Fidget Spinners and Mindful Moments

Fidget Spinners and Mindful Moments

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month (which would be fine…you’re out of school!), you’ve likely seen your kids and their neighborhood friends walking around playing with “fidget spinners”. But what are they?

Fidget spinners were originally marketed to kids with ADHD or other anxiety disorders, as a way to calm their mind through repetitive actions. While there hasn’t been enough research done presently to back up or refute these claims (specifically as they relate to the spinners), who among us hasn’t tapped a pen or pulled apart a paper clip during moments of concentration?

The problem that many schools and parents have had with these spinners is their tendency to distract both their user as well as the people sitting closest to him/her. Many spinners are brightly colored and make a distinctive whirring noise. In an area with limited space, such as a classroom, or the dinner table, this can be highly disruptive. In these settings, putty stress balls can have the same “fidgeting” stress relief for your child, but without the distractions.

There are also some great ways to incorporate mindfulness with these toys! Use the spinner as a focus point during meditation – sit in a quiet room and focus all your attention on the toy as it spins on your finger while you inhale and exhale. Try using your less dominant hand (for example, if you are right handed, spin it with your left hand) and concentrate on the sensations that may be different than when the spinner is in your other hand. Or use the time that the spinner is in motion to repeat a mantra to yourself, such as “I WILL have a good day today”.

Despite it’s tendency to distract, fidget spinners do have useful applications – it just requires a little thought and creativity. Spin away!

Summer Wishlist – Planning Your Perfect Day

Summer Wishlist - Planning Your Perfect Day

We all have an idea in our head of what a perfect day would look like – find the time to make yours a reality this summer! Maybe your day is made up of several relaxing activities – or maybe it’s one day-long dynamite outing.

Here are some of our ideas – use them and make them your own.

  • Join a book club
  • Take a painting class
  • Plan a picnic in the park…or the beach
  • Try a yoga workshop at your favorite studio
  • Visit a nearby farm
  • Sign up for music lessons
  • Take your kids to story time at the library
  • Find your nearest national park and go for a hike
  • Ride your bike
  • Spend the day at an amusement park
  • Volunteer at your nearest animal shelter, senior citizens facility, homeless shelter, etc.
  • Eat dinner on your front porch or back patio
  • Play tag
  • Attend an outdoor yoga class
  • Go camping without light pollution so you can see the stars

If you have a family or responsibilities, it may not be possible to have an entire day set aside – so consider this your summer bucket list and try to do something fun and out of the ordinary each week.

What style of yoga is right for you?

What style of yoga is right for you?

Just like other workouts or exercises, there are many different styles of yoga. And similar to those activities, there may be some yoga style you prefer to others. Let us break down some of the more common types of yoga classes you’ll find at your local studio.

Vinyasa

 Vinyasa yoga is one of the most common and versatile styles of yoga. It is described as “a flowing dynamic form of yoga, connected to breath or pranayama, in which yoga and mudra [gestures] are embodied as linkages within and between asana [poses].”  In other words, a vinyasa class is one where the breath is linked to the poses. Depending on the teacher, this type of class can be taught slow or fast.

Power Yoga

Typically for the more seasoned yogi who is looking for a challenge, a power yoga class is a fast paced class incorporating difficult sequences such as inversions and balancing poses, mixed in with traditional exercises like pushups and pilates moves. Expect to leave class sweaty, tired and invigorated. A common variation at studios is Hot Yoga, where the temperature of the room is turned up very high to encourage the body to sweat out toxins.

Restorative Yoga

 Less of a workout and more of a chillout, restorative yoga classes typically only focus on a handful of poses. Each pose is held for 3-5 minutes and often utilizes a variety of props, such as blankets and cushioned bolsters. The focus is on relaxation. Suitable for all levels.

Yin Yoga

A slow-paced class that focuses on holding postures for several minutes. Similar to a restorative class, except that the focus is on building strength, while increasing circulation to the joints and improving flexibility. Most poses are done on the floor. Based on the concept of yin and yang, yin yoga can be described of as “stable, immobile, feminine, passive, cold, and downward moving.”.

Different studios and teachers also have their own style, so try several classes, studios and teachers before you decide what works best for you. Or you may like different styles just depending on the type of day you have had. Try something new, or find your style and stick with it!

Summer Self Care – Finding Mindful Moments

Summer self care - Finding Mindful Moments

School is out for the next three months (ok…more like two!) which means it’s time to focus on YOU for a little while. The end of the school year can be hectic and stressful for both your school and your family, so your needs may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Get back on track by finding mini mindful moments this summer.

According to Mindful, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Here are quick and easy things you can do all summer long!

Wake Up Early

Odds are that you are already in the habit of waking up early, so why not continue with that habit? Use that time for yourself while your house is still quiet and your family is sleeping – sip your coffee and get breakfast ready. Enjoy the calm and stillness as you plan the rest of your day.

