Archives

Photo: Wesson Daniels
Calming Techniques for Kids, Kids Yoga, Little Belly Breaths, Uncategorized

The Benefits of Yoga For Kids

With the tremendous benefits I have seen in my daily life from practicing yoga four to five times a week, I decided that perhaps Emma could benefit from adding yoga into her life too. She’s super active and goes and goes all day until it’s bedtime (hasn’t napped since she turned 3). She really enjoyed the kid yoga at Great Wolf Lodge and will often do some of the poses featured in the poster they gave her at the end of the class. We keep it taped to the back of her bedroom door.

In passing, I’ve read about the benefits of yoga for kids and saw it being implemented in special education settings for both behavior modification and for warming the brain and body up. Out of the teaching sector for more than eight years now, I was happy to see how schools are beginning a push to include movement (yoga included) into daily school routines.

Pamela Wesson Daniels- the Founder, Owner and Certified Yoga Instructor at Little Belly Breaths based in Longmont, CO is one local pioneer for bringing the practice of yoga into schools and households. “Decades of research on empirically based mindfulness programs have consistently shown that children who received weekly lessons in mindfulness, even simple techniques taught at the toddler and preschool level, became better at sharing, had increased compassion and empathy, as well as increased optimism and overall happiness in the classroom, even months after the training,” Daniels said. “Neuroscience, too, has offered evidence in support of such mindfulness programs, reporting that brain training techniques, such as how to focus on breathing, movement, and compassion, strengthen the areas of the brain that are responsible for attention, emotional control, and problem-solving. Emerging evidence suggests that mindfulness-based brain training produces permanent structural changes in the brain. The BODY plays a critical role in learning and Yoga uniquely engages both mind and body in a way that optimizes the learning process.”

These are just some of the benefits the regular practice of yoga can provide for children.

  • Learning body awareness
  • Increasing concentration and energy
  • Building confidence and self-image
  • Managing feelings through movement, breathing, and meditation
  • Helping reduce anxiety
  • Enhancing fine and gross motor skills
  • Regulating sleep

Photo: Courtesy of Wesson Daniels

Here are some beginner poses that Wesson Daniels recommends for children.

Butterfly Pose

“One of the best benefits of this pose for children is that it can help a child maintain better posture by working to keep his/her spine erect in a way that also engages and strengthens the core muscles,” Wesson Daniels said. 

Downward Dog

Forward bend poses are beneficial for calming both the body and mind. “Down Dog helps to reverse the flow of blood in a child’s body and helps to re-oxygenate the body. This is a natural pose that children are drawn to and can be playful and silly while providing lasting benefits,” she said.

Crescent Moon

Crescent Moon helps increase a child’s flexibility especially along the sides of the body. “This is an area that can be quite tight, which sets children up to be prone to injury. Keep this area supple with poses like Crescent Moon can help avoid common injuries,” she said.

Tree Pose

Helping children both focus and remain calm, this is a balance pose. “The quickest way to be present at the moment is through a balancing pose because it is very hard to find balance when your mind is wandering. Balance postures bring you in to focus and develop alignment, strength, flexibility, and confidence,” Wesson Daniels said.

Standing Postures

To help children become more strong and stable. standing postures, such as Mountain Pose, are beneficial. “The way you stand is the foundation for everything. Find strength and concentration in standing poses like mountain pose,” she said.

Emma participated in the monthly kid’s class at Studio Love in Erie, CO at the end of January (last Sunday of every month) while I joined my friends for a Core and Restore class. She will be going to the class at the end of February as well.

Emma’s take on yoga

Some of the poses are called funny names.

I felt silly doing some of the poses, but my teacher helped me.

You have to focus to do the poses correctly.

It was very relaxing.

I felt calmer after.

“We got to take a sweet nap at the end!”- Her words exactly!

 

Ms. Morgan “Mo” is the instructor of kids yoga at Studio Love.

 

I am hoping to find a way to implement yoga more often into her weekday schedule because I think she would greatly benefit from it in many ways.

To find a yoga place near you, head to https://www.yogaclassnearyou.com/yoga_classes_for_children.php

Follow Pamela and Little Belly Breaths on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Adventure and Yoga On,

Courtney

Written by Courtney in February 23, 2018
Continue Reading
Disney, Disney Land, Disney World, My Disney Experience, Uncategorized

Ten Best Tips For Visiting Disney World

We’ve been fortunate enough to visit Disneyland twice with Emma- in August of 2015 and in October 2016 for Mickey’s Halloween Party. We hardly had to plan anything thanks to our Disney loving friends (thanks, Joe and Steph).

