How To Enhance Childhood Development and Learning

Our development during the early years is influenced by neurophysiology, neurochemistry and neuroanatomy. Often the challenges with learning and behaviour can be traced back to irregularities in this neural network.

The mind and body functions through a complex interplay of many systems (including the nervous system, digestive system, visual system, auditory system, sensory-motor system, endocrine system ,vestibular system and so on) ; and there are Systematic, Scientific Yoga practices that focus on and enhance all of the above and more.

What is most exciting is that even if part of a system or brain is damaged it is possible to reroute, and activate all the supporting structures. Often we think that the mind must be used to figure something out, but the reverse is also true in that we can use our body, breath connection to awaken, heal and create new neural pathways in the mind.

Regularly teaching in schools and the Kids Classes at AWAKE Yoga Studio, I see first hand how yoga aids all levels of learning, and positively enhances children’s coping mechanisms and behaviour.

Yoga also eases numerous childhood ailments, such as asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, headaches, anxiety, autism, dyspraxia and the list goes on even to constipation ... yip all kids absolutely love - Pawanmuktasana Gas Release Pose. I know I’ve done my job when everyone has a real belly laugh.

Learning to balance and find balance not only enhances all the systems, but also builds confidence and a true sense of self. Children find that quiet space to discover themselves in a very tangible way, with grounding their feet into the earth to feel more supported. Finding a fixed point to focus on in order to easily hold balance. Lengthening and slowing down their breath, to slow their heart rate and ease their mind.

Kids Yoga Childhood Development

The Benefits of Backbends

Meeting Yourself Full Circle.

Backward bending postures turn the body out to face the world and with the expansion of the chest that comes with these heart-revealing poses, you readily and bravely face yourself.

 The expansion of the chest also encourages deep inhalations, enlivening all systems and the extroverted expression of your personality. You feel exhilarated and open to fully embrace life. *Although admittedly you may also feel slightly overwhelmed at first, and then need to simply breath through the shift of insecurities to settle into an easier version of the backbend practice, until you feel confident and comfortable to move deeper. 

 Chakrasana- wheel pose-also known as Urdhva Dhanurasana, so named as in the final expression of the pose it represents a full circle and shape of the wheel; especially when you eventually, after years of steady practice, with ease grasp your ankles with your hands. 

 The are numerous preliminary practices that help you to systematically loosen and gain more flexibility in the spine, whilst simultaneously building stability and strength in the pelvis, deep core line and limbs. 

 Start with hips-facing-forward poses, such as Anjaneyasana, Ashta Chandrasana and Parsvotanasana and then when the body is stable, add twists into the sequence with poses such as Pavritta Parsvakonasana, Pavritta Ashta Chandrasana and Pavritta Trikonasana. 

 When it comes to moving into deeper backbends, it is most useful to first choose the safest and most stable version from prone position; lying with the front body on the floor. Set yourself up in Sphinx pose and then progressively move into backbends: Bhujangasana, Naukasana, Shalabasana and Dhanurasana . 

 Seated spinal twists, further assist spinal health by stimulating the spinal nerves and developing both strength and flexibility along the back. Energy is enhanced around the navel area, Solar Plexus, and from there radiates throughout the whole body. . 

 It is important to learn to still maintain core awareness to support the back, whilst at the same time open the front body. 

 Backbends improve the functioning of the nervous, digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular and glandular systems. So ‘all round’ beneficial, as the entire front body is stretched and with the heart space and thorax opened this pose enhances respiration. The lower portion of the lungs with their corresponding alveoli is opened and mucous drained. 

 The stretch in the upper part of the abdominal muscles gives a good pressure and increases blood circulation to the organs and glands for improved secretions and efficiency. 

 The legs and arms are strengthened and this pose helps tone the entire back muscles, and spinal nerves, including the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerves, thus stimulating the neural network. Granted that the pose is done with steadiness and ease, it will help realign spinal discs. 

 Chakrasana releases tension in the neck and can further open and release any holding in the throat. As this is an inverted pose, the brain neurons are invigorated with freshly oxygenated blood improving the overall health of the mind and of the whole body.

 Key Points To Tighten Your Chakrasana into a Full Wheel Pose

·     Awareness is in relaxing the spine and attention on slow and deep breathing. 

·     Inner thighs spiraling towards midline, and attention on knees tracking parallel, whilst the armpits also grip inwards cultivating space in the back of the heartspace.

·      Ensure an equal distribution of weight through the legs and arms, whilst simultaneously activating full Pada Bandha (firm through the whole foot with a subtle lift of the inner arch) and Hasta Bandha (firm through the whole palm with a subtle lift of the inner palm). 

·     Hipbones find lift, whilst pubic bone keeps a slight weightiness to help you embrace the natural curvature of your lower back. 

·     Shoulder blades drift down the back ribs, broadening the collarbones, however still keep space and energy running between the shoulder blades. 

·     If you are comfortable and steady, strong through legs and arms, you can accentuate the flexion in the spine by progressively and carefully walking your hands and feet closer towards each other. Please do not strain, as Yoga is a practice of awareness- steadiness and ease- and not the landing of a pose. 

Chakrasana | Urdhva Dhanurasana | Wheel Pose

Chakrasana | Urdhva Dhanurasana | Wheel Pose

What is your Sankalpa?

What is your Intention? 

 Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word, translated to resolve, resolution; your intention formed by your heart and mind. When we consciously set our intention, it can be a powerful tool for shifting and more clearly tracing the direction of our life and healing. 

You simply need to form a statement that best resonates with your sense of purpose, or perhaps a more specific statement for healing, and settle this into the deeper layers of your mind when you are calm and quiet. 

