I love having my hands in dirt.
Something about its texture, the way it falls right through my fingertips and its vibrant, earthy smell makes me want to pause and take a deep breath.
I remember planting lima beans with my kindergarten students a few years ago on a beautiful Spring morning. Each child filled a tiny cup with soil, took a lima bean, and pushed it halfway down into the dirt. After fifteen lima beans were planted, there was soil covering the table and floor and in each one of my fingernails. I put the soon-to-be plants near the window so they would get the sunlight they needed. Each child watered their own plant. We paused and listened as the soil drank up the water. I’ve always loved this sound; it reminds me of my own body when I’m thirsty and I gulp down a huge glass of fresh, clean water.
The next morning I came in early, but forgot to check on the lima beans. I seemingly had other more important things to do, like put up the daily schedule, set up the tables, and write out the morning message. When it was time to open the door and let my students in, Ceci nearly ran me over. She was screaming with such jubilance, “Lianne! Did the lima beans grow?!! Did they GROWWW!!!!!!!???”
My mundane and repetitive everyday tasks had once again distracted me from even realizing that something very important was happening in my own classroom. A new life was emerging, and I had almost missed its very first stage.
Ceci’s excitement got me giddy and we happily skipped over to the window and saw a tiny little sprout peaking out from the bean. Ceci paused and looked at her lima bean plant; it was the first time she had seen so
mething grow. Her eyes were wide with amazement, and she had a huge smile that was pulling her cheeks apart. After this moment of pause, she started to jump up and down and yelp. She called all of her friends over and they gathered and giggled with joy.
I took a step back for a moment to appreciate how much joy these children were experiencing from just seeing a tiny little sprout. I thought, Wow, these children get it. This was one of many moments where I realized that I have become the student - and my students, the teachers.
Looking back on this experience now, I wonder if I can challenge myself to see the emergence of Spring like a child sees it.
If we open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the beginning of spring, perhaps we will be able to appreciate each new emergence as a child does, with wonder, curiosity, and excitement. As we notice plants growing, flowers blooming, new lives hatching and fresh leaves budding, maybe we will similarly feel growth, blooming, hatching, and budding within ourselves.
Being a musician, I am drawn to this quote:
“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”
We can be our own composers for the time of Spring if we so choose. If we pay attention to the statement that Spring is making, perhaps we will be able to tune into all of its instruments - even the quiet ones that so often go unnoticed.
I wrote the song, “Chirp Chirp,” to help encourage children to be sensitive to the sounds in the environment around them.
Lianne's new CD, "Breathe In" will be released on June 20th.
And in the meantime, please visit Lianne's website for more on Lianne, her work, to join her mailing list, listen to more of her amazing music and read some incredible testimonials on the new CD, "Breathe In"!
You may have heard of Occupational Therapy, or “OT” as the commonly used acronym is concerned. But what exactly is OT? “In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations)” (www.aota.org). Now you may be thinking to yourself what does Occupational Therapy have to do with kids, they are just kids, what occupation could they possibly have? Well just that, being a kid.
While you may be scratching your head at this point thinking to yourself how hard could it possibly be to be a kid, it can actually be very cumbersome for some children. With an increase in demands being placed on our children these days, a decrease in recreational time, as well as overwhelming stimuli being thrown at them from every angle, it is a wonder any kid is able to even get through childhood at all, let alone enjoy the simplest aspects of being a kid.
When we think about the sensory system we can immediately bring to mind the five we have been taught since we ourselves where children; sight (Vision), hearing (Auditory), touch (Tactile), taste (Gustatory), and smell (Olfactory). Although these five have been embedded in our minds, there are far more senses that comprise our intricate sensory system. Two of the less commonly known senses that greatly affect our daily living are Proprioception and Vestibular; Proprioception being an awareness of our bodies in space, and Vestibular being balance, gravity, and movement information through our inner ear. With these senses our bodies process information and organize it in the central nervous system (CNS) of our brain and spinal cord, so that we are able to understand, react, and interact with the world around us. But what happens when our bodies, or our children’s, don’t quite interpret this information quite as it should, throwing the balance of our processing and understanding of the world around us completely off kilter?
In children with sensory processing delays, or disorders (SPD), there tends to be an inability to respond appropriately to their environments, which can cause hypo and hypersensitivities, as well as adversarial reactions to compensate for this confusing stimulus. We tend to see those with sensory processing delays become over-reactive or under-reactive (hyper and hypo aroused) depending on the way their bodies perceive the given sensory input. These reactions can present themselves in a multitude of behaviors from avoidance and withdrawal, opposition and aggression, fear, fidgets, attention issues, and so on and so forth.
So here is where our yoga comes in. You may or may not hear a yoga teacher saying the quote, “Yoga is the control of the activities of the mind” (translation by Georg Feuerstein). Yoga teachers of many years ago had a very deep understanding of how we can use yoga to create clarity and balance between the mind and the body. These ideologies are something, to which modern Western science is now catching up to, in the present time where more open dialogues are occurring between Western and Eastern philosophies on Health Care.
Now the question remains how can we take this ancient theory and apply it to modern science and health, and even more specifically to our littlest of yogis that are struggling to find and feel balance in their world. Occupational Therapists use therapeutic sessions that include sensory experiences (sensory integration) that helps to elicit adaptive responses that can help patients have a more accurate picture of the world, and in turn have more appropriate responses to promote a general sense of ease in their daily lives. Yoga provides a means for this sensory experience that can be done in an OT’s office, yoga studio, home, school, or just about anywhere.
In yoga we can practice manipulating our bodies in space to receive the sensory input we need to process the world around us. From there we can learn those adaptive skills needed to see the world around us in an accurate way. As we work through the heavy work of the yoga asanas and pair it with a mindful breathing practice and mindful meditation or focus practice, we can begin to clear the pathways within our nervous system to work towards achieving balance and clarity that can occur when the mind and body are working together in a synchronized cadence.
ABOUT JESSI (OT YOGI)
Jessie is currently working on her Masters Degree focusing on Occupational Therapy. She is an RYT, RCYT with Yoga Alliance, and has taken a number of yoga trainings. She is a graduate of Little Flower Yoga and uniting her passion of yoga with children and helping others.