Dr. Poornima Sharma has been a meditator for decades and is an advanced meditation and yoga teacher.
She leads us through the 3 categories of meditation and why it is critical that as parents or caregivers of a child with a disability, be that Autism, Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, we learn to meditate right NOW.
“A strong mind can carry a weak body, but a weak mind cannot even carry a strong body.”
You can register NOW to learn the Sudarshan Kriya, the best gateway to meditation and calm, I have ever experienced:
Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.
Hi, everyone, welcome to functional nutrition and learning for kids. I’m your host Vaish. And we are talking about meditation today. Meditation for parents and calming practices for children with autism or Down syndrome or cerebral policy. In other words, any disability that makes it hard for a child to connect with their body, to self-calm, or to go inward. It is my utmost honor to introduce Poornima one of my favorite meditation teachers.
Now I’m going to introduce her further, but Poornima is a teacher with the Art of Living Foundation. And I can say without exaggeration that learning pranayama breathing practices and meditation from The Art of Living changed my life upside down. It has helped me learn at accepted versity It has helped me navigate emotions, explore equanimity, and much more. It’s a technique that I recommend everyone learn. But there is a problem.
We know that our kids, many autistic kids are not often in control over their breath. And breath is the bridge between the body and the mind. So how can you deal with the breath? How can you calm the mind when you can’t control your breath rather? What a quandary right. And every time I have been in a quandary, I have reached out to Poornima.
Today I want to extend a very warm welcome to my friend and mentor Dr. Poornima Sharma. Dr. Poornima is a certified yoga instructor and health coach with a Ph.D. in food and nutrition and especially focuses on obesity, diabetes, and iron deficiency. She’s a certified wade Awareness counselor and also a REIT 200 certified yoga and meditation teacher with the Art of Living Foundation. And she loves helping people focus on eating well, living well, and embracing mindful living, to enjoy inner transformation and outer dynamism.
Today’s focus is on mindfulness and meditation for kids, specifical kids with disability. And this is the first time that we’re discussing this on a podcast. And I can think of no one more qualified than Poornima to talk to us about it, especially because I myself have reached out to her numerous times with questions about the SIDS journey. And it has always been an extremely enriching experience when I’ve done so. Welcome, Dr. Poornima.
Hey, guys, thanks for having me today.
Yes, my pleasure. So I thought we can just get started because you are the meditation expert. Generally, why should we even talk about meditation, what are some benefits of
Meditation is the way to take deep rest and be alert and conscious at the same time. Know when we meditate, it allows us to have more clarity of mind, and more focus, generally, the thing is concentration is meditation. Yes, that is one form of meditation. But if you’re looking for deep rest from where the beautiful creativity comes through, is by resting fully, without having any effort in the mind.
Find categories of meditation, where one is like focused attention where we. And another one is open-monitoring where you observe your thoughts. And the third one is automatic self-transcending, which is where you find deep rest. And a lot of stress relief happened at that time. For me, if you will ask meditation has two important benefits.
One is to release accumulated stress that is in the system. And second is meditation prevents stress from getting into the system. Oh, nice. Yeah, that is very important, because you keep emptying your bucket. But if you do not work on the cause of stress, you will keep doing that all your life. So somewhere, the form of meditation I have been practicing, it really helps to break those patterns in the mind that can keep going on a rut over and over again in your lifetime. And you can say, Oh, my God, I’m meditating for so long without any benefits. But that is where we need to see what really we are doing is our meditation practice.
I see and I can completely attest to that, that having meditated being meditating for many years right now is one of the primary things that will protect me because I often times people to talk to me about the stress of having a child with disabilities and I usually think what stress so I can totally attest to that. A couple of questions about meditation is that some people oftentimes I’ve spoken to a lot of my friends and they’ll say they run actually my husband says that he says is running is this meditation. Some dancers will say dancing is their meditation singers will say singing is meditation. Is this true? Can that be possible or does it have to be eating practice?
