4 Become a Sensory Detective
Welcome to the 5th post in this series of blogs giving guidance, and tips, on how yoga and movement can help you and your child work, rest, sleep and play.
Now it is time to pause and appreciate:
Firstly, the power of sensations and movement on our nervous system. To keep physically and mentally healthy our bodies and brains need a 'diet' of varied sensory and movement experiences. Young and old, we all need these experiences to help us: sleep, rest, work and play. They place us in the 'just right level of alertness' for the task in hand, whether that's: concentrating on a mental task, actively playing, talking with our friends, or sleeping.
Secondly, as adults we would have developed our own preferred sensory/movement experiences to help us become alert, calm down or concentrate. Over the years these will have become so automatic we barely know we are doing them - they are our very own habits or routines.
Thirdly, by doing a 'deep dive' into our day, examining closely how and when we use these sensation/movement routines and habits, we can start to tune into our children's preferences and needs. Maybe your child has yet to discover the sensory/movement strategies that work best for them, if you are aware of your own habits you will be able to offer suggestions.
To start, think about your morning routine, which sensations and movements do you use to wake yourself up? Are there any you find 'too much'? Maybe you use one, or a combination of, the following:
A stretch, a run, a wide yawn, chewing crunchy cereal or some press ups. These activities are 'proprioceptive rich' as they work muscles and joints hard.
Star jumps, dancing in the shower, gently moving your head side to side. These are 'vestibular rich' activities. We know dialling up the vestibular sense is strongly alerting.
Drinking a cup of coffee, or a zingy lemon tea. Smelling fresh coffee or toasted bread. These activities are clearly based on the senses of smell and taste.
Listening to gentle birdsong or a soft music. Or perhaps you tune into faster and louder tunes? Many of us use the hearing sense to wake up in the morning.
Maybe you draw the curtains and take in the brightening sky and morning light? Or is this visual stimulus 'too much' and you prefer to waken slowly with the curtains closed?
Take a shower and towel dry. These activities based around our sense of touch.
Throughout the day you will continue to use your sensory/movement habits to regulate your alertness levels. They will help you to become more alert, or to calm down, depending on the demands of the moment.
For example, you might be feeling drowsy after lunch but need to maintain focus in a meeting. Any habit you employ here, to keep yourself alert, will have to be acceptable for the situation. It could be one of the following:
Fidgeting, wrapping your legs round each other or the chair, chewing on a pen, or fiddling with a piece of jewellery, pen or a watch! These 'habits' are linked to the proprioceptive and vestibular senses.
Gazing out the window - associated with the visual sense.
Having a minty sweet - linked to taste.
Sitting on your hands, stroking your mouth or rubbing your forehead. Activities using the sense of touch.
Or maybe you need to calm down after becoming frustrated or upset. Once again you will have developed socially acceptable sensory/movement habits. Maybe you:
Go for a walk, or to the gym, do some gardening or housework, or perhaps simply squeeze your hands together. These activities are based on the proprioceptive and vestibular senses.
Close your eyes for a moment or look out on a calming scene. Bringing in the visual sense.
Have a snack or turn to a favourite perfume. Using sense of taste or smell to calm.
Listen to soft, or loud, music. Linked to the hearing sense.
Rub your hands, smooth your hair or, if you prefer, stroke the dog! All activities founded in the sense of touch.
At the end of the day, when it's time to rest and lower your levels of alertness, you will probably have developed a night time routine largely based on your sensory/movement preferences to prepare your body for sleep. Maybe your routine involves some of the following:
Stretching, gently rocking on a swing seat, sitting down. Activities linked to the proprioception and vestibular senses.
Lowering the lighting, switching off the TV, closing your eyes - linked to the visual sense.
Listening to soft music, moving to a quiet room - linked to the hearing sense.
Drinking a milky drink or indulging in a bath with scented bath oil - linked to taste and smell.
Wrapping up in the duvet or blanket or taking a hot bath - activities rooted in the tactile sense.
Now observe your child closely, and identify any routines or habits they may have. What do they do to wake themselves up, to focus, or to calm down? See if these habits can be linked to the various types of sensory input(s) - proprioceptive, vestibular, visual, hearing, tactile (touch), taste or smell? Do they prefer to use one form of sensation or a combination of sensations?
Obviously the activities your child uses to regulate themselves are going to be playful, and possibly not ones you would employ in that important meeting! But, once you have an idea of your own, and your child’s, sensory/movement likes and dislikes you can really start to harness the power of sensation and movement.
In the next blog, I will discuss playful, age appropriate, yoga inspired activities which give your child those sensory/movement experiences to help them feel 'just right'.
Be apart together
Movement with a yoga twist is so good for mental and physical wellbeing. Many of our franchisees are offering live streamed, or recorded, sessions. Find out about classes running in your local area at https://www.beaparttogether.com/virtual-classes