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Feb. 20, 2023

Episode 87: Learning More with Yoga with Sarah Finnis

In this podcast episode, yoga instructor and author, Sarah Finnis, joins DJ on the show to discuss using yoga poses in imaginative ways to help children learn and connect. Listen in as they discuss using alternative movements to help children calm down, be more aware of and understand their body and how you can incorporate the proven effective practice of yoga in your child’s daily routine to teach self awareness and to educate them about the world they live in.

Sarah is a holistic fitness / yoga instructor with a background in early childhood and art education. She is a new children's book author and illustrator to her new book, "Iris' Magical Yoga Adventure". She has a great passion for animals and being involved in the community.

• [3:43] Sarah discusses her book and how she uses yoga poses to help children learn and connect with landmarks.
• [14:15] “Just focusing on breathing together, even if you're sitting back to back and paying attention to your breath moving up and down, just becoming more in sync and mirroring each other.”
• [19:38] Sarah explains how yoga helps our little ones understand their body.
• [26:41] Sarah believes you can connect yoga to learning any subject.

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DJ Stutz  0:13  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA.

You're listening to Episode 87 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Sarah Finnis is a holistic fitness yoga instructor. She also has a background in early childhood, and art education. And she is a new first time children's book, author and illustrator. And her book is titled, Irises Magical Yoga Adventure. And in this book, she uses the art of yoga to help children learn about their world. She has a great passion for animals, and being involved in the community. And she has spearheaded several projects, using yoga in the most imaginative ways. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

An imperfect hero is someone who recognizes their imperfections, but is always looking for ways to become better. And the truth is that so often we as parents, unwittingly sabotage ourselves and our children. And we all have had the experience of looking back at an event or a day, and wondering what went wrong error. Just for the month of February, I'm opening my unwitting saboteur to strategic hero workshop, and I'm offering it for free. And so I hope you'll take the time to download it from my website, which is www dot Little Hearts Academy While you can. 

You know, I have spent most of my life helping little kiddos learn. And among the things that I have taught is how to regulate emotions and manage those big feelings. One of the tools that I have used in working with children and helping them take control of those emotions is that of yoga. And one of the cool things about yoga is that it doesn't have to be a formal instruction, you don't need to have a teacher at the front and all the mats, you can do it very impromptu. And I love that. I actually often incorporated it into our morning routine. But there were other times that we use Joker poses to help calm things down, especially when I could see a potential explosion brewing. And that is a time when we can try to turn frowns into smiles and bring angry fists into the warrior position. Well, another way that I've used yoga with little ones is to let them develop a pose that would show what does sunshine look like? What do you think a blooming flower might be? Or happy dog. It doesn't have to be those formal setup moves, especially when you're working with little guys. And they're especially effective when they get to use moves that they are developing themselves. And, you know, in the evening, they can make calming poses, like what the sleeping moon might look like, or sleeping animal like a squirrel or a bird or even a lion. So take pictures of them and then post their poses, wherever it will be the most help. And then refer to them several times throughout the day. You know, they can even do car poses. Poses that they can do sitting down while they're traveling in their car, their car seat. And then you can take pictures of them doing that, and then post them on the back of the driver's seat so that they can see that kids love knowing that these poses are their own design. And they also love referring to pictures of themselves while they're doing those poses. And they love making poses of things that are strong, that are glamorous, that are kind and cute. And another way to use physical yoga poses is in learning. And in my class. We had movements for all of the letters and the sounds they make. And if a student got got stuck, myself or even another student would make a post for the letter or the sound. And more often than not, oh, yeah, they would remember it. And we use this approach for all kinds of topics, and learning. 

So here comes today's guest, Sarah Finnis. And she's authored that book. I mentioned it before. It's called irises Magical Yoga Adventure. And quite brilliantly,  she uses yoga poses to help children connect with geographic landmarks to help children learn, and then connect with them. And this strategy is crazy effective with pretty much any subject. And I have used it many times with children, as you will hear in our conversation today. So let's listen in. 

Welcome, everyone, and thank you for choosing to spend the next few minutes with Imperfect Heroes podcast. I have yet another great guest to join us today. And man, she's going to be a lot of help for parents, because I've used this kind of stuff, and it works. So yoga master, whatever, I don't know what your official title is, but an author, and we're going to talk about yoga and little kids, Sarah Finnis. Talk to us a little bit about what you got going on.

