Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Getting into the Swing of the School Year - Abdominal Breathing Activities to Help Your Child Calm and Focus

By Sue Heron – Tatty Bumpkin Training Co-ordinator and Paediatric Physiotherapist 

Through all the rush of the new nursery and school year - support your child to cope with tiredness and anxiety by trying Tatty Bumpkin tummy breathing. 

We all need time to relax

A Bit about Breathing

We breathe automatically - without thinking about it. However, as we know, our own, and our children's, breathing pattern will alter at different times of the day and if we're feeling stressed e.g. sighing in despair, panting with exhaustion, holding our breath in fear and terror. 

The close link between breathing pattern and the stress response means we can have a real impact on our overall emotional wellbeing by increasing our breath awareness. 

Thoracic Breathing

This pattern involves breathing largely from the upper chest area, using our neck, upper chest and upper rib muscles. If we use this form of breathing, we will see more movement around our upper chest compared to our lower lower rib cage area. When we are at rest, or doing light activity, we should not be relying on this pattern of breathing. Only when we exercise do we tend to also use this breathing pattern as we try to take deeper breaths. 

Tummy (abdominal or diaphragmatic) Breathing 

Normal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. It involves the coordination of movements between our upper and lower rib cage and our abdomen (tummy area). Diaphragmatic breathing, as the name suggests, relies on our diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle, which separates our chest and abdomen. 

When we breathe in (inhalation) - our diaphragm contractsflattens and moves downwards, sucking air into our lungs. As our diaphragm moves down, it pushes our abdominal contents down, which forces our abdominal wall outwards

When we breathe out (exhalation) our diaphragm relaxes and air passes out of our lungs. Our abdominal wall moves upwards helping the air to flow out of our lungs. See picture below. 

Abnormal Breathing Pattern 

If we get into the habit of using a more thoracic breathing pattern, even at rest, it can lead to an increase in overall body tension, neck pain and shoulder movement problems. 

Constantly activated upper chest and neck muscles can also increase feelings of anxiety. 
In addition poor coordination of the diaphragm may result in poor movement patterns and increased instability in the lower back region (lumbar spine)

Tatty Bumpkin Yoga Activity Tummy Breathing 

It's helpful for both adults and children to become more aware of the diaphragmatic breathing pattern. Increased awareness will firstly help us make sure we are using the correct muscles during our normal breathing and secondly, we will be more able to adjust our breathing pattern to help us cope with stressful situations. Benefits are discussed in detail further at the end of this blog. 

For Adults

  • As with any new exercise practice makes perfect, so try to do this exercise twice a day for short periods (with or without your child). You can then use the technique to calm your mind whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts or when you are experiencing pain. It's probably easier to learn abdominal breathing whilst lying down. Once you get the hang of it you can do this form of breathing in sitting or standing. 
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy (abdomen). This will help you to gain an awareness of the movements of your chest and abdomen. See picture below for guidance on where to place your hands. 
  • Start by taking a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for about 5-7 seconds  (or as long as you are able, do exceed 7 seconds).  As you breathe in the hand on your tummy should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that your diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of your lungs.
  • Now slowly breathe out through your mouth for a count of 5-7 seconds. As you release the air from your lungs, gently tighten your tummy (abdominal) muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from your lungs. You should now feel the hand on tummy moving downwards. See picture below. 
  • It is important to remember that to take a deep breath  - we need to focus on breathing in, and then  make sure we have breathed out fully. Repeat the ‘cycle’ 3 – 4 times.  

Tummy Breathing and Relaxation – With Your Child 

  • Find two toy ducks (the non – squeaky kind!) or similar toys and settle down with your child on a soft carpet or mat.  You may wish to listen to some gentle music i.e. Tatty Bumpkin Relax Song see http://bit.ly/1q2kqVQ
  • Start by showing your child what to do. Lie down on your back (you may want to put a cushion under your knees to make your back comfortable) and place one for the ducks on your tummy.
  • Using the tummy breathing technique above show your child how you can make the duck on your tummy go up and down by only using your breath! 

  • Some children might find it useful to place their hands on your tummy so they can feel it go up and down. This is also a lovely ‘bonding’ experience for both of you. 
  • Then guide your child to lie down with you and place the other toy duck or a toy on their tummy. Encourage your child to try and make their duck ‘bob up and down’ on their tummy by taking deeper breaths. Watch your child’s breathing to check that: 
    • As they breathe IN their tummy is moving UPWARDS and OUTWARDS – so they are lifting their duck up with their tummy. 
    • As they breathe OUT their tummy moves inwards and downwards – so letting their duck fall. 
    • If your child is doing the movements the other way round i.e. as they breathe in they suck their tummy in – gently try to correct them. 
Only let your child do 3 or 4 breaths in a row and then to rest as you do not want them to become dizzy. 

