#039: A Crash Course in Mindfulness for SLPs

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Alright, everyone – close your eyes, and take a deep breath – inhale… exhale. Feel your chest expand and contract. Feel grounded yet? Today’s guest, Caitlin Lopez, gives us a crash course on mindfulness practices that you can use to bring your students (and yourself!) into the present moment, where the learning happens. (And, if you think about it, the present moment is all we’ve got – mind blown! Why wouldn’t we want to be present?!)

From the first moment (even walking your students to class!) to the last, Caitlin shows us that every moment presents an opportunity for connection and engagement. We can support kids in learning how to identify their surroundings, articulate how they’re feeling and how their feelings shift, and how to step into their personal power – in life and in their learning journey.

And, while we’re at it – you, the therapist, can also soak up massive benefits by cultivating your own mindfulness practice! If the word “meditation” conjures images of sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop and your brain whispers “heck no!” at the thought, never fear. You can mindfully cook, mindfully walk, mindfully lay on the floor… Try on some different techniques to find the ones that help you to really settle into this body and this moment that you’re living in.

So grab your chai latte (cheers!), put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways + Topics Covered

– Caiti’s background in teaching and yoga, and how she brought them together
– Introducing intentional movement to students in yoga & “non-yoga” ways
– Using emotional “weather reports” to articulate moods
– Grounding into your body by checking in from head to toe
– Using mindfulness techniques to restore calm in moments of chaos!
– Apps, links and practices to “try on” and find the techniques that resonate

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

– Kristin Chmela’s interview
yoga for autism
Johnny Whoops (in case you’re wondering what she’s talking about!)
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Insight Timer app
Rock Your Bliss – Jacki Carr & Mary Beth Larue
miniyogis.com
Headspace app
glo.com

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Thanks so much!

Transcript

Marisha: Hi there and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast. I am so excited to be introducing Caitlin Lopez today. We are going to be diving into all things mindfulness after a lot of you asked questions about it with Kristin Comella's interview. There was a huge interest in all things mindfulness, and I found the perfect person to help break this down for us. Just a little bit of background, Caitlin received her master's degree from Loma Linda University in communication sciences and disorders in 2012, and she has worked for the last eight years serving preschool and elementary students in the California school system.

Marisha: She also began practicing yoga in 2018, and it was love at first [inaudible 00:00:53]. She completed her 200 hour teaching training in 2013 and has completed 20 hours of trainings in yoga for autism, yoga for children, trauma-informed yoga, all the things, and she teaches adults and kids in studio classes, community centers and schools. She's passionate about helping others find their inner power through using their voices and living intentionally. So I cannot wait to dive into all of the tips and tricks that Caitlin has for us today. But before we get into all of that good stuff, Caitlin, I... Well, first of all, welcome to the podcast.

Caitlin Lopez: Thank you. I'm excited to be sharing.

Marisha: Like I said, before we dive into all the tips and tricks, I'm really curious... I got to hear a little bit of your story already, but I'd love if you could share a little bit more of your story, like how you got started on this journey and what that looks like for you.

Caitlin Lopez: Absolutely. Back in 2008, I started practicing yoga just kind of as something fun to do while I was in school. I think I was doing my undergrad about that time. So I just hopped into classes as something new to do, like a new hobby or whatever and I absolutely fell in love with it. I noticed right away that it was something a little bit more than your average exercise class. So I have been practicing yoga for about four years or so.

Caitlin Lopez: My first year as a speech therapist in the school system, I remember this one day walking into grad students, and I had three kids and they were just like off the walls but on very different pages. One little girl was just like, word salad, telling me some story that made no sense, and another little boy was... he was like bouncing off the walls, just like high energy and then another kid was just like not engaging whatsoever. I was trying all the teacher tricks, like those things that they tell you to try for behavior management to get the two kids calm down and then maybe bring up that other kid, and nothing was working. I was just feeling my energy level kind of rise, my stress level rise, and I was like, "Oh, what am I going to do with these two kids that are bouncing off the walls and then this kid who's like, not interested in anything?"

