Family Fitness: Staying Healthy Together

In these days of fast food dinners and hours spent sitting at computers and video games, families need more than ever to work together to stay healthy. As a parent, you have a responsibility to teach your kids the importance of being physically active every day.

Exercising together as a family ensures kids will grow up with this healthy practice deeply ingrained. In addition, when your family shares time together, regardless of the activity, it also secures and reinforces emotional bonds.

Be creative when it comes to planning family fitness activities. You might be surprised at how positively your family responds to new types of exercise together!

Examine these ideas for family fitness and commit to trying some of them:

1. Bike-riding. If your bicycles are gathering dust in the garage or shed, clean those bicycles and get them tuned up. Then, plan a family bike ride twice weekly.

• Vary the times of day you ride until you find the hour that fits best for everyone. Mornings on the weekends and in the summer might work. Alternately, try late afternoons before dinner or early evenings after the meal.

2. Swimming. Most children love playing in a swimming pool. Once all your kids know how to swim, take the family to the pool a couple of times a week, weather permitting.

• Swimming expends many calories and provides plenty of opportunities afterward for the family to just hang out in the pool to talk and spend quality time together.

3. Alternate walking and running. Sure, a family walk is a nice, leisurely activity. But what if you changed it up a bit and alternated walking 3 minutes then running 3 minutes? Most kids love to run, and would even happily race you for the few minutes you’d be picking up the pace.

4. Mini-biathlon. If your family likes to run and bike, bike and swim, or run and swim, plan your own mini-biathlon. Parents can design easy and fun training schedules for everyone.

• Engage the entire family in planning, training, and completing your mini-biathlon. You’ll spark your children’s interests in physical activities while sharing special moments together.

5. Calisthenics, Yoga, or Tai Chi. It’s nice to have some ideas for indoor fitness activities in case of a rainy day. Depending on the age of your children, many types of exercise can provide an enjoyable family fitness experience indoors.

• Stretches, modified push-ups, sit-ups and leg lifts will all provide physical challenges for you and your children when there’s inclement weather. Practicing Yoga or Tai Chi is also challenging and healthy without being too boisterous for inside the house.

• Use mats or blankets on the floor to make floor exercises more comfortable. You’ll get in some quality time and conversation with the kids while doing indoor exercises as a family.

6. Dance DVDs. One of the most enjoyable, carefree fitness activities to do with your kids is dancing. After all, who doesn’t love to dance?

• There are tons of dance DVDs on the market right now. From dancing to the oldies to learning to salsa to trying new hip-hop moves, you’ll surely find some DVDs that your family will love to do together.

Demonstrate that fitness is fun, challenging and invigorating and you’ll help your kids develop real excitement about staying active! When you educate your children from a young age about fitness and the advantages of staying in shape, these lessons will endure for their whole lives.

A Parent’s Guide to Meditating With Your Toddler

A growing number of parents are looking for ways to share their stillness practice with their children. Here are some benefits of meditating with your toddler, along with suggestions for how to get started.

Benefits of Meditating With Your Toddler:

  1. 1. Spend time together as a family. Anything you do with your child gives you a chance to connect and strengthen your relationship. Toddlers mimic everything they see so they may already be curious about your meditation sessions.
  2. 2. Help your child to focus. Children have limited attention spans, but their powers of concentration will gradually improve with practice. Start off small to avoid frustration.
  3. 3. Make time to relax. Even short breaks will give you and your family a little more peace on busy days. If you battle over nap times, turning the TV off and sitting down together may make it easier for your toddler to fall asleep.
  4. 4. Take a more constructive view of time-outs. Meditation can help you present time-outs as a helpful tool rather than punishment. Sitting down together when you’re both happy will help your child see how taking a few minutes to calm their mind makes them feel better. Eventually, they may resist time-outs less even when they’re upset.
  5. 5. Encourage lifelong health. Many studies confirm that regular meditation improves mental and physical health. You’re helping your child get an early start on techniques that will make life easier during adolescence and adulthood.

