Elbert Hubbard was right on target when he said, “The object of teaching is to enable a child to get along without his teacher.” While many of us read this quote and agree with it, we may not quite grasp its full meaning or its connection to Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is an ancient, time-tested style of holistic medicine that supports one in allowing better health and happiness into life. “Ayur” translates into life or longevity and “Veda” translates into knowledge or truth. Combining the two words leaves us with “Knowledge of Longevity” or “Truth of Life.” As one applies the “knowledge of longevity” they begin to experience the “truth of life”. . .that every moment of every day can be filled with love, peace and happiness.
Ayurveda supports the development of the human being by understanding that we are more than just physical. To heal we may have to deal with deeper-rooted stresses along with the physical ailment. One of Ayurveda's strengths is its ability to treat each person individually, recognizing there can be many internal and external influences on one’s health and happiness. Another strength is Ayurveda's focus on prevention of dis-ease by recommending spiritual, herbal, dietary and lifestyle regimens that fit our individual needs and body-types. Through this way Ayurveda promotes greater self-awareness by allowing us to get connected with who we are as an individual and then to feel empowered in knowing how to stay balanced mentally, emotionally and physically. The more balanced we feel the more we can experience the love and beauty each moment of each day.
Many of us who became interested in holistic healthcare and disease prevention waited until we were in our twenties or beyond before we recognized the positive impact it can have on our lives. Too often the reason we end up in an Ayurvedic consult is our own mental or physical health issues that just won’t go away. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had learned how to keep our body balanced and at peace at an earlier age? We can imagine how we may have handled parts of our life differently if we were in a more peaceful state of mind. We can imagine the physical issues that could have been averted and the increased happiness that could have been cultivated.
During my time as an elementary school teacher I had the opportunity to work with many types of children including children who were considered gifted and children with severe emotional impairment. No matter what classroom I was in I observed many children dealing with the same imbalances that were plaguing many of my friends and family as well as myself. The issues I noticed most commonly stemmed from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and not knowing how to process emotions effectively.
Below is a list of holistic strategies to support children at an early age in beginning to develop healthy behavioral habits that can support them for the rest of their lives. These strategies are rooted in Ayurvedic wisdom coupled with teacher-based experiences. The strength in these strategies lies within the empowerment children feel as they make positive changes in their lives and gain a greater depth of self-awareness. As mentioned before, this self-development does not just leave us with a healthier body but leads to greater joy and happiness every day of our lives.
Enjoy using these strategies to bring more balance to your child's life. These techniques are just the beginning and will hopefully be a catalyst for the development of more kid-friendly holistic strategies and enjoyable times between you and your kids.
DEPRESSION: When thinking about depression it may be helpful to think about the child's emotional heart. What can we do to support the healing and blossoming of the child’s heart?
Pet Therapy: Allow the child to work with a pet. We can teach the child how their behavior impacts the animal and how the animal relies on them. The best animals to use would be one able to clearly show its affection back. Some examples may be a dog or cat.
Volunteering: Engage the child in volunteering in a way that they can see how appreciative the people receiving the help are. If the child is not able to meet the individual in person, phone calls, pictures or letters can be useful. Sharing toys or other items with friends can be an easy first step. Allow the child to share something that they really enjoy with others and observe how much the friend appreciates it.
Aroma Therapy: rose, jasmine, orange, lemongrass, clary sage.
Meditation: Sit with the child and guide the child to close their eyes. Guide them to picture a bright light of their favorite color in the center of their chest like a ball or balloon. Ask them to allow the light to be filled with happiness, joy and laughter. If you choose, guide the child to expand the balloon in order to surround themselves or be sent to another person.
ANXIETY: Many times kids with fear and anxiety can be helped by grounding them downward. In other words, get some of the focus from their thinking mind down into their physical body.
Feel the Feet: This is a great game that can be played. The child sits with bare feet and closes their eyes. Allow them to use their feet to feel different items like ice, stones, or cotton and then have them guess what they are. Simply walking outside with bare feet is a great strategy. When doing so, really guide the child in noticing how the ground feels beneath them.
Self-Massage: To better ground into the body we can teach the child to softly massage their muscles. You can develop a routine starting with the feet and legs and working up to the neck and head. For a more grounding effect, look into Ayurveda's abhyanga massage and add some very grounding massage oil to the routine.
Aroma Therapy: Cedarwood, bergamot, lavender, lemongrass, vetiver.
Meditation: Guide the child to stand with their eyes closed and their arms out like a “T” (like tree branches). Guide their focus down into their feet pretending they are roots of a tree. Tell them to imagine their roots growing down into the warm earth below them, keeping them stable and connected even when a strong wind comes.
LOW SELF-ESTEEM: Start with small successes when working with a child’s low self-esteem.
Simple Successes: When you notice the child doing something helpful, point out how much it helps you or how much time it saves you. An example may be saying thanks for cleaning up the toys in the backyard and pointing out that it saves you from doing it later. Being specific works much better than simply saying “great job!” If a child comes to you and asks you for praise, give the power back to them. Rather than just saying, “good job,” point out something specific about their actions or ask them what they like about it. For example, “I really like how your teeth are brushed and your pajamas are on.” Or you can say, “What about your evening routine do you feel you are best at?”
Sharing Interests: Allow the child to share something they enjoy with family, friends or classmates. Start with small, hand-picked groups first and then expand to larger groups. Support the child beforehand in creating an exciting and age-appropriate presentation. Talk with them about ways to explain and teach about this subject and how to answer questions about it. Talk with their teacher or school social worker about sharing with a small group of kids at school. Simply sharing pictures can be a start.
Aroma Therapy: Ylang Ylang, jasmine.
Meditation: Guide the child to sit with eyes closed and move their attention into the solar plexus region just below the rib cage. You can show them where this area is before beginning. Allowing the child to rest their hand over this region or softly massaging this area in a circular motion can be helpful during the meditation. Then direct them to visualize a bright, warm sun shining in this area. This warmth has a supportive strength and can used to fill their body and expand to warm others.
EMOTIONAL PROCESSING: Give children options and an opportunity to share emotions. Create a choice poster and hang it on the fridge or in your child's room. Make a table using Microsoft Word and plug in pictures that represent different ways someone can process and/or share emotions. Some examples are: talk as we walk, coloring, meditation, listening to music and exercise. The key to this choice poster is how it empowers children to make the decision on their own. It becomes our job as parents and educators to teach them how to use the poster and the techniques indicated on the poster.
These techniques empower children to be aware of how they are feeling and to realize they can keep themselves healthy and balanced in order to enjoy life to the fullest. When we go back to the definition of Ayurveda we can see how these strategies fit perfectly with the “knowledge of longevity.” As we reflect back on our lives we can see how having this knowledge may have allowed for a smoother ride through life. Let’s not wait any longer. Let's empower children!