Caitlin Lopez: I realized like, "Okay, well what works for me? Breath." So I thought, "Okay, I'm going to get them breathing." But in the past, I had tried breathing with kids before, and they just end up hyperventilating. You ask them to take a deep breath and to let it go and it's like... and it's like, wait, wait, that's counterproductive. So I got them grounded first. I have no idea where this idea came from, but I was like, "Okay, I need to get them grounded."

Caitlin Lopez: So I had them elephant walk around the table, because if I thought like, "Okay, if they can feel the ground beneath them, maybe that will give them a little bit of sensory input to bring themselves down." And then they did... they walked around the table a couple times, and I started to feel their energy level drop a little bit. And then I had them do a couple of deep breathing, breathing with their arms up and then exhaling with their arms down. And then once they were on the same page, the three of them, I had them do, like... I think I had them do chair pose or something and I was like, "Oh, we're going to do yoga." And they were like, "What's that?"

Caitlin Lopez: I had them do chair pose and then we did Bakasana or Crow pose, it's kind of like a fun balancing pose that kids are really good at; adults, maybe not so much. So we did that and then we sat down and we went through the rest of the speech session, and the kids were so engaged, I was like, "What is going on? Oh my goodness. I found the answer to all of my problems." So I thought, "Yeah, there must be something here." So as soon as I got home from my day, I Googled yoga for autism. One of the kids... Well, actually, two of the kids were on the spectrum, that were in the class or in the speech session. I found a training that was happening... I think this was about April, May and there was a training that was the weekend, right after school got out in June, and I signed up for it right then in there. The studio that I was attending at the time, they also were offering a 200 hour certification training that summer, that started weekend directly after that autism training.

Caitlin Lopez: So I signed up for that one about a week later after that one. So it was just kind of a summer of yoga training, and that's how I got into it. And then I did a couple of other courses, like the children's yoga, just to add to my tool belt, because children's yoga looks a lot different than adult yoga. Kids relax way different than adults relax. And then through some other experiences that I've had, I was asked to teach for women that were rehabbing out of human trafficking, and so I took a trauma-informed yoga course to give me some more tools to work with that population as well. So that's a little bit about my background.

Caitlin Lopez: Let's see, I started to... When I first started using yoga in my speech session, it was mainly for behavior management, so it didn't really become powerful, or I didn't really see how it could be powerful for kids to take on for themselves until a little bit more recently within the last few years. But yeah, that's my background in how I do what I do.

Marisha: I love that story. It's amazing how that one session catapulted and all of these amazing things that you did and you immediately took action, which is amazing. I love it. So, I'm curious. You shared a little bit of your first experience with this, but I'm curious how... Can you give us a couple more examples of how you incorporate mindfulness into your therapy sessions and what you use them for and what that ends up looking like?

Caitlin Lopez: Yeah, absolutely. So like I said, at first, it was behavior management. So what it has evolved into... Like, I used to... I would feel like kids would act out or they would come in and they would be upset or whatever have you, so I would do a lot of breath practices with them. But what I've learned is that... and as I've kind of evolved into it, is that if we give kids the tools for self-regulation or helping put the responsibility on them and giving them the tools, they can be really powerful. So there's a couple of different things that I do now. I know Marisha, you talk about using a routine in... I learned that from you a little while back through your SLP Now stuff. I really find it powerful with incorporating mindfulness, because it can... I don't want to... It's a fine balance between doing these things that aren't necessarily goal related and then also making sure that you're targeting speech and language goals within your session. Because we do have limited time in the school system.

