bed, turning the body in four different positions. In the third class, they were shown the ‘Waking up postures’ and ‘Morning exercises’. 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 me?
(4) Waking up postures on  the bed – Phase I

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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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@ 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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* 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

Related page
Training children

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* I have made great improvements with my weight, self confidence and …

Feedback from my most remarkable client who has done 19 classes (6) over the last one year, more than any other client.

She earnestly makes plans based on my suggestions, takes her written down plans home and sincerely tries to implement them. She keeps in touch by e-mail between the classes. Her multidimensional progress is a tribute to her courage and persistence. Her progress gives me immense satisfaction. She is still doing the classes, determined to get over all her problems. Such cases give me the impression that when the person is ready for change, help comes from somewhere, and it is absorbed like a sponge. Her report –

“This is how I am trying to implement my plans based on your suggestions.

  • I do my daily breathing practice.
  • When I have bad thoughts wherever I am, I do my breathing and it helps to calm me down, along with saying my prayers.
  • I do my breathing every night and try to do 4 times on each hand but usually dont make it that far before I fall asleep.
  • I do my breathing in the morning along with saying my prayers while getting ready.
  • I try to stay very busy inside and outside the house.
  • I drink Metamucil fiber at night before bed, and it does help with my bowel movements in the morning.
  • I have changed my diet a lot:  More fish, more vegetables and fruits, more fiber and water throughout the day. I eat more fruits and vegetables than ever before. I have a banana for breakfast every morning, not good at eating lunch, and cut down on my meat intake for dinner. (4)
  • I have been making my husband’s lunch for him to carry to work. (1)
  • I now drink soy milk. (3)
  • I take fish oil pills with 2000mg of Omega 3 every day. I started putting flax seed on my food and also put it on husband’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without him knowing. (5)
  • I keep calm when my husband’s temper builds up and walk out of the room. This has changed his yelling behavior.
  • I’ve let my husband know “He cannot control me”.
  • I do read a spiritual book every night before bed. Sorry I am not good at writing the journal.
  • We are paying down the debts and consolidating them.
  • I did look for a walking partner by posting two ads, but have gotten no responses yet.
  • I still need to work on smoking. I’m not sure I can make a full commitment right now, it is very hard for me but I am still trying and have cut down a little. I have tried to change my smoking habits before bedtime, by not going to bed till I am very tired and feel sleepy. (2)
  • I did call about taking CPR training and they put me on the list for a free class in September. (1)

I have made these great improvements in the last year with your help:
My weight, my self confidence, my body pains due to lupus, my marriage problems, my sleeping habits, my eating habits, learning how to control my fear and much more. I can’t thank you enough.”

+++

My notes
(1) She got this idea on seeing her husband gasp for breath recently. He is obese and does not care to do anything about it. She is worried he may have a heart attack one day. She is also trying to help him lose weight by not eating greasy outside food while at work.
(2) She smokes maximum number of cigarettes at night, after lying in the bed to sleep and not falling asleep. This suggestion was to break this behavior pattern.
(3) She had constipation for a long time. She was consuming lot of dairy products which were suspected to be the cause. On a trial basis, she was advised to avoid all dairy products for 2 months. Though she was very fond of yogurt, consuming about 4 cups a day, she gave it up with determination. This change eliminated her constipation.  Soy milk was replacement for diary milk.
(4) She hardly ate any vegetables or fruits before. Introducing fruits and veggies and cutting down meat helped her significantly in losing weight. She never ate any breakfast and lunch was irregular. She felt fatigued by mid day, aggravating her sensitivity to body pains.
(5) To get Omega 3 in view of her lupus and mental problems. Also to help improve her husband’s health.
(6) Seminars and classes

Her previous reports
I lost 30 pounds
I feel so much at peace now
My family life changed dramatically
I always leave your class feeling better

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* Shortage of sleep and heart disease

This is an article forwarded by a friend. He is not sure of  its author.

What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India

A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from Bandra, Mumbai. Ranjan, just 42 years of age, was the CEO of SAP-Indian Subcontinent, the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him run on Bandra’s Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids. It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners amongst us. Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner (in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away), the question came as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age. Was it the stress? A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad effects of stress. So I doubted if the cause was stress. The real reason however is … everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program ‘Boss’ Day Out’:

http://connect.in.com/ranjan-das/play-video-boss-day-out-ranjan-das-of-sap-india-229111-807ec fcf1ad966036c289b3ba6c376f2530d7484.html

Here he himself admits that he would love to get more sleep and that he was not proud of his ability to manage without sleep, contrary to what others extolled.

The evidence last week:
I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’. While I cannot share the video nor the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.

Some excerpts …..

  • Short sleep duration (<5 or 5-6 hours) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night. Paper published in 2009.
  • As you know, high BP kills. .. Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006. ..
  • Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999. ..
  • Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!! .. Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published in 2004. ..
  • Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006.

Ideal sleep for lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times. The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type. For you to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down (I’ve been there, down that lane)

Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage. If you want to know if you are getting adequate sleep, take the Epworth Sleepiness Test below. Use this form from Stanford University.

=================================================================

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to feeling  just tired? This refers to your usual way of life in recent times. Even if you have not done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you. Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

0 = no chance of dozing

1 = slight chance of dozing

2 = moderate chance of dozing

3 = high chance of dozing

SITUATION                      CHANCE OF DOZING

Sitting and reading____________

Watching TV ____________

Sitting inactive in a public place (e.g a theater or a meeting) ____________

As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break ____________

Lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit ____________

Sitting and talking to someone ____________

Sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol ____________

In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic ____________

Interpretation: Score of 0-9 is considered normal while 10 and above abnormal.

================================================================

In conclusion Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising (marathoning!), maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In my opinion, that killed him.

If you are not getting enough sleep (7 hours), you are playing with fire, even if you have low stress. I always took pride in my ability to work 50 hours at a stretch whenever the situation warranted. But I was so spooked after seeing the scientific evidence last week that since Saturday night, I ensure I do not even set the alarm clock under 7 hours. Now, that is a nice excuse to get some more sleep.

Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep. Many of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please share this article with as many of your colleagues as possible, especially those who might be short-changing their sleep. If we can save even one young life because of this email, I would be the happiest person on earth.

PS: Incidentally, just as human beings need 7 hours of sleep, you should know that cats need 15 hours of sleep and horses need 3 hours of it. So are you planning to be a cool cat or a dumb horse?

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Related pages
How can I Enjoy Quality Sleep?
Secrets of a “Great Night’s Sleep”
Relief from insomnia – Success stories

* Feedback from Students of Robert C. Parker School Grade 2/3 May 2011

Feedback from Grade 2/3 students of Robert C. Parker School –  May 2011

I visited this class weekly for a few weeks to introduce different modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’ (1) with excellent support of the class teacher Lynn Schuster (2). At the end of the series of classes I collected feedback from all the  students on a small feedback from. Their feedback is summarized below.

  • What modes did I practice?
Tip mode – 2
Segment mode – 10
Counting mode – 4
Feeling mode – 3
Staring – 8
911 – 4
  • When did I practice?
Resting X 4
To sleep X 4
Morning meeting X 3
When I am crazy
Running
Tired
Running around my bed room
Sleeping on my dad
When dead on a video game
Dogs try to wake me up at night
  • How did it help me?
School X 2
Math X 2
Focus
Relaxing
Calming
Running better
A fight

(1) How can I focus on breathing?
(2) Lynn’s full report on how she made this technique a regular part of the class routine – June 2012 

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