When the body is at ease and the mind is clear, the resolve, Sankalpa grows very well. A relaxed mind and body, with positive will power is ready to accept and best implement your set intention. 

Yoga Nidra Meditation is a process of Conscious Relaxation, and helps you to systematically relax and enable the subconscious and unconscious mind to be more receptive to your resolve. 

In order to fully relax the inner tensions of the body, emotions and mind must be eased. The practice of Yoga Nidra is the scientific method of removing unnecessary tensions and readily promoting systematic relaxation with awareness.

A single hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleeping. 

Relaxing the mind by relaxing the body is the starting point of most yoga practices, and in Yoga Nidra the progressive movement of awareness through parts of the body stimulates and relaxes not only the physical body, but also clears the nerve pathways to the the brain, both those concerned with physical activity and incoming information. 

Then comes sense withdrawal and redirected awareness to breath and the state of physical relaxation. From there Yoga Nidra goes into the play of opposite sensations and developing control of emotional reactions to autonomic responses. One is encouraged to become more of a witness and release holding patterns. The fourth stage of Yoga Nidra is visualization that relates to universal imagery and adventures we can all relate to. The visualizations are most wondrous and inspiring, and have been proven to help improve memory. 

Yoga techniques, such as Yoga Nidra, helps the body and mind find ease and rest, to feel at peace with yourself and your situation; and from there more readily being able to sow the seed of your resolve, Sankalpa, intention and watch it grow. 

Your set intention then becomes a powerful, tangible directive to best live and awaken your life, sense of wonder and purpose. 

Conscious Relaxation, Yoga Nidra Meditation, every Friday at 10:30am at AWAKE Yoga Studio, 3rdFloor The Point Mall, BUC Fitness Club.  

Breathwork Meditation Intention.jpg

The Intention and Story of AWAKE Yoga Studio

Q:  Jeannie Holmes, you’ve recently opened AWAKE Yoga Studio, a new yoga studio on the top floor of the centre, and I’ve seen the floor-to-ceiling sea views: jaw-dropping! But apart from the views, what makes AWAKE any different from any other yoga offering in Sea Point?

 A:  The intention of this studio is for yoga to be relatable and accessible. All levels, all ages, all walks of life are welcomed. There are classes for kids; for people who enjoy physical challenges; for people who prefer restorative yoga; for people who enjoy spiritual upliftment; for people who need deep relaxation. Whatever the class, the focus is on intelligent sequencing, detailed alignment, core activation, breathing techniques and meditation. The purpose throughout is to promote physical and mental well-being.

Q:  Speaking about well-being, I read somewhere that your approach is based on something called yoga therapy. What is that?

 A:  Yoga is a means of harmonizing our various systems (digestive; nervous; respiratory, endocrine; lymphatic; circulatory; muscular; etc) as well as our mind; vitality; and intellectual and emotional states, in order to elevate wellbeing and awareness and to release dormant energy and uncover latent potential.

Yoga therapy does all of this, but takes an individualized approach, ‘prescribing’ personalized yoga programmes to attain the state of equilibrium and optimal health. Various time-proved methods (postures; breathing techniques; meditation; conscious relaxation, etc.) are recommended and taught to stimulate; regulate and harmonise body, mind and spirit.

Q:  Sounds like something we all need! But what drew you to yoga in the first place?

 A:  I have always been drawn to experiences and learning that dawn new perspectives. Freeflying, a discipline of skydiving, taught me how our perceptions of time / space are truly relative and that in just 30 seconds one can experience an entire journey with wondrous epiphanies. It was at the drop zone that I first discovered yoga, as in order to hold the vertical positions and transitions yoga was needed for coordination, balance, strength, focus, steadiness and ease. 

I have also always been fascinated about our potential to self-heal. In 2007 I attended the university Yoga Vidya Gurukul in India to study yoga in the hope of discovering how to also heal a particular digestive ailment that I’d struggled with for many years. I found the answer to that, and so much more. That 250hr yoga teacher training course, under the guidance of Dr Vishwas Mandlik who taught how a plethora of illnesses, disorders and ailments can be eased or alleviated altogether through yogic practices, led me to return to India some years later to study and obtain a 250hr Diploma in Yoga Therapy in 2017. 

 Q:   So what else has been necessary then to reach this point in your career and yoga journey?

 A:   In between my two study trips to India, I also attended the 200hr Yoga Teacher Training and Advanced Teacher Training at The Shala, along with a mentorship program with renowned yoga teacher Tamsin Sheehy, and an Anatomy and Physiology course with Jim Harrington right back here in South Africa. I have practised and taught yoga for many years, and also volunteered at various organisations. With the help of FOSCHA, 2017, I started a support programme for the caregivers and doctors at the Red Cross Childrens Hospital, offering weekly therapeutic yoga lessons.  I now also find myself so grateful and inspired to teach daily at the most magnificent studio in Cape Town, thanks to Andrew and Paul Rothschild owners of BUC Fitness Club, 3rd floor of The Point. 


Jeannie Holmes owner of AWAKE Yoga Studio.jpg

Dr Vishwas Mandlik awarded the Prime Ministers Award

Dr Vishwas Mandlik of Nashik is awarded the Prime Minister's Award for outstanding contribution to promotion and development of yoga.

The selection was done from among 186 nominations received under different categories for the year 2018, the Ministry said in a statement. 

Mandlik acquired in-depth knowledge of authentic Patanjali and Hatha Yoga, Bhagavad Gita and Upanishad by study and research of ancient scriptures over the last 55 years. In 1978, he set up first branch of Yoga Vidya Dham, which today has 160 centres in India.

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