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Mindfulness and Kids


Martial arts integrate body and mind to bring out the best in the practitioner. A student who is not focused and relaxed cannot perform their best in martial arts, school, homework, or whatever the task at hand may be.

We teach children as young as four that they have a tool that is with them all of the time to restore their focus when they are anxious, frustrated, hyper, sad, or afraid. When adults understand this tool, they become less dependent on chemicals to ease them through challenging times. But, this takes consistent, daily practice. A child who has been practicing mindful meditation will be less motivated to experiment with drugs or alcohol. They will know that they cloud the mind and derail their martial arts training.

This guide is designed to help you to introduce mindfulness training to your children. Consider making this part of their bedtime routine for the next two weeks. Let us know how it impacts their ability to fall and stay asleep. Also consider it as part of a morning routine after brushing their teeth and see if the rest of their morning, and yours, goes a little smoother. Have your child . . .

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit on the floor. A throw pillow or cushion is fine.
  • Rest the back of the hands gently on the lap. Connecting the tips of the thumb and first finger (like the “Ok” sign) helps to create a sense of connection with the mind and body and helps one to focus. Many find it induces a calming effect.
  • Close their eyes. If children are afraid to do this at first, that is fine. With practice they will learn there is nothing to fear. If they do not want to close their eyes, have them focus on an object in front of them, perhaps something they enjoy like a favorite stuffed toy.
  • Focus on their breath. Ask them to feel the cool breath come in through their nose. Notice as it fills their belly (not just their chest). Exhale slowly through the mouth.
  • The length of time of a practice session depends on age and experience. We ask our 4-6 year old students to sit mindfully for 30 seconds to a minute. Our 7-11 year olds may sit for two minutes at a time. As an adult, I have worked my way up to 30 minutes and when I practice consistently, I see a definite impact on my ability to handle the day and I sleep better. It is an important component of my total health program.

What we want to learn how to do is to focus on the breath. The mind will wander. That is normal. When our thoughts drift to something else, we recognize that and come back to the breath. Mindfulness is about observation without judgment.

When we focus on the breath, we get out of our own heads; our racing thoughts, that which make us anxious, frustrated, hyper, sad or afraid. Our awareness has shifted and our body is soothed by doing what it is designed to do. I recommend not setting a “goal” with mindfulness training. Let it be for its own sake and see what it does for your child.

On several occasions I have had parents come to me to say that their child was on the verge of having a meltdown and they asked for some quiet time to meditate. Tantrum averted. Child calm. When we say that Tae Kwon Do is “More Than Just Fitness,” this is what we mean.

Parents: try this yourself, and you will realize how shallow your subconscious breathing is all day long. Once you have developed the habit of focusing on the breath (not your internal dialogue) you can try guided meditations. There are many available programs available that guide you through different stages of breathing and body awareness. Sometimes they will ask you to picture yourself in a calming place like a beach. Whatever works for you is fine. But we begin by focusing on the breath.

For adults wanting to learn more about mindfulness, I recommend two resources:

  • “Headspace” is a free app (first 10 lessons) that has 10 guided meditation sessions. This is a great way to get started.
  • To learn much about mindfulness, listen to “Practicing Mindfulness, an Introduction to Meditation” by Professor Mark W. Muesse. You can buy it online at “The Great Courses.”

In sum, meditation is not sitting and doing nothing. Mindfulness is not mindlessness. By focusing on our breath and the what our bodies actually feel, we take some time out of each day to distance ourselves from our internal dialogues that can be negative and hold us back if we are not “mindful.”  Let us know how things go.






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