You know, everybody finds relaxation in different ways. What I understand for medication is a mind without agitation is meditation. The present moment is meditation, right? The mind which becomes no-mind is meditation as well. And mind without hesitation. Anticipation is medication as well. So basically a mind that has come back to home to the sources of meditation, that’s what I’ve learned from my spiritual mentor as well. That you know, when you are so centered, so calm, that nothing is affecting you, you’re energized, you’re relaxed, that is meditation. So yes, for some people, it could be that but again, as I said before, actually what you’re really looking for defines what type of meditation you should be doing.
You know, and I have observed that whenever you do your meditation as practice regularly, reaps even different benefits, you know, how, like, so many people have observed and researchers have been done that people have left social anxiety or phobias, or OC, D behaviors or anxiety-related issues, or some such a behavior patterns that come because of day to day life situations that we are living in the world right now? Oh, yeah, I would say something like, you know, it’s like a seed, you know, when you cultivate a seed with love, the more it blossoms?
Yes, so definitely regular practice is regular prep.
Yeah. And also, you might have heard about neuroplasticity, where, you know, the brain continually reorganizes itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. And that is where the regular practice of meditation, you know, a form of meditation really helps a lot, because I have seen for personally for me, when I run or do other chores, definitely I get into that space, but there is still no deep rest there. That’s my personal observation. It could be different for everyone. But definitely, yeah, with the sitting practice, doing nothing effortlessly has a big impact in your life.
Nice, you know, this. Sorry, continue.
Yeah, I was just saying, you know, they say that it’s the state of our mind that determines the quality of our life observed, and what have heard also from the other mentor that I have, a strong mind can carry a weak body, but a weak mind cannot even a strong body. So that is where the more we release stress, the more we let go, the more we are able to take on, especially when we have kids with special needs, it is even more important to take care of your own mind first, because sometimes it’s baggage in our mind that we’d like to force upon people around us and that well gets to kids also, in that sense.
That is such an important point. And even though initially, my plan was to ask you about practices for children, I think, you know, it’s like the oxygen mask before you can do anything, you have to make sure that we are in that still quiet space, were able to make the best decision for our children without, like he said without imposing our baggage on them.
So, coming to children, are neurotypical kids able to steal their minds? I mean, is this is meditation practice feasible for them? And how does it help?
Yeah, of course, it does. In fact, if you will, here, more and more, many schools are going towards mindfulness. And part of their you know, if the kids did not do homework or if they are not behaving well, they are sent to the meditation room, instead of just standing outside the classroom.
There are many types of research have been done, where they are saying that when meditation is cultivated in children, they also there’s reduced stress and anxiety and they loan core emotional regulation skills, just by changing the pattern of breaths, and also some, you know, mindfulness during high why it could have happened and you know, just contemplating upon the situation or a teacher can guide them through that really helps to build emotional and psychological resilience with them and brings inner peace and calm
I have observed kids are exposed to so many things at an early age nowadays because of social media and of use of gadgets that they have at an early age that also creates, you know, addition to the learning disabilities with ADHD and some such situations where kids are exposed to all the longer period extended period for on Watching, you know, cartoon movies or playing games, or any activity for that matter, or even learning, I have observed many parents, they like their kids to learn faster and more, do more and not be behind. But in general, at the formative stages, it’s best that they stick with nature more than just the gadgets, there’s so much to learn.
If we go for it, we have to learn so much from kids, I can definitely say that they are more into the present and we are trying them to not be present, you know?
Yeah, that’s such a Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good thing. So basically, can I say that what you’re also saying is that filling every hour of a kid with one activity after another is not the best idea?
Really, yeah, we have to see what the kid has an interest in and try to culture and nurture that ability in the kid, rather than imposing what we think is right for them.
You know, they are so in tune with nature, it’s really best to allow that to, you know, for them to cultivate that more to be in tune with themselves rather than trying to achieve something that is really not their true nature.
Yeah. And I would just say, take this and make it exponentially 10 times for if a kid has a disability, right? Of course. Yes. So moving on, one of the biggest challenges I have, with my own son, you know, when I tried meditation with him, is that it’s inaccessible to him and also to a few other kids, many autistic kids do not have the ability to control their breath on will. So if you ask them to take a deep breath in, that’s not necessarily something they have control over, they also have, many of them have this inner discomfort in the body, where sitting still is just not an option or, you know, accessible to them.