Caitlin Lopez: So a couple of things that I do is I like to keep to that routine. We usually start out with some sort of mindfulness activity. It can be very brief, it doesn't need to be super intense, and I kind of let the kids pick. Once I teach them the different types of that of activities that they can do, they can pick as a group what they want to do. So I walk to and from my speech sessions with my students. The older ones, I let them go back on their own, but I always walk and get my students. Not only does it kind of break up my day and get me out of the therapy room, but... The particular schools that I have been at, for whatever reason, they don't have an IEP schedule, and so then this way, I know that the kids aren't waiting outside of my room or lollygagging in the hallway on their way to speech.

Caitlin Lopez: So there's a couple of different things that I do on the walk back to the speech room. One of the things that I like to do is a noticing walk where sometimes we walk quietly and we notice all the different things that we can hear on the way to the speech session. And then they have to, if they can, remind... if they can remember, they have to tell me what it was that they heard, whether it was a bird or the crinkling of leaves or footsteps or a bell ringing or a helicopter. So we do noticing walks. We'll do like a gratitude list. Gratitude can be something that's a little hard for kids to wrap their heads around, like that concept, especially the little ones, and so we talk about things that make us happy and then like... They'll say, "I..."

Caitlin Lopez: Once they know that that's the routine of what gratitude is, noticing what makes you happy, then we'll add in the language of like, "I'm thankful for playing with my friends at recess or my mom's hugs." And we'll do like a gratitude list on the way to speech sometimes. Something else that I like to do is a personal weather report. I give them the language of like, am I sunny inside, am I my cloudy, am I thunder, am I... I'm trying to think of other. Like, is it a tornado inside, is it a hurricane, is it sprinkling inside, is it windy inside? So we talk about what those... how the different weather might relate to how their emotions are on the inside.

Caitlin Lopez: Sometimes we'll do the personal weather report and they'll say, "I am cloudy inside." I always just let it be. I don't necessarily try to explain it. A lot of times I don't even ask them why, I just let them like... If they're thunder, "Oh yeah." Like, "Oh, I know how that feels sometimes." Or I usually say something that validates that and then we move on. It's not something that I totally like engage them in, it's just something to help give them power to recognize it's okay to feel these things.

Caitlin Lopez: And then if we do the personal weather report on the check in... Once at the beginning of the session, I always like to do one at the end to show them too that things can change. Maybe we started out in a thunder mood and then after playing a couple rounds of like pop the pig or something, or after a success in speech, then they can maybe be windy or slightly cloudy instead of like a huge thunderstorm. Again, I don't draw a ton of attention to these things, just kind of allowing them to own how they feel and then own that it can change.

Caitlin Lopez: So some other things that I like to do is like rounds of breath. We'll do like only three to five rounds of breath. Sometimes I'll have them just sit like... We'll usually do the breath when they're sitting. So once we get into the speech room, if they decide that they also want to do breath, then they can sit in their chair, and I'll usually ask them to feel like the chair against the back of their legs or against their back, that way... so they're a little bit grounded. And then couple of different breathing practices that we can do is like, I'll just say, equal breath, and I usually have them breathe in for a count of three, hold for a count of three and then breathe out for a count of three. So we can do that one.

Caitlin Lopez: Something else that kids like to do, there's like that game, Johnny whoop, Johnny whoop, I don't know. It's something that I remember playing as a kid. But usually you take like the left hand and you place the palm, or you look at your palm and then you take your pointer finger of your opposite hand and you start at the base of the pinky, and then every time your finger goes up, you breathe in and then you breathe out. When your finger goes down the pinky and then up the ring finger, you breathe in and then exhale as the finger goes down, and you follow that motion. We'll do that usually once you get to the thumb, then we'll go back the other side. I call that one Johnny breath only because of that game, Johnny whoop. I don't know if my students know what I'm talking about, but they sometimes ask for that one. So we do that.

Caitlin Lopez: And then sometimes I'll use yoga as a reward at the end. The yoga for autism training that I did, it was really awesome. They gave us yoga pictures that were on... kind of like a picture exchange card. So I will let them choose one or two poses. I'll only have them choose out of five. It's not like they go through all three of the pictures, because that would take too much time. But if they want to do like yoga poses at the end, I'll let them choose some. Sometimes they take turns teaching each other, but that's like a reward at the end that some of the kids like to do.