Sarah Finnis  6:24  
Hi, well, first, thank you so much for having me, DJ. Sure. I have just published a children's book called Irises Magical Yoga Adventure. So teaching children about famous landmarks around the world, through movement. And just having that creativity in using your body to help learn and connect with kids is so much fun. So each of the landmarks has a specific pose that the kids can kind of reenact and learn a little bit about the landmark as they move around.

DJ Stutz  7:03  
Well, it's interesting, because with little kids, but I think even with adults, because I run that way too. And maybe I'm a weirdo, but I learned and I've know for sure little kids learn more through movement. And then when I mix music and movement together, holy smokes, we're off. We're off to the races there. And so we've done things like I know, in my classroom, we had movement for the alphabet and learning the alphabet and the sounds and all of that. But I think it's a great idea to incorporate in pretty much every subject, right?

Sarah Finnis  7:41  
Yeah. And kids can come up with their own movements to help them learn as well, which is cool.

DJ Stutz  7:49  
That's such a great idea, too. I remember I would have my kids back when I did preschool and then kindergarten as well. We would have a letter or a number and they could get together with their friends. And they would have to decide how they were going to use their bodies to either make that letter or that number, or whatever. And they had so much fun doing that. And it's a great way not only for them to remember things, I think but now we're feeding into gross motor development, and creativity, and teamwork. And I literally, yeah,

Sarah Finnis  8:31  
self awareness. With the art, I taught a lot of art classes. And one of the favorite projects was having them lie down on the ground and tracing their body so they can decorate and design their outfit and draw their face in and everything which connects well with what we were just talking about making letters with your body or different shapes.

DJ Stutz  8:58  
Yeah. Let's talk for a little bit, though, about yoga and little kids. And I don't know what your experience is, particularly but how early do you think you could start a little one with yoga poses?

Sarah Finnis  9:15  
I would say probably two, well, you have like the mommy and me so you can do the connection, the mom doing more of the movement with the baby. But two would probably be when they can start to kind of get more in, understand what's going on with it. And just very simply curling up in a little ball and be tending to be a seed and growing into a flower or little things like that.

DJ Stutz  9:45  
That was one of the fun things I'd like to do to get them to sit down actually was with blow into our thumb and they puffed their bodies up like they were filling up a balloon. And then we would take another finger and they could Hop themselves in, they'd go. And they'd all like, settle down and sit down. And I would do that like two or three times, like kids, and they thought it was great. And it was a great way to get the kids to come to the circle time. Because once they saw us doing that they wanted in on it. And so they would hurry up, get over there so they could do the balloon thing. So that's pretty fun. I know yoga can also be used for emotional. I don't know what it's called, like finding that emotional center. That piece. And so if you're dealing with a kid that's really struggling and upset, I don't think when they're in the middle of a tantrum, you're going to ask them to do downward dog. But I think you can do it when they're calm, or when they're messing around, or even when you can maybe start seeing Yeah, yeah, talk to me about that.

Sarah Finnis  11:07  
I'm just bringing their awareness more towards their breath. So like the cat cows stretches are a great one for that, because it's a basic movement. One is your inhale, and one is your exhale. And they put more attention on focusing on aligning their movement with their breath. But that, then what's going on in their mind. So bringing their attention back into their body. I know when I've been anxious sometimes just when I start doing that stretch, it helps a lot.

DJ Stutz  11:42  
Yeah, it does. I actually, I have some back problems. And you know, who knew teaching little guys sitting on the floor and little teeny chairs for 20 years? You know, who knew that would make back problems? But, but I do. Yeah, I do cat cow every morning and some of the other poses. But I love that you brought up cat cow and some of the others. I think the kids, the little ones especially really relate to animal poses. Yes. Yeah. What are some of those? So we've got cat and cow and snake or Cobra or what?

Sarah Finnis  12:22  
Yep, there's Cobra. A lot of them go by different names, depending on who's teaching and you can be creative with what animal you pair it with. I've seen more of a lunge as a dragon or a horse. I think having more fun with it. And I think that kids will enjoy designating certain kinds of movements to certain characters in a book or enjoying process.

DJ Stutz  12:55  
Yeah, I think so. And I think to the little boys, at least in kindergarten, boys are hysterical. But you know, the warrior move in, that are the star, the girls get into the star, and they think that's a fun thing to do. But I would actually incorporate that as part of our morning group and getting them off to a good start in the morning. And so what are some things maybe that a parent can do? Maybe before school getting ready? What would you suggest?