Breakfast with the “Big Guy” at a Character Breakfast.

My parents have taken all their grandchildren to Disney World in the past. With them getting older, they wanted to make sure they were in good enough health to take Emma. Last February, from an airboat in the Everglades, my mom and I talked about how late winter/spring of 2018 might be a good time.

Because we were in Chicago for Thanksgiving, we celebrated Christmas with my family in November. We had Emma unwrap a Minnie Mouse hoody and sweatpants to tell her about the trip.

Doing most of the planning on my own this trip, I learned many things about the process. Wow- I had no idea how much there is to it. I think back in the day when I was a kid, you purchased your ticket at the park entrance and in you went. Now, there are magic hours, fast passes, park hopper tickets… my head is spinning!

Here are my ten best tips for visiting Disney World.

    1. Ask a friend- More than likely you will have a friend that is all thing Disney (we have a few) or a friend that has recently visited. Purge them for their tips. If you don’t have a Disney loving friend, check out Disney forums or put out some specific questions to a local Facebook group.
    2. Location, location, location- Stay at a Disney hotel and take advantage of those perks. Free shuttles from the airport (only certain hotels), magic hours in the park, booking fast passes 60 days in advance (current policy), free transportation to and from the parks- there is a large list of extras you get by staying at a Disney hotel. 

      Meeting her favorite at Mickey’s Halloween Party October 2016.

    3. Fast Pass– Don’t forget to book your fast passes for your favorite rides 60 days out if staying at a Disney Hotel or 30 days out for other guests. These are a lifesaver when you want to avoid long lines for your favorite rides.
    4. Take advantage of Magic Hours– Different parks have magic hours on different days. This is a great time to hit the popular rides

      We used the magic hour to ensure Emma could get signed up for Jedi Training- a key item on her to do list!

      especially ones you couldn’t fast pass. We were able to sign our young Jedi up for Jedi training during this time. Magic hour days vary, so check the Park Hours Calendar for the latest information.

    5. Book Character Dining to meet your favorites- Not all characters are available for character dining, but many are. This is the easiest way to meet them. Don’t forget your autograph book and pen! We suggest bringing your own (the Spot Section at Target always has $1.00 ones with Disney characters on them) as they are expensive to buy at the park! Many of the characters available for meet and greets will be at the park during magic hours as well. We used that time to meet Chewbacca this trip. Be aware that some characters also don’t sign autographs- Chewie, Darth and Olaf included.

      We took advantage of the short line during magic hour to meet Chewbacca.

    6. Invest in a Park Hopper ticket- If you have older children, park hopper tickets might be worth the price. It’s a haul between parks at Disney World, but Disneyland is much smaller making a park hopper a more viable and practical option. If one park seems extra crowded, you can head to another park. Park hopper tickets let you take advantage of the best of all the parks.
    7. Use the baby/toddler perks- Baby care centers are a great place to take a break, rent a stroller at the park (bring a ribbon or something to identify yours from others as the park rentals look the same), and don’t forget the “rider swap” program where one parent waits with a child who is to short/young to ride and then hops right on after the other parent gets off.
    8. Get the Memory Maker Package– Leave the photo taking to the park. If you are like me, you end up taking most of the photos versus being in them. If you buy the Memory Maker Package, you can be sure to be in photos. With the digital downloads, you can also make the grandparents happy by sending copies of your vacation to them.
    9. Download the My Disney Experience Mobile App– The app was awesome to have on my phone to refer to throughout our days in the parks. I could view our fast pass selections, make dining reservations and see the wait times for rides we did not fast pass.

      Waiting in line is the pits! At least the My Disney Experience App will let you know what you are in for.

    10. Plan smart- Long days, late nights and lots of walking can make for some crabby Disney guests. If there are certain rides you want to ride, try and fast pass them for the beginning of the day when you know energy will be at its best. This way you will make sure you get to ride these rides before the meltdowns!

 

 

 

                                                 Follow these tips and you will be smiling during your trip to Disney!

 

Giveaway Alert- We are giving away one pair of Mickey or Minnie Mouse ears kids or adult size to a blog subscriber. Contest runs from 2/21 to 2/27 at 11:59 MST. Winner will be notified by email. Open to U.S. Residents only. Disney Resorts is not affiliated with this giveaway in any form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney On,

Courtney

Written by Courtney in February 21, 2018
Continue Reading
 PyeongChang, Olympic Training Center, Olympics, Uncategorized, Winter Games, Winter Olympics

Get Your Olympics On

Have you been catching any of the Olympic coverage? In my house, it is a staple. During these few weeks, the TV will be switching between NBC and NBCSN to catch all the excitement. I, myself, couldn’t help but get goosebumps last Friday night while watching the Opening Ceremonies. I’m so excited to cheer on the athlete from Kenya- a 19-year-old ski racer named Sabrina Wanjiku Simader who races in leopard skin suits and wants to save the snow leopards (Emma’s favorite animal). How can you not root for a girl who has had so many hardships, virtually no support because the Kenya Olympic Committee has little money, is the lone competitor from her country and still gets to PyeongChang with a smile on her face? Sabrina- what an incredible role model you are!

