Meditation Solutions For Young People

Wellness expert Mallika Chopra's JUST BREATHE: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More (Running Press Kids), an illustrated meditation guide for kids 8 to 12, offers a variety of techniques for teens and adolescents to help manage stress.

Wellness expert Mallika Chopra's Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More (Running Press Kids), an illustrated meditation guide for kids 8 to 12, offers a variety of techniques for teens and adolescents to help manage stress.

In Just Breathe, Mallika draws on her own personal experiences to help kids learn how to feel less overwhelmed, more in control, and generally happier. The author, now 47 and a mother of two daughters, has been meditating since age 9, and she's passed along that family tradition (her father is Deepak) to her children.

Just Breathe offers step-by-step instruction in meditation, mindfulness, yoga, motivation, and intents. The benefits for young people can include: sleeping better, curbing a headache, calming an upset stomach, cooling down, and more.

Mallika Chopra is also the author of Living with Intent100 Promises to My Baby, and 100 Questions from My Child.

Why did you write this book and why now?

I have wanted to write this book for over 15 years - ever since I became a parent. Meditation helped anchor me with confidence and inner knowingness, and I believe it helped me focus better, manage tasks without getting completely overwhelmed, sleep better, and be more empathetic. Both of my daughters learned how to meditate when they were five years old, and I can see how they have figured out how to incorporate the practices in their own lives. Through them, I started teaching their friends and in local schools so when the opportunity to write this book arose, I was so excited to share!

It is important to note that when my father first began talking about meditation in the 80’s, it was considered fringe and a new age practice. Research in the last 3 decades has supported the benefits of meditation, and the time is right for it to become mainstream. Meditation isn’t religious - it has actually been used in traditions all over the world. Rather different meditations and mindfulness techniques help individuals breathe, feel better, connect with themselves and others.

Are there different practices for meditation at home vs. in the classroom?

The classroom offers numerous opportunities for kids to learn these practices, often with some giggles! It is incredible to watch a group of restless kids take deep breaths and quiet down, even if it's just for a minute or less. Movement, as well as simple yoga poses, can be great in the classroom or library because they give kids an outlet to let out energy, breathe deeply, and connect to their bodies in an active way.

Kids are often more enthusiastic than adults realize to explore these techniques, and they often can teach us so much about innocence, connection and inspiration.

What are the benefits of mindfulness in children?

Meditation also helps people self-regulate their emotions so that instead of being reactive to situations (fight or flight response), we react more mindfully to situations. Meditation also helps children focus better and has been shown to improve test scores.

Research has also indicated increasing empathy in practitioners - the ability to connect with others in a more authentic way can truly affect children and their communities. 

Most importantly, meditation helps children connect with their inner selves, to realize that they are more than the racing thoughts in their head, and that they are able to control their emotions and their actions. This is very empowering to learn at a young age.

What is the inner voice?

Our inner voice is that part of us which is honest, authentic, peaceful and always with us, no matter where we go, how much we age, what we look like or what changes we go through. I like to think of our inner voice as our soul, that safe, happy place inside of us that we can find whenever we need it. Our inner voice is usually honest about how we feel, what will make us happy, and what is the right thing for our body and mind. When we trust our inner voice, we feel more confident and willing to try new things, because we aren’t as nervous about what others think. We are strong inside, and carry that feeling in everything we do. Meditation helps us know our inner voice and tap into it without effort.

What should adults keep in mind when thinking about introducing young people to meditation?

As parents, teachers, librarians, mentors and caregivers, we know that too many kids are struggling - anxiety, depression, stress, high expectations, loss of childhood innocence, bullying, isolation, overwhelmed by social media and a stimulated environment. Meditation helps children slow down, take deep breaths, respond to situations more mindfully, and find a quiet place inside themselves that anchors them during the confusion of growing up.

How does meditation practice change and develop with age?

I believe as kids get older, they will assess what works best for them, and different practices may work best at different stages of development. An 8 year old may have an easier time moving or doing a walking meditation, and in time be able to sit for one minute, then five minutes, quietly. The goal of this book is to empower kids directly with practices that they can try, experiment and share with family and friends.

How do you talk to children about meditation tools?

Most of the meditations in Just Breathe are 1-2 minutes - the goal is to offer them a menu of options to try and see what feels most comfortable for them.

How do you talk to children about the concept of mindfulness?

Children often take to meditation more easily than adults as they are not anticipating end results and analyzing everything. Meditation doesn’t need to be intellectualized, and while there are many techniques and philosophies associated with different practices, the basic practices of just breathing are just that - Just Breathe deeply.

Your book also includes instructions for basic yoga poses. How does mindfulness work alongside yoga for children?

Yoga is an integral and complimentary part of this practice. Yoga involves movement and breath, and helps us become more aware of our body, what stresses we hold and where, and how to release them. For younger, more active children, in fact, yoga may be more effective than trying to sit quietly with their eyes closed. That's perfectly fine and a great place to begin a mindful practice.

 Just Breathe goes on sale August 28th and will be available in print, ebook, and audio formats.




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