Sarah Finnis  13:36  
Yeah, just picking a couple of movements to do together. So building that connection, where this is our special time, either in the morning or right before bed, and aligning your movements with each other, really helps build their self esteem as well. If you can connect it to something, you know, characters in a book that you've read or connected to something else, or a memory that you were going through if you went to the beach, and you're kind of acting that out. I think that's a lot of fun. Also, just focusing on breathing together, even if you're sitting back to back and paying attention to your breath moving up and down, just becoming more in sync and mirroring each other.

DJ Stutz  14:31  
Yeah, I like that I do have sitting back to back and having your breathing kind of match up. I think that would be a great idea to use with siblings too. And maybe that's part of their calm down processes if they're struggling or having an argument or whatever competition and, and but kind of uniting that breathing together. I think that would be really great. For relationship development,

Sarah Finnis  15:03  
I agree. And you know, in school if there's arguments or something having the kids, and you know, they can place their hand on their stomach or hand on their heart, so that they're focusing on their body as well, but also aligning with the other one.

DJ Stutz  15:21  
What are the things that and I think this would be really easy for someone to do at home? And especially as we start getting closer to some of the spring stuff coming out in the stores, even the dollar store, I love the dollar store. Teacher dream. Yeah. But to get a pinwheel, and then fake flowers, some sort, and I'd use that florists tape and tape the pin will and the flower together. And so they could smell the flower. And below, da Yeah, the pin. Well, yeah. That was great for helping them calm down. And they seem to really like it at my kindergarten age. And we would even do that with some of the preschool kids when I was doing preschool to.

Sarah Finnis  16:13  
Yeah, definitely those small breathing exercises and counting using a square for your equal breath in an equal breast out for

DJ Stutz  16:25  
Yeah, have a go around a shape. So now they're learning shapes, too, right? Yeah. And it's a physical thing.

Sarah Finnis  16:33  
So you've got the visual, and you're speaking it. So you've got the auditory and kinesthetic when they're putting their finger on the shape.

DJ Stutz  16:42  
Yeah. And we know too, that touch is such an important thing, especially with parent, child and siblings touch can be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes it's a punch in the nose. And the other time, it's helping them up from the ground if they fall in or whatever. And so we talked about that back to back, there's a touch piece to that. And then they're coordinating their breathing. So that lines up. So when you're doing yoga, and you're helping your child do it, you know, you may be helping them move their body. And there's that piece to it as well, to help build that relationship.

Sarah Finnis  17:24  
Absolutely. And then just helping them become more in control of their movements and mutual awareness.

DJ Stutz  17:33  
Yeah, yeah, that's all really good. Now, I've always thought about doing yoga in the morning. But you mentioned something that really made me think was about doing it at night, to kind of help calm them down, get their bodies, so there would probably be a very different thing in the morning, we're trying to energize wake our bodies up, get the blood flowing all that stuff. At night, there would be maybe some different moves, would there or how would that work,

Sarah Finnis  18:08  
a longer exhale can help relax the body, and just more stretches that you could do in bed rather than on the floor standing up. Yeah, so just focusing on staying in bed and nothing too. too dynamic with your body.

DJ Stutz  18:28  
Yeah. I love hot yoga, back when I had time to do. But I really enjoyed that. But I know at the end, when we were just kind of calming down letting our bodies come back to getting ready to go out in the world. And my yoga instructor would come around and she had these hot wash class and they were soaked in a lavender water so that she would put them over our heads. And she would like rub her hand across our forehead as she put the hot washcloth on. The smell was very nice, very relaxing. And even it's amazing the touch of her hand just going across our forehead like that. I don't know if it was for anyone else but it was just like a calming touch something that was relaxing our our smells and things like that part of yoga as well or was it just the my instructor?

Sarah Finnis  19:38  
They can be incorporated. Not every instructor use that stem but lavender is definitely a good one for that and just having if there is a particular smell that the child enjoys, and then using that as a routine Okay, so we've got the lavender So then it's almost signaling, okay? It's a mental thing to where you're saying, Okay, I smell the lavender and I'm, I'm ready to relax for bed.

DJ Stutz  20:13  
Yeah, yeah. That's pretty cool. So, baby, talk to us about when we use yoga and how that helps us, or helps our little guys understand their body and gross motor and their awareness.

Sarah Finnis  20:32  
Yeah. So a lots of things going on in a kid's mind. And it's moving very quickly. So just having them, plant their toes in the ground and feel their feet gripping into the floor is small things like that. Or see if you can close your eyes and feel your hands do tingling in your hands. Little things like that, where they're bringing their attention back into their body rather than their next thought or focusing more inward. It doesn't have to be for a long period of time, but that will help gain confidence and just help them become more present. People.

DJ Stutz  21:21  
Yeah, I love that. So I love the way that your book reminds us of the name of your book, again.