Progressions for Tummy Breathing 

If your child is older they may want to have a go at tummy breathing whilst sitting up or standing so that they can use this kind of breathing to calmed themselves when they are feeling a anxious or stressed. Below is an exercise your child can practise so they tummy breathe whilst sitting. 

Balloon Breathing Technique for Children 
  • Find a supportive seat for your child, ideally one with arms, and encourage them to sit up as straight as they can. 
  • Guide your child to:
    • Put both their hands on their tummy. 
    • Then to keep their mouth closed and take a slow breath in through their nose.
  • Tell your child to imagine, as they breathe in, that there is a balloon in their tummy and they are trying to fill it up with air. 
  • Encourage your child to keep breathing in until they think the balloon in their tummy has enough air inside! Don’t encourage your child to breathe in too much as they may then find it hard to stay relaxed. Your child should be feeling their hands on their tummy are moving outwards – point this out to them. 
  • When your child feels their ‘tummy balloon’ is full of air encourage them to imagine they have let go of the balloon, and the air is rushing out! Guide your child to breathe out slowly through their mouth (with pursed lips). They should no feel their hands on their tummy are coming back towards their body. Guide your child to do 4-5 breaths like this then to breathe normally. 

Benefits of Tatty Bumpkin’s Tummy Breathing for You and Your Child

Why Tummy Breathing is Good for You - the Adult

Abdominal breathing, as described above, is the most efficient and relaxed way of getting air into your lungs.This type of breathing has two important effects on the body:

  1. It is in itself relaxing compared to the ‘emergency mode’ breathing of the upper chest, which is an integral part of ‘fight or flight’ response to a stressful situation. 
  2. It is typical of the regenerating processes such as when you are asleep, digesting food or the body is at peace.  
As you take deeper, slower breaths whilst practising abdominal breathing you will automatically be slowing your heart rate. This in turn can help you to relax and feel calmer. Allowing yourself a few minutes of relaxation over the course of your day can often give your energy levels a boost. 

Why Tummy Breathing is Good for Your Child

Abdominal breathing activities can help your child to:

1. Increase their awareness of their breath and its effect on their body 
When your child takes deeper breaths, their breathing and heart rate will become slower and this in turn will help your child to calm down. Tummy breathing is a great skill to learn at a young age as it becomes harder to co-ordinate this movement as we get older. 

2. Improve their movement skills 
Children, who have generalised low tone in their muscles or who have problems with coordinating their movements, tend to hold their breath as a strategy to gain balance. In addition, increased stress anxiety interferes with the “just right state” for learning new motor skills. If your child is learning a new skill e.g. learning to ride a bike, or is becoming increasingly frustrated because they are not able to master a skill, encourage then to do some abdominal breaths beforehand. This will help them not only to calm down but also to engage the right core muscles needed for the activity. “Blow before you go!” see http://heartspacept.com/blog/practical-tips-for-promoting-motor-skills/. 
Interestingly, the way we breath also effects how we move as adults -see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924606/

3. Enhance their self-regulation and executive functioning skills 
When your child is able to use breathing activities to control their physical state, they can then use breathing techniques to regulate their social and emotional behaviour. Breathing techniques can help them to cope with such challenges as change, sharing and waiting. In turn breathing exercises will promote your child's executive functioning skills - all part of self-regulation. Good executive functioning includes the ability to: keep a goal in mind, control impulses and think flexibly for problem solving. http://move-with-me.com/self-regulation/2-breathing-exercises-to-support-executive-function/

4. Learn the skill of ‘relaxation’ 
It is never too early for your child to become more aware of how their body feels when they are ‘quiet’ for a while. When we relax we often find it easier to think – it is the same for your child. Perhaps encourage them to think back on their day and what they have done or maybe what they would like to do. Reflection & thinking time is vital for learning & helps develop an imaginative & creative mind. Your child will start to think not just ‘what is’ but ‘what if?!’ Leaders, artists & entrepreneurs all think creatively. 

Love Tatty Bumpkin x

Find out about your local Tatty Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html. Or, ask your child’s nursery if they are doing Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activity sessions as part of their day. 

A New Start with Tatty Bumpkin?  

Or, maybe, you are thinking of a new career which gives you:
  • The opportunity to work with kids
  • A great sense of job satisfaction and
  • Flexible working to fit around your own family

Find out how you could be trained to deliver Baby and Tatty Bumpkin classes in your area at: http://www.tattybumpkin.com/business/index.html

'Tatty Bumpkiners' celebrating their achievements! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tree Pose for 'Back to School' - Having good balance benefits a wide range of classroom skills.

By Sue Heron – Training Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist

The summer draws to a close and our children creep back to school - but this does not mean the physical activity needs to end. 
In a recent study, early years specialists at Loughborough University found that many reception children are experiencing problems with their balance and co ordination http://bit.ly/2cafKjrDr Rebecca Duncombe, who led the study, commented
‘A child’s physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading – all skills essential for school'.