Caitlin Lopez: Sometimes we'll do like a sound game where I'll play like a bell at the end of the session and they have to close their eyes and then just listen. They'll raise their hand as they're listening for the bell and then once they don't hear the bell anymore, they just bring their hand down to the table or to their lap and we wait till everybody has heard the bell or has done hearing the bell. So that's one thing that I'll do with them. So I keep it short and sweet. But usually, when I introduce all of the games or the different ideas behind things, it's kind of... I'll spend a little bit more time explaining, this is why we do what we do. The reason why we notice things is it keeps our brains sharp. Something I'll talk about with the inaudible is like we're using our spidey senses, we want to keep our brain sharp, we want to notice everything that happens around us.

Caitlin Lopez: And then with the gratitude list, when we talk about things that make us happy, I'll also have them notice like, "Oh, did you notice that you feel happy when you think about your mom's hugs or when you think about playing games with your friends?" And that I can all remind them too like, "Anytime you need to think about things to make you happy, feel free to do that again." So like I said, it'll be a brief thing. It's not something super intense that we'll do. The same with the personal weather report. Usually at the end, I'll draw a little bit more attention, especially if somebody's weather has changed, like, "Oh wow, how awesome. You felt this way, and now you feel this way. Whether it can change, and we know that. Sometimes it's sunny in the morning and then it rains in the afternoon."

Caitlin Lopez: That's about all I say. That's how I usually use these things within speech sessions. When I work with kids, like in a kid's yoga class, I'll usually be a little bit more intentional. Or maybe not intentional is the right word, a little bit more like spend a little bit more time on these things, because we also have to do speech and language goals too.

Marisha: Thank you so much for all of these ideas. I love a lot of... Well, I love all of the ones that you brought up. I've only used a couple personally, so lots of new things for me. I love what you said about... Because this is... You have separate classes where you dive into these things specifically with students, but I love just the little things that we can use to help set up our students for success in the session. I think these are skills that can be very helpful for them as they go about their day. So it does... I think this is the perfect thing to use as you're transitioning into the speech room and just...

Marisha: Because yeah, it might take one or two minutes out of our very few minutes, but if the student is having like a thundery weather day, if we can do just... if we can teach them some of these strategies, I think the student can get that much more out of this session and then they also have that skill to bring with them to the other parts of the day as well. Yeah, I love that. You gave us so many strategies that we could actually use, which is awesome. And then I'm curious too, what kinds of changes have you seen with your students, or do you have any... I don't know, what got you to be so consistent with using this in your sessions? What were the... Whether it's research or personal experience, I'm curious what you've seen.

Caitlin Lopez: A little bit of both. I think the research, I know like in Oakland they have started... Instead of doing detention, they have meditation for kids. There's a school district up there that does that, or at least a school within the district that has tried that and they've seen really positive results. And then I know for me personally, when I am consistent with things, it starts to take hold and you start to see things. A couple of years ago, there was a school that... Well, actually, it was a little bit more than a couple of years ago. I don't know if you guys remember it, was a inaudible San Bernardino.

Caitlin Lopez: But the December 2 shooting that happened, when it happened, we were actually a couple of miles away from where it happened, like six miles or something. But when the news broke, nobody knew what was going on or what was happening. I remember like... So anyway, we went on lockdown and we didn't... we knew that there was a shooting, we knew it was somewhere in San Bernardino, but we didn't know where it was happening or what was going on. I was out to get a group of students, and the principal walked out of the office and I was walking right by her and she said, "We're going on lockdown." And I said, "Okay, do you need help?" And she said, "Yeah, just help me sweep the campus."

