Working with a small organization like Little Flower Yoga has been a refreshing and powerful experience. After working in NYC schools in the Bronx for 14 years with tens of thousands of students and with hundreds of teacher colleagues in a huge bureaucracy, I can definitely say there are lots of reason why I love the simplicity of having a smaller team dedicated to one thing—to support yoga and mindfulness practices for educators and students.
And we’re doing it! Last year, we served over 9,000 students in the NYC area alone and we trained thousands of educators and clinicians around the country, who in turn support mindfulness and yoga practices in their communities! I am proud of the work we do and feel like I an fulfilling what I set out to do when I left the classroom.
Leaving the classrroom and my job as a teacher was one of the hardest choices I had to make (a pension and health benefits being a big part of it). Leaving a tenured position at a job I found fulfilling felt irresponsible but sitting in stillness and turning to my practice allowed me to dream of ways I could have a greater impact on the school system itself. I wanted to work with more educators and impact more students and I couldn’t do that in the classroom.
I feel like I’m getting the chance to do that now in a very powerful and special way. I’m extremely grateful for the privilege of meeting educators around the country and helping them start a personal practice to support the work they’re doing in their classroom. I now get the opportunity to explore alongside school leaders ways mindfulness and yoga tools can support their community.
But the question of having greater impact is still one that I think of often. One of the limitations of being part of a smaller organization is that we can’t always meet all school and community demands. We have to be creative about the way we can support our current students and past participants and all the schools and educators who reach out to us. We also want the resources to be as accessible as possible—that means we can’t take educators away from their responsibilities or take from their limited resources by asking for more of their time or to use even more of their income to pay for resources. In that vein we have developed really affordable card decks, workbooks, and webinars to support our educators and students who want to explore yoga and mindfulness.
Mindful Mondays is another ways we’re trying to support our schools.
Mindful Mondays is an initiative I helped start with the School Yoga Project to support schools worldwide in creating and sustaining a mindful culture and community. This program is a FREE resource for schools meant to foster a habit of mindfulness, grounded in simple and practical tools to encourage teachers, parents, clinicians, and students to practice mindfulness and engage in regular self-care and inquiry.
This program was designed for:
When participants sign up, they’ll receive:
Our intention for the program is to give educators the support needed to get a regular mindfulness practice established in their school, classroom, or home. We hope this will help them start the week out grounded and inspired and keep the practice alive all week until the following Monday.
If you know someone who can use the support or if you’d like to participate, please click the following link.
If you have suggestions or ideas about the Mindful Monday’s initiative or for other ideas on how the organization can support you or your school, please don’t hesitate to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you and supporting you in anyway I can.
ABOUT ARGOS GONZALEZ:
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 14 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY.
Life comes with a lot of challenges. Sometimes these challenges can lead to frustration. I find one of my most effective ways to empower the children I work with is to give them tools that help them navigate big emotional experiences, like frustration. What triggers frustration can be different for each individual. Some examples of triggers are: chores, homework, a fight with a friend, learning to play an instrument, and feeling misunderstood. My hope is for students to recognize the onset of frustration and know they have the resources to care for their feelings.
Here are a few activities to help students recognize the onset of frustration and learn how to care for themselves, along with a short video practice that you can do any time or place.
Activity #1: Create a Frustration List
Challenging situations arise daily. It is useful for children to know what situations cause them frustration. We have more control over our emotions when we can label what is happening during an experience.
With older students, have a discussion about the frustrating moments in their lives. After the discussion, have students make a list of what causes them feelings of frustration. It will help them feel more in control when they talk and reflect on situations that trigger frustration. Encourage them to observe over the next few days what happens in their bodies during those moments of frustration.
A visual aid can be helpful for younger students when making a list. Create an outline of a flower and cut out petals. On each petal write something that causes frustration. Keep the flower visible and encourage children to add petals when new frustrating tasks arise.
Activity #2: Make a Body Map
Body mapping can help children make connections between their bodies and their emotions. Use a body outline template or outline a body on a big roll of paper.
Ask the child to think about a time they felt frustrated and notice what happens to their body. Some observations might be fists clenching, face feels hot, shoulders and jaw tense up, or breath changes. Explain that these sensations are their body’s way of communicating with them. Have the child color, draw, or write in the areas on the body map where they feel sensation when they feel frustrated.
Activity #3: Tense and Release
When students can recognize sensations of their body, they can begin to care for their emotions.
Tense and release, also known as progressive muscle relaxation, is a technique to promote relaxation in the body and relieve stress. This practice can be taught before a frustrating task. Take a slow deep breath and squeeze the muscle groups in your body that feel tight during frustration, such as fists and shoulders. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. Tense and release those areas a few times and check in with how they are feeling.
This exercise will help to lower tension in the body, and help relax in moments of frustration.
Activity #4: Practice the Pause with Challenging Yoga Poses
Explore frustration in a playful way with balance poses.
Tell your students you are going to practice challenging poses and they may feel frustration. When they start to feel frustration they can pause, take a breath and try the pose again. This video will show you how to prepare a child to pause and care for themselves during feelings of frustration.
Check out the 4 minute video below for a great example of how we can safely explore frustration while caring for ourselves. I had the honor to be a part of a series of videos created by Little Flower Yoga’s in collaboration with GoNoodle. GoNoodle helps teachers and parents get kids moving with short interactive activities. You can find the full series of videos by searching for the Empower tools series on GoNoodle's website.