Sarah Finnis  21:29  
It's called irises, magical yoga adventure,

DJ Stutz  21:32  
right? And so we're gonna have a link to that in our show notes so that people can order that for their kids. But I love that it's a movement book. Right? So kids can move along to it talks to me about maybe some of the landmarks that you've incorporated into the book.

Sarah Finnis  21:55  
Yeah, so we go to Italy, the coliseums in there, India, and they have some little lessons that go along with each monument, whether it's being brave or free to different things like that. And then there's also some fun activities in the back that help reinforce the learning, and hopefully inspire them to want to create as well.

DJ Stutz  22:28  
Yeah, I think that's great. And so do you have activities? So this is really, almost like a curriculum for home? Yeah. I bet homeschoolers could be all over this.

Sarah Finnis  22:43  
I would hope they would enjoy it a lot. It works with the flags from a couple of different countries, and matching those with the monuments?

DJ Stutz  22:53  
Well, and sorry to say, but there's a lot of education that has actually been missed, that used to just be commonplace back in the day, right? That they're not even covering really anymore. Geography is something that we're really not spending a lot of time on. That least compared to where like, you know, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in school, the pterodactyl next to me really knew a lot about geography and how the world works. But I think that sometimes, we're going to as parents need to step up, and kind of enhance that so that our kids are more knowledgeable about just the world and how it works. I see your book as being a perfect companion to parents who are trying to give their kids that extra edge, but have fun with them and build the relationship while they're learning.

Sarah Finnis  24:00  
Yes, I've also included China and Russia, some ones that we hear in the news a lot, and just a different take on them rather than what is played over and over in the news. Yeah, because there are are great landmarks and you know, great things to learn about both.

DJ Stutz  24:21  
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there's some gorgeous buildings and architecture and history and yeah, the terracotta soldiers, and there's so many things to learn about in countries that might not exactly be our friends right now. But it doesn't negate the interest in the monuments that really need to be considered and valued.

Sarah Finnis  24:46  
Yes. And the people just having a

DJ Stutz  24:49  
very nice, yeah. Yeah, I mean, this is kind of off the subject. It's not a yoga thing, but I just really think it's important that as we talk, we especially around our kids that we make a separation between there may be governments that we disagree with, or we see as a hindrance to our way of life. And the people who live in those countries because they have the same desires and worries and all of that, that we do. And so there's a big split that we need to understand between government and people. Yes, yeah. So you mentioned, we were talking earlier just a little bit, and you mentioned some of the things that you're doing in the community. And I'm wondering if there are some things that you can talk about that maybe might inspire some of our parents or kids to get involved as well?

Sarah Finnis  25:47  
Yeah, absolutely. I am working together with the Wonder gardens. And in southwest Florida, so we are planning a carrying some of the animals of some of the areas with the yoga poses. So you can learn about the yoga pose, learn about the animal, an animal that is from that area, and make even more of an experience throughout the month of February.

DJ Stutz  26:19  
I could really see that being a fun thing for zoos and, yeah, and stuff.

Sarah Finnis  26:25  
That hopefully that is the plan. Yeah, yeah, I'm only just starting in southwest Florida so

DJ Stutz  26:35  
well, but you may inspire someone to start something similar in their area. Definitely, you know, and so they can learn more about what you're doing and read your book and, and then just learn more about how you can connect yoga, to learning.

Sarah Finnis  26:56  
Absolutely, any kind of subject,

DJ Stutz  26:59  
any subject, math, science, history, any of that. You can connect it. And honestly, the more movement that you connect to whatever it is you're teaching, the more retention you're going to get, whether you're a teacher or a parent, trying, like I said, to give your kid that extra edge, but you're not drilling them with all these facts and, and things facts are important, but how are we connecting it? And how are we making that accessible to our kids. And using yoga for that is just almost a no brainer,

Sarah Finnis  27:38  
is I think of just being a hands on learner, and learning so much better when I can actually do it. And so, thinking of learning in school, where you're just sitting and listening or getting up in and moving somehow will just change the learning completely.

DJ Stutz  28:02  
Yeah. Well, and I think to once, in some schools, homework starts in kindergarten, I'm against that, just letting you know. But some schools, homework starts very young. And so as you're working with your child, and you can see that they're kind of fighting it, or they've hit their wall, but they still have some more work to do. Taking a yoga break is genius.