Go Outside

You spend more than half your life indoors, either because the weather or your job forces you inside. Now that the weather is nice try to spend as much time outside as possible! The best hours to be out are in the morning or evening, when the sun is not at its worst and the heat isn’t unbearable. You’ll feel more at peace with yourself than if you had sat inside all day. Do whatever you’d like – sit and read, walk the dog, garden, meditate, etc.

Breathe Deeply

Breathing exercises force your mind to slow down and pay attention to what your body is doing. Just a few minutes each day can help center you and prepare you for the day ahead or relax you at night after a busy day. Try one on your own, or use one of the amaZEN U videos to guide you.

Enjoy your summer and live in the now – eat well, live well and have fun!

Calming Sequence for You from AmaZEN U!

Calming Sequence for YOU from amaZEN U

School is out and summer has begun (for most of you) – which means there is more time for YOU!

What better way to start each day then with a calming yoga and mindfulness sequence? Try this short (just 6 minutes) one from our AmaZEN U video library (Calm Standing amaZEN Mix).

  • Stand tall and place your hand on a chair.
  • Shift weight into your right leg. Breathe in deeply.
  • Rest the bottom of your left foot on your right shin. Tree pose. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
  • For an extra challenge, move your left foot up to your right thigh (do not rest your foot on your knee), and reach one arm over head like a branch. Move both arms above your head if you are up to it! Breathe.
  • Release your arms and foot to the floor.
  • Repeat the above sequence on your other side. Don’t forget to breathe.

Balancing poses help calm your mind by focusing your attention. You can also sub in your favorite balancing pose, such as Half Moon pose or Eagle pose.

Now follow up your balancing pose with a short mindfulness or breathing exercise to help calm your mind.

  • Listen to a waves or nature sound app on your phone.
  • Relax your body and sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose as you count to three.
  • Exhale through your mouth as you count to three.
  • Breathe this way for several rounds, while you imagine yourself at a beach or other nature location.
  • Think about the way the environment would feel around you, and the sounds you would hear.
  • Remember to continue breathing deeply to the count of three.
  • Slowly bring your mind back to the room around you.
  • Wiggle your fingers and toes.
  • Open your eyes and notice how relaxed and calm you feel. Take that feeling with you as you go through the rest of your day!

If you liked this exercise, you’ll love the other nearly 100 other videos AmaZEN U has to offer. Sign up for your FREE trial today.

Outdoor Exercises for the Inner Child in You!

Outdoor Exercises for the Inner Child in You!

Summer vacation is finally here (or really super close)! Use your extra time to jump start your healthy habits or maintain what you are already doing well. Act like you’re a kid again – shake up your summer workouts with activities you loved as a child!

Roller skating

Roller skating burns nearly 600 calories per hour and works most major muscle groups in your body, including glutes, calves, quads, abs, arms and heart. It also causes 50 percent less shock to joints than running. If you are a little wobbly at first, wear protective equipment like knee and shoulder pads and a helmet, and start in a park where there is smooth pavement (not your neighborhood’s mismatched sidewalks).

Swimming

If you aren’t a fan of working out in the heat, or don’t like to sweat, then swimming is for you! Swimming is gentle on your joints, and because you won’t over heat, you may be able to do it longer than other activities. It’s an entire body workout, using your arms, legs, core, and back. And it requires very little equipment (besides the pool) – just a suit and goggles!

Biking

Burning nearly 400 calories per hour, biking is a much more versatile workout than you may think. You can do it indoors or out, on city roads or dirt paths through a park. Alternating between flat courses or hills helps keep it interesting and challenging. You can also use a bike to incorporate exercise in sneaky ways. Ride your bike to work once or twice a week, or pack a picnic and take a leisurely ride with your kids. You’ll use your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips and core.

Jump roping

Jump ropes are cheap and can travel almost anywhere! Besides for the obvious cardio and strengthening benefits, jumping rope is a great mental workout because it requires so much coordination. Because it’s such a high intensity workout, you will want to take frequent breaks, or work in an alternative exercise, such as planks or other isometric poses. Jumping rope uses your entire body – legs, glutes, shoulders and arms.

Here’s to a happy and healthy summer!

Spotlight on Seated Twist Pose

Spotlight on seated twist

What it is: Seated Twist pose is a great pose that students can do right at their desk. It provides a great quick mind break, especially if students have been sitting for long periods, such as during finals week.

Why we love it: This pose doesn’t require any equipment, so it can be done anywhere, anytime. It stretches the shoulders, joints and spine, and helps increase mobility and flexibility.

 How to do it:

  1. Sit up tall and press your feet into the floor.
  2. Breathe in and lift your arms out, up, and over your head.
  3. Breathe out and cross your left hand to your right knee to pull yourself into a twist, pulling your belly in.
  4. Reach your right arm behind you to rest on the back of your chair. Look over your shoulder.
  5. Hold this Seated Twist Pose for three deep breaths.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Our amaZEN U video demos a chair with this pose, but you could just as easily do it on the floor. Students will relish the upper body stretch, and you’ll love the minimal interruption to the lesson or task at hand.