Caitlin Lopez: So the fourth graders, or third and fourth graders were out at lunch and we were sweeping the campus, and one of the third grade teachers... This was not appropriate, but he was probably really scared. Our field was very far away from the classrooms and the bells, so kids could easily say that they didn't hear the bell, which happened regularly. So this teacher went out and was yelling at the students like, "Hey, you guys go in, go in." And the kids weren't listening to him, so he said, "There's an active shooter," which is probably not the right thing to say to children.

Caitlin Lopez: So kids were running into the classrooms, and as we were kind of sweeping the campus, there was a bunch of kids that were outside of the fourth grade classroom, and they had a substitute and it was lunchtime. So she had every right to not be on campus and getting herself lunch. So I ended up being in their classroom with them during lockdown. So the principal opened up the door and we went inside, and two kids were fighting. I just remember walking up and getting the kids into the class, and all of a sudden, one kid was in a headlock that another kid had him in, and it was just pure chaos. So I was like, "We're supposed to be quiet, it's lockdown."

Caitlin Lopez: So I just said, "Okay, who wants to play a game?" And the kids were like, "Uh." And they didn't really know who I was, because I was brand new to that school and it was December. So some of them hadn't really even seen me on campus yet. So they were like, "Uh." So anyway, I asked the kids, "Do you want to play a game?" And they all just looked at me. I said, "If you want to play the game, go ahead and sit at your desks. If you don't want to play the game, you guys can look at these books up here." They had some picture books or something in like a class library at the front of the class.

Caitlin Lopez: So the two boys who were fighting, they pulled their heads up over their heads and they kind of sat on opposite ends of that little library and they just started looking at books. But at least they were quiet, so I was like, "You know what, that's fine." So I did that check in. Instead of calling it a weather report, I just wanted them to say one word that they felt and... Or I should back up. I got them grounded, I got them sitting in their seats, kind of did like, notice if your feet are touching the ground, notice what that feels like. Can you feel the backs of your legs against your chair? Can you feel the chair against your back? And then I had them...

Caitlin Lopez: We went one by one through the class, and I just said, "How do you... One word to describe how you feel." And then some kids, I asked them where they felt it. I started off first. I said that I was hungry because I didn't have a chance to eat lunch yet. I felt that like... I was like, "And I feel that in my stomach. It's growing, and I feel it." So some kids, I asked them where they felt things, some kids, I didn't. So like one little girl, I remember she said she was angry, and I asked her where she was angry and she said her hands, which I thought was really interesting. You could see how kids like, they had never really been asked how do they feel, where do they feel it, and they... some of them I could tell they'd never really been validated in how they felt.

Caitlin Lopez: So I started to see the energy in the room just kind of equalize a little bit. Kids were starting to feel okay. Kids were scared, and they were scared in their heads, they were scared and their stomachs. So then after that, we did a couple of yoga poses by... I had them stand up and we did like one-legged chair and that kind of thing. There wasn't a ton of room in the classroom for them to move around a ton. And then I had them like... Then I think we did some more breath and then we transitioned... I think we started playing Heads Up 7 Up or something in the class that was quiet.

Caitlin Lopez: We were in the class for a couple of hours before they lifted the lockdown. So we also did like a... I did a checkout before it was time to go and kids had calmed down. It wasn't until a couple of days later when I saw one of the kids who was fighting... By the way, the kids who were fighting, they never once participated, but they sat there and they watched, and that was enough for me as long as they weren't putting each other in headlocks. A couple of days later, I was out grabbing students, and one of the kids who is fighting, he said, "Hey." Then they said, "Hi." At the time I wasn't married, so I said, "Hi, I'm Ms. Mack." Then he goes, "Oh, Ms. Mack." And I said, "Yes?" And he said, "Do you think you could come breathe with us more often?" And I said, "Oh. Well, will you breathe? Next time I come into the class, will you participate?" And he said, "Yeah, I think I will."

