• Shawnee Thornton Hardy

The Art of Connection: Seeing from the Heart

Updated: Oct 16

By Stacey Loop


What does it mean to make a connection?


It can mean different things based on context such as understanding how pieces fit together or connecting through social media, etc. But I am referring to the kind of deep connection that allows us to see our inner potential or our “treasures”.


"True connection allows someone to feel seen, safe, heard, and valued. This is how we begin to blossom."

When working with a child that has been diagnosed with any sort of neurological challenge such as ADHD which affects attention, impulsivity, often emotional regulation (mood), learning, self-esteem and more, the goal as a yoga therapist is to see the child rather than the diagnosis. In my opinion, creating connection is the foundational element in which to help a child build a strong “home” into adulthood.

By home, I mean the connection to self which involves the ability to listen to what we need to feel balanced.



Here’s my formula for working with all children:


Presence + Playful = Powerful.


Presence:

The ancient art and science of yoga teaches connection to breath as a means of transformation. By linking our attention to the deepest movement pattern we have, BREATH, we begin to develop an inner awareness as well as regulate our stress response in the body. Over time, attention often improves, allowing our mind to become more directable and we learn to listen from the heart.


"When we work with neurodiverse children and adults, we truly want to be the mirror that reflects their unique gifts back to them."

Teaching a child how to connect to their breath and how to use different breathing techniques based on how they are feeling is a life skill and a game changer. One of my favorite tools for introducing breath is to play with bubbles. Sitting across from each other, we work on using gentle, slow breath to “toss” the bubbles back and forth. This is also great for visual tracking and motor planning.


Learning to be present involves slowing down.


I observe movement patterns of a child. Do they have lots of energy and always “On” or do they seem disconnected and far away? Do they have a pattern of fast movement more frequently than slow and can they control their speed?


When I work with a child diagnosed with ADHD, I teach them how to move SLOW! Together, we mirror how seaweed might move in water. This is such fun to play with big and fast movement versus small and slow movements. And begin to notice the difference between those two movement patterns.


Play:

Play is a “serious” ingredient in creating a life of vitality and joy. Children know how to play and we want to be ready to play with them. One of my favorite methods for teaching adults how to play is the J.A.R. acronym. At the beginning of each day, write down something you will do that day that brings you Joy, Adventure, and/or Relaxation. Do it! Then, at the end of the day, write down what you actually did. This is also a practice of mindfulness. Eventually, this practice will become a habit and you won’t even have to think about it.


"One of the most important emotions that we can ever model for a child is...happiness!"

According to the National Institute of Play, the element of play has a profound effect on a child’s development of prosocial behaviors.


I encourage children to come up with names for postures or ways of moving to express the posture. For instance, cobra pose may become “rattlesnake” from a child’s perspective. By playing along versus correcting, I am modeling acceptance and saying nonverbally, “I value your insight.” This level of interaction through play allows a child to build self-confidence which is key in this work. I am amazed at the creativity children bring to the process and learn from their ideas.


Powerful:

There’s an ancient model I use in working with neurodiverse children and any client I help through Yoga Therapy. This model is known as the Pancha Maya or Koshas model. It looks at health through 5 dimensions. These 5 dimensions are:

  1. Physical

  2. Energetic

  3. Mental

  4. Character

  5. Passion/inspiration

As a yoga therapist, I am trained to evaluate a child’s motor coordination and planning, breath awareness and depth, emotional regulation, attention span, memory, curiosity for life and connection to passion. I am looking at the child in a holistic way. It is important for me to build upon what is working for that child and carefully support and strengthen what may be challenging.


Correction is a method that is quite familiar for neurodiverse children and their families. I know this all too well as my son, Sam was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at 4 years old. It was challenging to hear all of the “corrections” he needed to make from teachers and therapists from his fine motor challenges, learning differences, and emotional dysregulation. Whew!!


I like to let a child see me “mess up".


I often use a methodology called, “call and response” in which I use silly words in a rhythmic way and have the child repeat them back. Then, I give them a turn to lead this process and I will intentionally mess them up. We will laugh about my “mistakes” together.


"I am modeling that it’s fine to be vulnerable and no one is perfect. This helps build character and confidence."

I believe that connection wins every time over correction. Through connection, we can learn to rewrite our stories and embrace our “treasures”.


Finally, be prepared that when that child steps in front of you and connection begins...you may be the one that is changed through the power of connection.


HERE'S A LINK TO A GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT CONNECTION

STACEY LOOP is a certified yoga therapist and holistic health coach specializing in adapting therapeutic breath, movement, and meditation to an individual’s condition. As a former Special Education Teacher, she was drawn to the therapeutic application of yoga and the science of adaptation to help the practitioner optimize their health.  Stacey is expertly trained to work with conditions ranging from structural, physiological, and mental health in a private one-to-one setting. 

In 17 years, Stacey has taught over 3,000 classes in teacher training, special education topics, therapeutic privates, mentoring, and public classes. She has co-presented at the University of Texas’s Social Workers Conference in 2017 and 2018 on the topic of “Inner Transformation:  A Holistic Approach for Kids with Neurological Issues”.  Stacey successfully trained teachers in children’s yoga for 5 summers.  This sparked a deep passion to launch her own 95-hour certified Loop of Light, Children’s Yoga Teacher Training which will be launched after COVID precautions have lifted.  She is also a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider and currently teaches yoga therapy short courses virtually on a variety of topics both in working with neurodiverse children and common health issues for adults. 

Stacey finds deep satisfaction in being of service to others.  Outside of work, she spends time daily in her own yoga and meditation practice.  One of her favorite past times is cultivating stillness by connecting to nature, especially by the ocean’s rhythmic waves.   Dancing creates true joy and she dances weekly with her father in Parkinson’s Dance classes.  Stacey is a true believer in the power of play. 

Website: LOOP OF LIGHT

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