Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Nook: My Magic Breath

I recently had a chance to see a copy of MY MAGIC BREATH: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing (HARPER Hardcover, on sale May 15, 2018) by Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor, with pictures by Michelle Polizzi,

The book is written for young readers to learn the basics of mindfulness. It encourages kids to participate and breathe along with the book, and can help parents and teachers work with children trying to cope with negative feelings.

The only caution I'd have with this book is the page that talks about blowing away the bad feelings - while that works for some situations, parents and teachers have to be careful that they give kids space to express sadness too, and help them learn that negative emotions have a place, without dwelling on them. 

Otherwise the book is colorful and beautiful, gentle and peaceful.

A conversation with Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor, authors ofMy Magic Breath

How does mindful breathing work?
Mindful breathing is as simple as taking a deep breath, and just noticing that you’re doing it.Bringing awareness to something we do thousands of times a day can be transformative, as it brings us to the present moment and relaxes our body.In this way, mindful breathing is a reminder to pause and think rather than react impulsively. While mindful breathing can allow for individuals to process “negative” feelings, it also gives an opportunity for sincere appreciation and gratitude toward what makes us happy.

Do you think children as young as four can be stressed or struggle with anxieties?
I do, though it might not fit under the preconceived definitions of the word, “stress,” i.e. deadlines, responsibilities and adult problems.Children, as they begin to learn, grow and navigate the world, are faced with their own types of challenges.What often seems like silly reasons to be upset for an adult, i.e. not getting something a child wants, being told “no,”navigating fears of school, etc., are real stressors for children of all ages.On top of that, children have a tendency to “pick up” on adult stressors, sensing a dangerous or overwhelming situation and taking that on as their own stressor.Unfortunately, when something like this is not addressed, children grow with these concerns, which can intensify over time.

How do you hope this book is used? Is your goal for kids to learn how to use their deep breathing to calm themselves or to mentally push away sad thoughts?
My hope is that the book serves two purposes.The first one being the experience of reading the book itself, especially at bedtime, and letting go of any stressor or general anxiety from the day.The book acknowledges that we all have an array of feelings, which are not a bad thing, but we can control how we react or how much we perseverate on something. My second hope for this book is for readers to build a pattern and understanding around the concept of using breathing as a self-management tool. It is not necessary to struggle through dinner, bedtime, or sleep, because of an anxiety from earlier that day. I want readers to know that they have the power of using their own “magic breath,” their power to use deep breathing to calm stress signals, at any need throughout the day.

Alison, as an elementary school teacher, have you utilized mindful breathing with your students and, if so, what has been the result?
Absolutely! I’ve found much value in teaching my students to be in control of their thoughts and feelings. Whether through mindful breathing, yoga brain-breaks, or calm places in the classroom to collect one’s thoughts, I’ve found children respond effectively to this principle. I’ve noticed great payback in the classroom from giving students the opportunity to work through their feelings, worries, and anxieties. Even as adults, we have trouble focusing and thinking efficiently if we are preoccupied with an outside worry. Children are the same and benefit from being taught tools to understand how to navigate these situations. It also allows for problem solving and building resilience in children as they can use mindful breathing to calm stress signals and think clearly when a problem or worry arises, instead of shutting down.

Nick, as the author of the New York Times bestseller The Tapping Solution, can you briefly explain what tapping is and the role mindful breathing has within it?
Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), is a powerful holistic healing technique that has been proven to effectively resolve a range of issues, including stress, anxiety, phobias, emotional disorders, chronic pain, addiction, weight control, and limiting beliefs, just to name a few.Tapping therapy is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations, helps to calm the nervous system, rewire the brain to respond in healthier ways, and restore the body’s balance of energy.Tapping involves mindful breathing in its opening and closing moments and both techniques work torelax the body, calm stress signals and find balance in our lives!

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