For this pose and other great yoga and mindfulness videos, visit www.amazenu.com. A subscription to our nearly 100 videos is only $5 per month – and we offer a trial month for free!

Summer Learning Ideas

Summer Learning Ideas

Summer is just a few short weeks away (as if you weren’t already counting the days!). Many schools and teachers like to assign students engaging academic work to do during the summer to prevent learning loss. Learning loss is the “loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer. The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income.” Students, and their parents, are more likely to make this vacation summer learning a priority if it’s something they will enjoy. We’ve come up with a list of suggestions here for you that kids will enjoy.

Create a cook book: Encourage students to create a short cookbook of 5-7 recipes. Students will need to test each recipe themselves before putting it in their cookbook and should include recipes for different meals. Age level: Middle School; Skills Learned: Critical thinking, Math

Summer Journal:  Suggest students to keep a journal of the activities they do during the summer. Older kids can write their entries in a journal type format, or write a report about their favorite activity; ask younger kids to write a story about their favorite thing they did this summer, whether it’s a vacation, trip to the zoo or beach, or something closer to home like a new pet.  Age level: PreK through High School; Skills Learned: Writing, Reading

Nature Collection: Have students collect leaves or rocks and try to identify them using books or the internet. Or for the more adventurous, see how many different types of bugs they can photograph and identify! Age level: Middle School – High School; Skills Learned: Science

And don’t forget to keep your skills sharp this summer too! Read books, take classes, volunteer and enjoy yourself!

Read more tips to prevent summer learning loss from our blog post last summer: Tips to Prevent Learning Loss During the Summer

Teacher Appreciation Month – Appreciating YOU!

Teacher Appreciation Month – Appreciating YOU!

Hopefully your school and/or students have planned some fun activities to appreciate its teachers this month for Teacher Appreciation Week (though we like to think of it as a month)! But it’s also important that YOU appreciate you!

According to Gallup’s State of America’s Schools report, nearly half of teachers K-12 report feeling stressed on a day to day basis. Teachers also reported feeling that their “opinion didn’t matter” at work. These feelings can have a direct impact on the achievement of students.

This means you owe it not just to yourself, but to your students, to take care of yourself! Self-care and appreciation starts with you. It’s so important to take time for yourself to do something you enjoy.

Do you like reading? Join a book club at the library or an online “book of the month” club. Cooking or baking? Try to set aside time a few nights a week to try a new or complicated recipe.

Even taking just 10 minutes a day for yourself is fantastic. You can try one of the breathing exercises from AmaZEN U and concentrate on calming your mind for a short time and just focus on you and the moment.

If the thought of finding time to schedule something else into your day – even enjoyable activities – is giving you even more stress, don’t sweat it! Just try to do something for you, that you enjoy, once or twice a week. Save your Saturday morning for a long hike. Or just sleep in past 5 am for once!

When you feel your best, you can give your best and your students will be better off for it!

And don’t forget that we are giving away free annual memberships all month long – just tell us how amaZEN U has impacted your students/classroom for a chance to win by emailing us at sonya@amazenu.com or sharing on social media!

Mother’s Day Make-Your-Own Gift Guide

Mothers Day Make-Your-Own Gift Guide

One of the major goals of most classrooms is to have a cooperative and team-style relationship with your students’ parents. After all, you are all working toward the same outcome – intellectual, social and physical enrichment for their child. What better way to celebrate your “team mates” than helping their child create a thoughtful gift to share? These are some of our favorites for Mother’s Day!

Little kids will love playing with paint to create a work of art for their mothers. They can just use non-toxic paint to finger paint a canvas, or they can decorate a canvas tote bag. Have them create their own masterpiece, or use their hand prints to create flowers, like this idea from Little Page Turners

Kids who are a little older and can handle a glass mason jar without dropping it can make a planter with it for their moms, such as these from Consumer Crafts. This is especially fun because it’s an ongoing project. Students learn how to care for something and help it thrive. Instead of flowers, try easy-to-grow herbs such as basil and mint. All you’ll need are mason jars, seeds and soil.

If your school has a kitchen that you can use for a lesson, teach your students how to make an easy brunch recipe that they can surprise their parents with on Mother’s Day. Executing a recipe is a great way to teach critical thinking skills. Avocado Ricotta toast is a good one that doesn’t require any cooking. Just have your students smash a ripe avocado (remove the skin and pit) and mix with ricotta. Toast a few slices of bread, then spread the toast with the avocado and ricotta mixture. Season with salt and pepper (or better yet, tell your students to put salt and pepper shakers on the table to ensure that the spices aren’t added with too heavy a hand!).

Most importantly, enjoy yourselves! All of these ideas are a little messy, but that’s part of the fun. Any of these can also be adapted and used for Father’s Day (Sunday, June 18)!

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