I know that there are many programs available to typical children, you know, we have every, there are numerous program meditation and mindfulness programs available, we just have to find it. But the opposite is true when you are, you know when we are talking about a kid with any disability, but especially autism, how can we make How can we access the benefits of meditation?
No, we have to look at and you know, when you are working with typical kids, it’s you have to be really watchful what works for them, because each individual is very unique and different.
For that matter, any person in this world is very different from another person. So to see what works for them, you may have to do a trial and error and see if it is just the flute music that calms the person down or if it is drums that help a person to get gain that energy within because you know energy, the prana the certain lifeforce energy or Qi we call it flows in a different pattern in the body.
If it is blocked somewhere we can help it with, you know, when we are in tune with a child, we can see what type of emotion they are holding back, then we can help them with some external influences, like maybe color therapy, or maybe it’s essential oil aromatherapy or with musical instruments, I can say so that no human being is, you know, that they don’t relate to music.
Anybody in this world can relate to music, but different sounds. Yeah, whatever resonates with them, some with some people, it’s bells, some people, it’s stringed instruments like guitar, so we have to find some such things that can help the person to ease out first and after that, trying something out with them. Because if you are restless, then in that situation, nobody can learn anything. It’s something we are forcing upon which aren’t really accepted by anyone or taken well by anyone. So in those conditions, or you know, we can just help with whatever the child can do.
The first thing is acceptance at our level. And seeing what best the child or another person can do to help maybe it’s good could be simple, hard breath, you know, take a breath in and say hi, ah that exhilaration with a little sound can bring such relief as high as the sound of relief. Yes, would be if the inhalation is difficult then it could be a little bit extended exhalation and if we know the child with some certainty, you know, conditions then from their childhood if we can help them a little bit, you know, what happens is when we are not ready to be in some such
You know, in that mode in our mind that how did it happen to me? And, you know, how do I do? What do I do? How do I support learning us, we miss out on something. Yeah, the years that we can start preparing ourselves and our children to, to do a little better than they are doing now, actually, if it makes sense, even making some noises like a lion, or maybe a bird or animal role-playing for with the kids can help them to ease out so little bit activity is better than nothing.
So, in fact, you know, to give an example, many of these things are still even the hybrid is very difficult for my son, but one that he does do but the music that you mentioned earlier, from a very young age, we notice that it really gravitates towards all sorts of music.
It has changed from really soothing Carnatic music now he listens to only like, you know, Bollywood hits with a lot I think Chuck beats, but the one thing that he does, and I think this is a movement that is accessible to him that he keeps spinning clockwise. So that’s the one thing he can do. the movement he has control over but he’s very reminiscent of the Sufi dances. And he asked him to speak slowly and used to get advice that it’s a stem, don’t let him do it, which was of course very counterintuitive. There was no way I was going to stop him from doing the one thing he really enjoyed. So, but I think for him that that could be slightly meditative.
It is meditation, actually, the spinning the Sufi dances do in one of the practices in an advanced meditation program, my spiritual mentor Sri Ravi Shankar, he introduced that to us. Yeah, and it was so beautiful, I can tell you as if something has lifted and you are connected to the cosmic energy, you know, it is so beautiful.
So that is where Vaish I’m so thankful for you for sharing this, because it is a form of meditation, and we have to see what our child is doing, I’m telling you kids with special needs, have some special abilities in them, we just don’t want to see their different abilities, and we want to have them fixed in a box that they should be like this, the parameters are like that, but every human being is a unique person.
Once we accept that and allow them to blossom, into who they are, you will see the growth, so they grow so beautiful in themselves. So I and you know, there are certain techniques like if even the child cannot do we can help them say, you might have heard the superbrain yoga?
A little bit. Yeah, yeah,
when I was growing up, I have seen like my teacher would as a punishment would ask us to hold our loaves down. And then you know, later on, I realize that it is the awareness points that we have here. And the research has been done with so many kids with learning disabilities or attention deficit, you know, in situations that it really helps to calm you down.
