Opening Doors to Mindfulness during the time of Lockdown.

-Shruti Napeer and – Shahbaan Shah

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

In India most of us are experiencing for the first time a situation like the Covid-19 outbreak mostly of this magnitude with a lockdown for such a long time.  The news we receive through technology, the lockdown that restricts us to travel, the short supply of grocery and keeping a continuous check on the symptoms has become the new routine. The discussions related to the virus might bring anxiety as we worry about our dear ones. This psychological and emotional response are natural reactions to such situations but in case of children, this can be beyond “we will be fine soon” or overwhelming. Hence it becomes important to develop the emotional resilience and positive mental health to face such crises that might otherwise overpower our positive discourse.

Mental Health exists on a spectrum. When we are able to work on strengthening wellness, it helps children and adults develop deeper resilience. Apni Shala adopts a preventive and promotive approach to mental health. 

  • Promotive: Health promotion mainly deals with the determinants of mental health and aims to keep people healthy or become even healthier. In other words, mental health promotion aims at enhancing an individual’s ability to achieve psychosocial well-being and at coping with adversity.
  • Preventive:  Prevention of illnesses focuses on the causes of risk factors to avoid illness. There are three categories of prevention: primary prevention focuses on various determinants in the whole population or in the high-risk group. Secondary prevention comprises early detection and intervention. Tertiary prevention targets for advanced recovery and reduction of relapse risk.

At Apni Shala, we build social-emotional competencies amongst children and adults to navigate their inner feelings and channelize their emotions not only keeping in mind daily routine, but also during hard times and unexpected situations. Through our work in this space for over 7 years now, Apni Shala team has developed a contextualised and relevant social-emotional development framework that responds well to young people in India. Our work is primarily informed by  CASEL’s framework and  postmodern therapy practices such asNarrative Ideas and Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned mindfulness practitioner and teacher, states, “I define mindfulness as the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united.”

While mindfulness practices have been part of Apni Shala’s work for a long time, in 2019-20, Apni Shala launched a detailed mindfulness integration project with a social-emotional learning framework. We have observed considerable shifts in the ways students engage with and understand their emotional resilience and social connectedness.

Personally, mindfulness has played a very crucial role in our life. It has been over 8 months that  we have been practicing mindfulness in my life very regularly. It has helped us to navigate our anxieties. While working with our students, we have noticed, mindfulness has brought calmness on our students’ faces after doing even 10 minutes of breathing practice. Now, it has become a part of our day-to-day conversations.There are days when students remind us, “Bhaiya/didi don’t forget to Dekho Ruko aur saans lo (See- stop and breathe).” It’s lovely to see how something they learned in one of our sessions, has now become part of their lives. They remind us of this  and their peers.

While the lockdown may bring difficult emotions for children and adults, it also presents an opportunity to practice staying in the present, nurture compassion for ourselves and others, and enrich our sense of love and equanimity.From the variety of thoughtfully designed mindfulness activities, we bring to some special ones that will help you guide your children’s social-emotional development while they are at home with you: 

1-Mindful breathing

If we breathe with sight of ‘Breathe in and breathe out’ and every time we breathe in and out we will remind ourselves that while breathing in I can state to myself that I am alive, we can celebrate the miracle of being alive. We can just sit and enjoy the fact that I am alive.

Getting in touch with our breath 

2- Mindful Sitting

Sitting practice brings great stability to the mind and body. Usually, when we sit while traveling to our schools’ offices or anywhere, there is always an urge to do something ,the idea of doing nothing or experiencing nothing is so frightening for us.  But when we sit mindfully we just sit. We take a pause from what we are doing, we bring our full attention to our breaths mind and body.  Mindful sitting.       

3- Mindful walking

Mindfulness walking might bring a lot of joy and wonder to one’s life. The idea is to peak into ourselves and observe details around us.

To be able to do that, one needs to bring their attention to the process of Breathing in and Breathing out with each step taken. Mindful walking

4-Awareness of the body and the breath.

 We rarely listen to what our bodies are telling us about ourselves and our mind and what is happening in our body. But by breathing mindfully and bringing the mind home to the body we become fully alive.

Awareness of the body and the breathe

5- Mindfulness Using Action Stories Of Animals.

Stories have always been the heart of learning especially when students are young and fictional stories help them push their creativity and imagination based learning.

Mindfulness using Animal stories helps them understand Yoga by creating a short story of 5- 6 mins by telling a story of a jungle and movements and actions involved with each character described in the story. 

Mindfulness using animal stories.

6- Appreciation Chain

We write notes of appreciation to remind ourselves of what we have and to see the positive effect of a simple act of kindness.

Appreciation Chain Game/Activity

7- What did I hear?

We listen carefully to different sounds and guess what’s making them, to become more aware of our experience in the moment.

What Did I Hear Activity

8-Monkey wisdom chant.

I am healthy,

I play every day,

I drink lots of water,

I don’t float away,

I rest when I am tired,

I breathe when I am mad,

I eat fruits and veggies,

Cause they are rad,

Red-orange yellow-green,

At every meal and in between.

Hope you are able to do some of these activities with children at your home. We would love to hear how they respond. Please share some of yours and their reflection in the comment section. 

About the authors:

Shahbaan Shah pursued his Bachelor of Art (Sociology) from Wilson College, Mumbai. Before Apni Shala, Shahbaan has worked with Akanksha Foundation, facilitating service-learning initiatives with children and youth. He joined Apni Shala Fellowship in 2018, after which, he joined the organization as Programme Facilitator. In his role, he facilitates social-emotional learning for children, educators, and parents in a variety of settings and supports R&D initiatives under. This year, Shahbaan was part of the Mindfulness Integration Project undertaken by the Apni Shala Foundation. Shahbaan is also a co-founder of two collaboratives, Education Through Sports and The Shor (a poetry collaborative). 

Shruti Napeer studied Masters in social work from the Tata Institute of Social sciences Guwahati. She has worked with Piramal Foundation as Program Lead for a brief period of one year. Currently, she is working with the Apni Shala Foundation as a program Fellow. When Shruti is not facilitating sessions or working in the office you will find her clicking pictures and traveling.


Illustrations by: Ayushi Srivastava.

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