Tatty Bumpkin Tree Yoga activity is a fun way for your child to develop their balance skills. Specifically the pose ca help your child to: 
  • Go up/down stairs safely and quickly in crowded situations
  • Change quickly into/out off their PE kit 
  • Try new activities in the playground or on the sports field. 

Tatty Bumpkin's Tree Pose 

Start by being a tree swaying in the wind
  • Be safe - Always check with a health professional if you have concerns about whether Tree pose is suitable for you or your child. Find a clear place on a non-slip surface e.g. mat or carpet, where you can do tree pose without bumping into anything.
  • Take off socks and shoes – your child will get more accurate sensory information through their feet. 
  • Try to do tree pose along with you child – slowly and carefully so they can copy you. Your child will love to do the activity with you and moving with your child is a powerful way to strengthen the bond between you both. 
  • Start by guiding your child to stand with their feet hip width apart, stretching their arms out to either side – as branches. 
  • Now ... imagine the wind is starting to blow.Take a few deep breaths, blowing out softly, and gently rock onto one foot and then the other. Then, take one foot a little way off the ground. See below for why this is an important step.
  • As your child gains confidence, they can rest the sole of their raised foot against the calf of their other leg - Tree pose. Do make sure your child does not rest their raised foot against the knee of their supporting leg as this can strain the knee joint.  

Tatty Bumpkin Tree Pose
  • If your child holds their thighs together, or wraps one leg round the other, as they lift their leg off the ground, it may be they don't yet have sufficient core stability to do the pose accurately. If this is the case, it is best to break the pose down into smaller steps. http://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/core-exercises-for-kids.html. Try the activities below to help them perfect their balance skills.  

Tree Pose in Smaller Steps! 

When trying to stand on one leg, young children often don’t realise they have to first shift their weight onto one leg - only then can they lift their other leg off the ground. `
Here are some useful tips on how to encourage this weight shift:
  • Be a tree in the wind. Start Tree pose by encouraging your young child just to sway side to side with their arms out wide – like a tree in the wind. As they do this your child will be automatically learning how to transfer their weight from one side to the other. Start with little rocking movements then see if your child can move further over to each side! 
  • Be a tree on a hill! 
    • Place a low sturdy box, or a pile of 1-2 big books, in front of your child, on a non-slip surface, to make a low step. Initially, you may need to give your child some support as they step up/down. See note below on how to do this.
    • Encourage your child to step up with one foot onto their 'step'. See if they can hold this position for a few seconds - then guide them to bring their foot back down. 
    • This stepping activity helps your child to learn the subtle weight shifts they have to do to stand on one leg and to negotiate stairs
    • Start with a very low step then increase the height just a little as your child gains in confidence. 
    • Once your child has had a go at stepping up/down with one leg see if they can do the same thing with their other leg. 
  • Offer support by holding the trunk of the tree. Your child may need some extra support as they try to do Tree pose for the first time. If this is the case, rather than holding their hands, kneel down alongside your child and support them by holding them round their hips. If you support your child in this way they will be able to use their arms to balance – much more normal. 
  • Be a tree with tiny roots! If your child is getting the idea of moving their weight onto one leg, but has not yet mastered taking one foot completely off the ground, see if they can do Tree pose with one foot flat on the ground and just the toe of their other foot on the ground. They can rest the heel of their raised foot against their main supporting foot. 

Spark Imagination - Make Tree Pose Fun! 

Make it fun! Tree pose is essentially about standing on one leg, but to make this activity fun and motivating for your child, suggest they try being an apple or orange tree! 

Give your child two apples/oranges to hold in each of their outstretched hands.
The weight of the fruit will help your child to become more aware of their arm movements - and so help them to balance.

Tatty Bumpkin Apple Tree

Tree Pose Progressions 

Remember you can practice Tree Yoga activity throughout the day. For example, you can be a tree: 
  • Whilst standing in a supermarket queue! 
  • Just after you have brushed your teeth (using the sink for support if needs be)
  • When you are passing a tree whilst out for a walk. Pick up two leaves, hold them out wide in each hand -  then copy the tree you are next to. 
Practice little and often is the best way to learn a new skill! 

Maths and Tree Pose 

For a nice maths activity which could be played whilst doing Tree pose see http://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/falling-apples-fall-addition-activity.html

Love Tatty Bumpkin x

Find out about your local Tatty Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html. Or, ask your child’s nursery if they are doing Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activity sessions as part of their day. All our sessions are linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Scottish Pre-birth to 3 years and Curriculum for Excellence. 

A New Start with Tatty Bumpkin?  

Or, maybe, you are thinking of a new career which gives you:
  • The opportunity to work with kids
  • A great sense of job satisfaction and
  • Flexible working to fit around your own family
Find out how you could be trained to deliver Baby and Tatty Bumpkin classes in your area at: http://www.tattybumpkin.com/business/index.html