Sarah Finnis  28:33  
Absolutely a little brain break a little breather. And

DJ Stutz  28:37  
there's so many, I think websites that you can go to like, if you don't know enough about yoga, to engage it on your own. There's so many sites that YouTube could do it together watching it, or you can learn some poses on your own and then just the two of you doing it or how many ever kids you've got. And yeah, so it's really available and out there. I think more than people realize, and I don't think you need to be this yogi or whatever, to help your kids through it. Maybe you need more to run a class but it's just your family. You shouldn't be intimidated by it at all. But it's a great way to jump in especially I think during the winter months when it's year in southwestern Florida. So forget that but I'm up in the frozen tundra where it can get below zero and it's a little too cold to run outside and but taking yoga during that time and using those movements and getting the kids engaged and and increasing the oxygen in their body and in their brain and and then after that break. They're not alone. under percent, because nothing's 100%. But most of the time, they're going to be more able to go back and do homework. And in fact, one of the things that I would suggest is saying, okay, and depending on the age of your kids, so maybe you have a little 110 MINUTES Is It 10 minutes of homework, and then we're gonna go do some yoga. And then we'll come back and do 10 more minutes of homework, and then we're gonna go do some movement, and whatever. And as they get older, and their attention spans grow, you can have a longer time, but they still need those breaks. And it's funny, we tend to time the breaks, right? But there's a huge value in timing. Okay, you've only you've got 10 minutes, and then you have to take a break.

Unknown Speaker  30:58  
Because you can work on your homework for 10 minutes. But when that bell goes up, or that timer goes up, you have to stop and you take kind

DJ Stutz  31:08  
of a whole different outlook on it. And approach. Yeah, but I think you're

Sarah Finnis  31:15  
taking a break, too. Yeah. Okay, let's take a break together.

Unknown Speaker  31:21  
Only doing dishes for five minutes, and then I'm taking a break.

DJ Stutz  31:28  
I love it. And, and until I think that's a great thing. If you got things you have to do, because we get that we have to get certain things done as adults and the kids want us to play, give them a timer and say, okay, Mommy's gonna work till the time because if you're in charge of the timer, you hold that when it goes off, you come and get me or you tell me, they look like oh, they're in charge of all of this. And, you know, and then you can get some stuff done. And usually, again, nothing's 100%. But usually, you can get them to

Unknown Speaker  32:07  
give you a break for that amount of time. And when they know they get to come and

DJ Stutz  32:13  
get you. timers. All of that is great. Well, if our listeners want to find out more about you and about your activities in this wonderful book that you have, where do they go?

Sarah Finnis  32:29  
I am on Instagram, Sarah S A R A H care SWF L.

DJ Stutz  32:37  

Sarah Finnis  32:38  
And then on Amazon, you can look up irises magical yoga adventure, and the book will come up that way as well.

DJ Stutz  32:48  
Okay, that is fantastic. And, of course, we're going to have all of that in our show notes. And so our families can get a hold of this great resource. And then, Sarah, I always ask my guests the same question at the end. And so how would you define a successful parent,

Sarah Finnis  33:14  
making the effort to be present and intentional? How, however, that works with there's so many different dynamics and families and you know, when you're fully present, then, you know, best how to handle and are able to best handle whatever the situation is just listening and following what your kids interests are.

DJ Stutz  33:42  
Yeah. You know, I totally agree. And I love the way that you talk about being present, and listening to our kids. And kind of, instead of looking at this as a nuisance, why don't you pick up your toys? Why are you demanding this of me right now, but really being present and seen? Okay, what's really going on? And I love the way that you bring up that part of it. Thank you so much.

Sarah Finnis  34:10  
Thank you, I have really enjoyed speaking with you.

DJ Stutz  34:14  
Me too. And good luck with your book and all of your projects, and perhaps we'll speak again.

Sarah Finnis  34:21  
Yes, I would love that.

DJ Stutz  34:22  
Awesome. If you would like more information on Sarah, her book, and getting ideas from some of the community events that she has connected people with. All of that information is in the show notes. And as my listeners grow, I am able to reach out and inform more families about how their children develop and then how to use that knowledge to strengthen those family relationships. And it would be a huge help to me to grow in my podcast. If you would rate review and follow the podcast and Then tell your friends about us. And these simple acts of kindness really do make all the difference. So next week my guest is Susan Hughes and we are talking about becoming an actual leader in your family. So check it out and see. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Sarah FinnissProfile Photo

Sarah Finniss

Author / Illustrator / Art & Yoga Instructor

Sarah is a holistic fitness / yoga instructor with a background in early childhood and art education. She is a new children's book author and illustrator to her new book, "Iris' Magical Yoga Adventure". She has a great passion for animals and being involved in the community.