Caitlin Lopez: So I did it a couple more times with class, and the teacher said she noticed a huge difference just in the way the class interacted with each other, and that she noticed a huge difference. So she started doing it with the kids once she it modeled for her. So they would do it in the mornings, and she noticed a huge difference. So that, to me, is when it started to switch from this behavior management... because I had been using it for behavior management up until then, to this like, "Oh, kids enjoy this, they need a reprieve." The school districts that I have worked for in the past have been kids that have a lot going on at home. So I think for ways for them to have some control over their bodies, over their minds has been really powerful for some of them. So that's when I started to really use it just as part of the day, part of my speech sessions.

Caitlin Lopez: Of course, there are times where they might need a little bit more instruction or I might... If I noticed that a kid is having a thundery day, I spend a lot more and it drops down. I spend a lot more attention encouraging them to try this on their own or to try it when things are not going well for them or if they get stressed out with homework or mom and dad are fighting at home or something like that. Like, "Hey, you can always come back and do the breath yourself. You don't need me to do it for you." So I have noticed a change with some of my students, that they find like... especially the ones that grab ahold of it and they find reprieve or they find success with it and they see the need to do it.

Caitlin Lopez: So that has been... It's not all students. I have several students who... they don't really care about it, but we still do it, because you never know when it might click for them. It took me like... Let's see, I think I did... I did my teacher's training in 2013, and it like... I didn't start using it as like a... just part of my session until 2016, really 2017, because it was January, 2016. So you never know when something will actually click for somebody. I think we can say that too with our speech therapy. We work and work and work on goals and we're like, "Oh my gosh, is this kid ever going to get it? Are they ever going to see the need for why they should get it?" And then it's like, oh, all of a sudden they do it, or all of a sudden they see the importance of it. That's when I started to really use it more regularly.

Marisha: That is so helpful. I love your stories and everything. I can just like visualize it, and I think that's really powerful and helpful. I love what you said about it, taking time to place or to come... like, to really see a difference. For some, it'll be fairly quick and some it takes a little bit longer. For myself, I took a whole seminar, it was like a whole semester long seminar on mindfulness in college, and there was so much research around this approach. I know Caitlin, you have some articles, and then I'll pull together some of the articles that I've come across over the time too. You can find... If you're listening, you can find that in the show notes at SLPNow.com/39. But there's like...

Marisha: I took the seminar, I read like thousands and thousands of pages of research, I got to practice it in the seminar with this master. I don't know what he was actually called, but he was definitely very into mindfulness and meditation and all of that. I did it, but I didn't really feel it click. It took me... I think like 10 years later is when I started actually using it myself too. I love this metaphor. It was in a book that I read called Atomic Habits by James Clear. It's such a good book. But he talks about an ice cube. I think this is... Like you were saying, it's true with what we can do with mindfulness or just speech therapy in general.

Marisha: But if an ice cube is at negative 100 degrees, if we... we can do a lot of work to increase that temperature, but we're not going to see a difference in the ice cube until it hits that melting point. So like we might have gone up by 60 degrees, but we're still not seeing that difference. So I think that's so powerful to keep in mind with ourselves because... I've talked to a lot of SLPs who said like, "I really want to try this, but it's challenging. I don't see it making a difference." So we can use that ice cube reminder for ourselves and also our students. So I love just the examples that you shared because I think it just helps emphasize that point as well.

Marisha: And then along that line too, I want to start with students. But what tips do you have? You shared lots of examples of things that we can do, but what tips do you have for SLPs who are interested-

Caitlin Lopez: Oh, great question.

Marisha: ... in using mindfulness with their students?