How to Meditate With Your Toddler:

  1. 1. Be a calm role model. Small children are very responsive to their parent’s emotional state. When you develop a tranquil mind, it’s much easier for your child to feel secure and peaceful.
  1. 2. Keep your expectations realistic. Most toddlers live in a whirlwind of activity. Expect to be quiet and still for just a few minutes at a time. You and your child will enjoy your sessions more if you make the inevitable distractions part of the fun.
  2. 3. Open and close with a song. Pick any tune with cheerful lyrics that’s easy to sing. It will help you both get you in the mood.
  3. 4. Practice deep breathing and good posture. Learning to breathe correctly and sit up straight are great habits to master early in life. Even small children can learn to breathe slower and from their abdomen.
  4. 5. Buy some fun props. Even on a small budget, you can pick up some items that will stimulate your toddler’s interest. Get a bell that they can ring to call you both to attention. Go shopping together for a small cushion in their favorite color.
  5. 6. Use simple mantras. Help your child pick out words that will be meaningful for them. They may want to recite words like “peace” or “happy.” Make a game out of it.
  6. 7. Visualize. Take turns guiding each other through simple visualizations. You can each take turns naming people who you love including grandparents and family pets. Try describing an imaginary garden and fill it with pretty plants, water, and rocks.
  7. 8. Discuss your experience. You’ll both get more out of your sessions if you connect them to your daily lives. Talk with your child about how meditating makes them feel. Encourage them to make suggestions for additional activities.
  8. 9. Look for guidance. In most communities and online, there are many resources where you can find helpful instructions. Yoga studios and community centers may offer classes especially for parents and children. You can get books at your local library or search for websites about meditation and yoga for children.

Meditation is an effective way to help you and your toddler enjoy greater peace of mind. Start off gradually and keep it playful and you’ll both grow to love your “mommy and me” meditation sessions.

 

How to Sit Comfortably While Meditating

Learning to sit comfortably while meditating will help you welcome more relaxation and peace of mind into your life. If you’d like to start meditating but feel too uncomfortable to sit for long, these steps will help.

Steps to Take Between Your Meditation Sessions:

1.      Keep limber. It’s easier to sit comfortably if you work on improving your flexibility in advance. Many people use yoga to accomplish this, but any program of gentle stretching will help. Just remember to warm up first to prevent injury.

2.      Maintain a healthy body weight. Meditating can give you one more good reason to shed any excess pounds. You may feel more comfortable while meditating if you keep physically fit.

3.      Breathe deeply. Breathing correctly plays a major role in meditating. Make it a habit to breathe from your diaphragm so your abdomen falls and rises rather than your chest. Let the air flow through your nostrils instead of your mouth.

4.      Practice good posture. You’re more likely to practice good posture on the cushion if you keep track of it even when you’re not meditating. Try to always be aware of keeping your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Imagine you’re pushing your abdomen gently toward your back so you hold it slightly tucked.

5.      Cultivate a calm mind. You’ll get more out of meditating if you try to hold onto a calm mind all day. If you start your meditation session in a peaceful state of mind, it will be easier to get into position faster and spend more time focused on your objectives.

Steps to Take During Your Meditation Sessions:

1.      Start gradually. It’s great if you’re all ready for the full lotus position, but there’s nothing wrong with making a more gradual start. Sit in a chair if it’s painful to sit on the floor. Sit for a few minutes at a time to begin with, and then increase the time in steady increments.

2.      Position your body correctly. No matter how you sit, keep your back straight and your abdomen tucked under. Pretend your head is being gently lifted by a balloon so you hold it high without straining your neck. If you use a chair, keep both feet flat on the floor. If you use a cushion, cross your legs and bring your feet toward your waist.

3.      Shift positions when you need to. Your ability to sit still for longer periods will naturally increase with time but it’s always okay to shift positions if you feel pain or stiffness. Stand up and stretch or just re-cross your legs placing the other leg on top for a while. Roll your shoulders or gently bend your head toward one shoulder at a time.

4.      Figure out what to do with your hands. There are two options that work well: rest your hands on your knees or rest them in your lap. Any arrangement that keeps your hands supported and out of the way is fine.

5.      Hold your tongue. As you move your focus inwards and stop talking, you may experience discomfort as you become more aware of the saliva in your mouth. One easy solution is to touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue. This naturally inhibits the flow of saliva.

6.      Lower your eyes. If visual images distract you, try lowering your eyelids so there’s just a small sliver of light before you. Keep your eyes softly focused without targeting any single object. You can even close your eyes as long as it doesn’t encourage you to fall asleep.

Meditation can transform your life with spiritual insights and greater peace. Learning to sit comfortably will help you focus on your objectives without any aches and pains getting in the way.