The mast majority of the world population will never know how it truly feels to be an Olympian. But, we have probably thought about it, dreamed about it and wondered about it at some point in our lives. As Olympic fans, we can experience the venues, swim laps where the greats once did and stand in the very place where Olympic gold was won. Here are some ideas to get you in the Olympic spirit.

Cheering Emma on at the Ninja Winter Olympics January 2018

Olympic Training Center

There are two Olympic Training Center locations that offer tours in the United States- Colorado Springs and Lake Placid. Past Olympians and Olympic hopefuls still train at these facilities. You may get a chance to catch a glimpse of some of them in action. Northern Michigan University is home to the U.S. Olympic Education Center and is also a U.S. Olympic Training Site.

Courtney (up front) and husband AJ in the back practice their biathlon skills in Soldier Hollow, UT.

Past Olympic Venues to Visit 

These are past Olympic venues that you can visit. You may even get the chance to see Olympic hopefuls training while you are there.

Soldier Hollow, UT-Get the full-on biathlon experience at Soldier Hollow.

Salt Lake City, UT– Learn to curl, test your speed bobsledding and skate on the Utah Olympic Oval.

Park City, UT– Visit the site of the 2002 Games where skiers jumped and bobsleds soared down the track at Olympic Park. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Eccles 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum while you are in town or even try your speed on the bobsled track.

Concentrating on the target.

Lake Placid, NY– Skate at the site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice”, test your speed on the bobsled track or cross country ski.

Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe, CA- This ski resort was essentially built to host the 1960 Olympics.

The Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA- Where cycling events were hosted in the 1932 Olympics.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Los Angeles, CA- Currently where the USC Trojans play, this was the home of equestrian, field hockey and gymnastic events in 1932.

EXPO Center Los Angeles, CA- Now called the EXPO Center after being renovated in 2004, the Olympic Swim Stadium was used in the 1932 and 1984 games.

Centennial Olympic Park Atlanta, GA- cool off in the interactive fountain featuring the Olympic Ring symbol and enjoy a day at the park that was a venue during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Turner Field (Georgia State Stadium) Atlanta, GA- Home to the Atlanta Braves from 1997-2016 and now the home of the Georgia State football team, this stadium hosted track and field events in the 1996 games.

Washington University St. Louis Missouri- the athletic fields and gym were used in the 1904 Olympics.

I conceptualized the Olympic passports for the July 2012 issue of tri-magazine.net. This was one of my favorite pieces to help design!

Non- USOC Olympic Training Venues (but where you may catch an Olympian training)

Olympic athletes train all over the United States (and the world). Here are some of the more known training facilities.

The United States Equestrian Team trains in New Jersey at Hamilton Farm.

The once Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA is now owned by the city and called the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center.

The National Training Center in Clermont, FL is part of the South Lake Hospital and serves as a training center for many world-class athletes from swimmers and triathlete to track runners and soccer elites.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has helped produced some of our top winter athletes in Steamboat Springs, CO.

Norge Ski Club – three ski jumpers representing Team U.S.A in PyeongChang train here in Fox River Grove, IL.

*I’m sure I may have missed some venues, so please comment below if you know of any more.

 

Go Team U.S.A!

Adventure On,

Courtney

 

Written by Courtney in February 15, 2018
Continue Reading
Mental Health, Studio Love, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yogi

A New Title

I have many titles to my name- mother, writer, wife, sister, daughter, friend…… While at a full moon yoga class at the beginning of February, my teacher called us yogis. Yogi? Me a yogi? I LOVE the sound of that! This past Monday, our teacher told a few newcomers to look to myself and two friends for guidance if they get lost. I LOVED being able to help them just as others have been there to guide me!

I’ve been what I would call a yoga on an offer. Years and years ago, AJ and I would pick random times when we felt sore or wanted to do something besides running, riding or swimming and spend 45 minutes or so watching the one yoga DVD we own. I did some classes at our rec center in Erie, but I never felt comfortable. Emma, AJ and I have done it from time to time at home on our own. Emma and I even did a yoga class at Great Wolf Lodge together last winter.