So even if the child cannot do we can help massage these certain points in the ear pinna, you will really see this is the ear Pinna is like the shape of the fetus in the womb. So nerve endings come to our ear pinna, also, if we massage that it really helps to activate the neurons in the nervous system.
Is health and well-being to the whole body actually. Wow. Yeah. And if the child can do some contraction a little bit, whatever it is, you know, from, you know, like just typing the body and releasing the body that also really helps them to regain or cultivate little muscular strength in them.
And as I listened to I think that many of these, you know, as we are talking about bringing mindfulness. Perhaps it is, you know, there is no talking about mindfulness for a child unless we talk about it for the mom or the parent as the case.
I think that that becomes really important because otherwise, it makes no sense. Right? Yeah, it’d be very disruptive. And oftentimes, you know, we, since we are the primary caregiver, whoever is the primary caregiver, if you’re disturbed that energy is you know, very easily perceived by the child.
Exactly. And child, they are very sensitive, and they can sense bioenergy.They say more than your voice, your presence speaks more, you know, 1000 times more than just the words. So that’s why whoever is the caregiver they have it’s best for them to be heard. Having a calm state of mind, help them because your anxiety can catch on.
The kids can catch on to that anxiety. And, folks, you know, kids with muscular disabilities, when they don’t have control over their muscles may, you know, go through the digestive issues, immune digestive disorders, where anxieties do not help but add to the situation.
It’s really, really important that we stay calm around them. And you know, as they say, if you do not know how to swim, and you jump in the water to save a person who is drowning, and you see that you can write like that, if you learn swimming, how to swim in the water, then you chum that it is easier to save the other person. Otherwise, you may have known, that there is nobody around to call for help
in somebody else has to come for the two of you.
You have added the burden now. Also, for the arrow to go forward, you have to bring it back a little you have to stretch it back and then release it, that’s when it goes forward more. So what it means is if you really want to help others, you have to go within yourself, you have to calm and ease your own mind first. That’s when you are able to support others around you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was actually going to ask you for some action items and I keep saying moms, but it could be whoever the primary caregiver is moms and dads.
I actually wanted to say one of my action items that it’s coming to my mind is that you mentioned that, you know, spinning, for example, is a form of meditation, and just connecting with some of the advice not everybody told us but we did get some advice initially, to really put a stop to that spinning that it is, you know, is regulating his vestibular system, it is a stem, it is not advantages.
So I think one of the things that I would like to tell parents is that it’s really not necessary to you know, curb everything that makes it awkward, anything that makes your child happy, right? So it doesn’t matter if or not, you don’t have to, I mean, we’re again trying to fit the child in a box and make them like us, I would say just let the child be happy doing it engaging in any activity that they find, helps with their anxiety or with connecting to themselves.
Right and very well said Vaish because kids are more in tune with nature, they are more into the present moment than as adults we are this keeps vaccinating past future keep calculating, this is right, that is not right, we are learning on learning, so many things are happening. So the best is to start doing some relaxation techniques.
You can have your child along with you, you know, just sitting for a couple of minutes or just to begin with one minute one baby step at a time is good enough. Just observing the breath even if there is no control, just observing the breath can also help ease the mind. And another would be to be at ease and acknowledge the abilities and interests that the child has.
You know, and allow them to cultivate and nurture that rather than taking them, you know, in the other direction. And knowing that this is a journey for the child and the parent, both the caregiver know, it is good to have some space that will help to bring that relaxation centeredness in the mind. And when we are more settled and centered, that’s when we allow the creativity to flow through us you know, with the awareness. So, you know, unless we are settled, we react to the situation instead, this is something very important to respond to in any given situation whenever you are helping somebody you know, who needs your attention and help.
Very wise words PoornimaThank you. I mean, I just feel very peaceful every time I speak to you. So thank you so much for coming and sharing these words I love chatting with Poornima now if you have not meditated before if you are exploring meditation for yourself, be sure to check out the links at the podcast website. And that is www.projectswasthy.com/2020/36 Because this is episode 36. So just want to spell that out to you projectswastahya.com/2020/36. Now meditation is an incredible tool. It’s an essential tool. In fact, I would recommend dropping everything and learning to breathe and meditate Right now. See you later meditator.