Author: Mary Lea Crawley

Mindfulness & Yoga August Summer Camp

Summer is the perfect time to hit “reset” and pause and relax into a slower pace and give your children the life-long skills they need to strengthen their focus, manage their emotions and detach from negative thoughts. Mindfulness thickens the front part of the brain — the Prefrontal Cortex — what I call, the “smarty pants” part of the brain. The thicker wiring means that we use this part of the brain more habitually. Rather than slipping into reactivity, when we lose our favorite towel or have to wait for our brothe, we process our thoughts and feelings from this wise center, which manages emotions, solve problems, and houses our focus and concentration. (It really is the miracle spot!) Children will learn yoga poses and simple mindfulness techniques in our August Summer Camp. The August Summer Camp is for Kids in Grade 1 – 5 and runs from Monday, August 14 through Wednesday, August 16 from 9 – 11 am. For a full camp description and to register online, click the registration link below: More …

Madison Torey J Fifth Graders Benefit from Mindfulness Program

Read The Madison Eagle article “Some of the days we had mindfulness, I would be in a better mood for the rest of the day,” said one Fifth Grader at Torey J. Sabatini elementary school in Madison. Torey J.’s entire Fifth Grade participated in the eight-week Beginning Mindfulness course I taught last November and December, in 30-minute sessions.  During our classes, I taught the students how to manage big feelings, lower test and performance anxiety and strengthen their focus and concentration. Some of my favorite comments: I feel so relaxed. I used this in my basketball game, when I was at the foul line. I was so nervous. It helped me calm down when I was doing my homework. I couldn’t fall asleep, and then I listened.  I went right off. At my concert, I was really nervous, and I thought I’d mess up. But then I took three calm-down breaths. Young people understand that mindfulness is a skill they can use in all kinds of moments:  “When I have something important happening in my life, I will use mindfulness,” reported …

Mindfulness for Kids & Teens Start Saturday, January 21!

Registration for Beginning Mindfulness for Kids Registration for Beginning Mindfulness for Teens Mindfulness is a kind of mental training that strengthens the “smart” parts of our brain:  it improves focus and concentration, emotional regulation, decision-making skills, and boosts our immunity. Research shows it benefits children by lowering stress and anxiety and improving social skills. Beginning Mindfulness is an 8-week class* that teaches students basic mindfulness tools, which are easy to use anytime, in any place. Class topics include: Directing Attention, “Calm Down” Breathing,  Meditation, Body Awareness, Cultivating Compassion, Fight-Flight Brain Basics, Managing Emotion, Mindful Thoughts, and Mindful Eating. Classes include a healthy snack, games and at-home practice suggestions. Each student will receive a Mind Jar (for calming emotions and thoughts); a Mindful Schools workbook; and a colored handout, illustrating each lesson’s topic. Beginning Mindfulness meets at the Madison Community House at 25 Cook Avenue in downtown Madison, New Jersey. *This 45-minute class is held at 10 am for 4 – 6 year-old children and at 11 am for kids in Grades 3 – 5. (A class for …

Mindfulness Brings Confidence to the Penalty Kick

In the Third Grade class 3C, Daniel’s desk was in a corner of empty space. He was alone in his grouping:  all the other students in clusters of four or five around the room. On my first day of teaching mindfulness to his class, I began to understand why he might be there. Daniel likes to test the boundaries in the room. His push against the rules probably extends from a deep desire to be seen and recognized. Like many of us, he wants a little bit of extra light thrown on his potential and smarts. Unlike many children, his need for attention overrides his ability to regulate his behavior. Despite my good intentions, I found myself getting angry with Daniel, almost immediately. After I asked all the students to stand still in a mountain pose, eyes closed, arms out, Daniel began waving his hands and making funny noises. He looked straight at me. We were learning how to notice our emotions. A practice that begins with the question: “How am I feeling right now, in this moment?” …

Mindfulness Smartens our Brains

When I gave the middle-school students the list of benefits mindfulness provides, they immediately stopped talking. “Which one do you find most interesting?” I asked. “Reduces anxiety – especially, test taking,” said Robert. “Improves social skills.” Martha smiled at her classmates and tapped her foot. “Strengthens focus and concentration,” Brittany paused. “I have ADD.” Every time I describe the ways mindfulness boosts our brains’ executive functions – attention, decision-making, emotional regulation and impulse control – I feel a bit greedy, like the kids in the circle before me. I want some of that (social skills) and that (focus) and less anxiety, negative thinking and overwhelm. Mindfulness not only improves cognitive skills, located primarily in the prefrontal cortex (the brain region behind our foreheads), but it lowers our stress levels. Indeed, the practice of mindfulness changes the very structures of our brains: we create thicker wiring (more mental activity) in the “smart” parts of our mind (the cortex) and reduce the gray matter in our fight-flight center (the limbic system, near our ears). The children and teens …

Yes, You Can Calm Down

“Are you kidding me?”  Sadie’s fists were clenched.  “The teacher can give us, like 20 pages in a review packet and then just expect us to do it?  Right then?” “I was so mad.” Sadie settled back in her seat and softened her fists. “So I took three breaths and then, I don’t know. I just was able to start.” She smiled. “I used my mindfulness.” Like Fourth Grader Sadie, we all feel anger and panic blow through our beings. But do we have the power – like her – to shift our emotion and calm our feelings?  Do we know how to calm down? Calming down is a life skill. Something that we all need. Desperately. On the phone with the software help line, my face is hot and my neck is so tight it hurts. On the other end, the woman’s voice is insanely chirpy, and I want to beam through my Verizon connection and shake her. Yes, she is saying, her company’s software does have a bit of a glitch, and it …

Whose Hair are We Fixing?

We’re driving through the stone gates of my son’s college, and I know that if I could just reach over and smooth the front of his hair, well, everything would be perfect.  His sophomore year will be perfect. I sit on my hands and take one slow breath. I had wanted my boy to wear a polo shirt and khaki shorts. I had wanted him to take extra time with his hair.  But he did not see that picture inside my head (the one that pops up like an online ad, offering the “perfect way to look” for sophomore year.)  Earlier, he had put on a black T-Shirt and jeans and walked past the brush on the counter.  He had stopped to pat down his hair, before getting in the car.  “I’m ready.” I take another breath. In the front passenger seat my son is smiling and pointing, and there is light pouring out of him.  A light of eagerness and promise and I-can’t-wait-to-start.  I wonder if he will mind much, if I were to …