Emma participating in kid yoga at Great Wolf Lodge.

This is how becoming a yogi all began……. A few weeks ago, a friend (thank you, Micah) put up a Facebook post about trying out a yoga class at Studio Love in Erie. Three of us decided to join her for a class focused on Vinyasa/Yin Yoga. We all left in a blissful state. We all decided to do the introductory month for $39. Now, we have a group text going about who is going to yoga when and scratching our heads on how we could make a monthly membership work financially. The good thing is I think we all figured it out!

My new yoga mat!

Yoga compliments many of the things I am finally taking the time to do to take care of my emotional wellbeing. When I leave a class, I feel more at peace with difficult things that have happened in my life. I’ve been able to overlook things that would have bothered me in the past. My overall mood has improved while my patience in all areas of my life has also improved. As my therapist puts it, “We are so in tune with our minds, but we have lost that mind and body connection that yoga brings.”

I feel stronger climbing and more relaxed skiing. I’ve found it easier to fall asleep. I feel overall I have more energy throughout the day. I am less achy and less tense.

Even if I can’t do all the poses, needs props to help me get into position or if I fall over while trying to hold my balance, I never feel like I don’t belong. Studio Love is an incredibly accepting and loving environment. The teachers and fellow yogis make you feel that you belong there.

I am starting to LOVE myself again- something I haven’t felt in a long time. 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are a few basic poses that open up the heart chakra. These are some of my favorites!

Sphinx Pose

How to: Lie flat on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Rotate your thighs so they come inward. Your elbows should be next to your shoulders and forearms. Take a breath and lengthen your tailbone while you lift your torso and head off the floor. Round your belly towards your back. Take five to ten breaths and release.

Cat-Cow Pose (Chakravakasana)

How to: Begin on your knees with your hands directly under your shoulders. Knees should be under your hips. Lift your back and arch. Your gaze should be down. Return to a neutral tabletop pose (starting pose) and inhale. Lift your chest towards the ceiling while your belly sinks towards the floor. Slowly lift your head and look forward.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

How to: Stand tall. Bend your left knee and place your left foot on your right calf or right inner thigh. Bring your hands to heart. If you want more of a challenge, lift your hands above your head with your palms face out. Breath and stay here for a few moments. Reach down and bring your foot back to the floor. Repeat with the other side.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

How to: Lower your back to the floor. Support your head with a bolster or blanket if needed. Take your upper thighs into your hands and slowly press your outer thighs away from your torso. Your knees should be pointing away from your hips. Feet should be together (think of doing a butterfly pose lying down). Your hands should be placed on the floor angled at your sides at about 45 degrees with your palms up. Stay in this pose from one to ten minutes breathing while you maintain the pose. To easily get out of the pose, press your thighs back together and roll to one side before lifting your chest and head back off the ground.

Seated Heart-Opener

How to: Begin by sitting on your heels. Place your palms flat on the floor as you lean back. Ideally, your fingertips will be pointing away about eight to ten inches behind you. While pressing your hands into the ground, lift your chest, arch your back and press your hips into your heals. You can lower your head behind you to increase the stretch. Breath. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds and then slowly lift your torso and head up.

Love Yourself and Adventure On,

Courtney

 

Written by Courtney in February 14, 2018
Continue Reading
American Kestrel Photo: C Johnson
Birdcount.org, Birds, Great Backyard Bird Count, Uncategorized

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Coming to a backyard, lake or trail near you is the Great Backyard Bird Count. 100 countries are participating in this citizen and scientist project. From February 16th-19th, bird lovers from around the world will track the birds they see, submit stats and photos into an online database. The best part is they want families around the globe to participate in this research program so that humans can better understand bird populations worldwide.

Red Tail Hawk Photo: C Johnson

This is how you can get involved.

  • Count birds from anywhere- your front window, backyard, a nearby reservoir or your favorite hiking trail. It doesn’t matter where you look as long as you do it for at least 15 minutes (longer is OK).
  • Keep track of the types of birds you see, how many you saw of each species, the amount of time you observed for and the location.
  • Enter your list online at Birdcount.org. Look for the “Submit Observations” tab. You will have to create a free account first if you have not already done so.

 

Seeing a Starling from Natures Educators up close. Photo: C Johnson

You can participate one day, all four days or somewhere in between. We will be doing our observing while in Orlando, Florida. A bit different bird population than in Colorado, but we are interested to keep track of what we see.

 

Adventure On.

Courtney

Written by Courtney in February 12, 2018
Continue Reading