Caitlin Lopez: The thing that has been, for me, the most powerful is when... Like you were saying, you've been... it took 10 years for you to really dive into it, and I would say it's about the same for me too. Yeah, I was doing yoga, but did it ever leap off the mat? It took several years for that to happen. I think the biggest tip or the biggest piece of advice that I can give is that mindfulness really should be modeled. It's hard to teach something that you haven't necessarily bought into for yourself that you haven't necessarily practiced yourself. I think it can be done, but I think it is a lot more powerful when you are doing it yourself. It's really hard to teach somebody how to do something that you yourself are not using or that you haven't necessarily done yourself, which is why we go to... we get these master's degrees and continue with CEUs and reading all the research to make sure that we are teaching our students well when it comes to speech and language. But I think the same goes for mindfulness as well.

Caitlin Lopez: So I would really, really recommend developing your own mindfulness practice. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be sitting in a 60 minute meditation every single morning. But what can you do to live a little bit more intentionally? Maybe it's taking 12 breaths before you get out of bed in the morning, maybe it's breathing on your way to work in the morning, maybe it's something that's like taking your own noticing walk or your own mindful meditation walk. It doesn't have to be something super intense, but I think any little bit is helpful.

Caitlin Lopez: There was a podcast that I listened to recently, and I completely forget... I think it was Sally Kempton that was being interviewed, but I could be wrong. It was a live forum, and one of the attenders had asked the meditation expert, "What is the bare minimum that I can... What is the least amount of meditation that I can do and still receive the benefits? We talked about all this research about 20 minutes is... it drops your blood pressure and it reduces your stress levels. But what if somebody like me can't sit for 20 minutes and actually ends up like raising our blood pressure because we get so stressed out that we can't sit there for 20 minutes? What can I do?"

Caitlin Lopez: The meditation expert basically just said, "You're looking for the bare minimum that you can do, and really, the best thing you can do is is just a little bit every day. A little bit is better than nothing. A little bit of exercise is better than no exercise, a little bit of eating healthy is better than not eating healthy at all. And then from there you start to build." So that is kind of the best advice that I can give, is to start your own mindfulness practice and come up with a definition of mindfulness that makes sense for you because that's what you are going to be able to relate to your students. If mindfulness is like this really strict, rigid thing, then that's probably what you will do with your students.

Caitlin Lopez: And that's fine, there are people that have very strict, rigid practices. But evaluate your relationship with mindfulness and what is it that you're looking for? Are you just looking for a little bit of peace in your day or a little bit of intentional action in your day? And then that will be related to your students. So evaluate your relationship with it. Is it something that you feel like you should do, versus something that you want to do, or... And that can really change as well. When it's something that you look forward to doing versus something you have to do, it becomes a little bit easier to do, which I know we all knew that. So that's the first tip that I have, is to develop your own practice.

Caitlin Lopez: And then with that, once you kind of develop your own practice, or something that I think is really valuable and can show change in students is when it becomes consistent. It's really hard to get students to breathe when they are like a level 10 and they've never breathed before. But the more that they are able to do it when they're calm, then the more able they're able to help themselves when they are at that high energy level. That's something that I've had to learn the hard way in terms of trying to use it only for behavior management just kind of as that way of life. I think the same goes for all of us. When we're really stressed out and we're really in the heat of the moment, it's really hard to calm ourselves down. But if it's something that we've been practicing and we know how to drop down and take a couple of deep breaths and regroup, then that's something that is a lot easier to do.

Marisha: Thank you again, such helpful information. I'm also really curious like, how has your mindfulness practice changed over the years? Just-

Caitlin Lopez: Yeah, great question. [crosstalk 00:39:21]. A lot of people just kind of like... yoga as a way of like, I wanted that yoga body, to be completely honest. Like, "Oh yeah, hot yoga. Sure, let's do that. That'll get me fit, that'll get me feeling good." And then the more that... I think I had started a class at 24 Hour Fitness or something and I did that for a little while and then I decided to try out a studio. Just the way that the studio teachers taught was very different, and the things that they would mention in class about like intentionally putting your foot where you want it to go or whatever.

Caitlin Lopez: So it started very physical for me. That wanting to be healthy and then moving my body intentionally and being mindful about the... What's the word I'm looking for? Like, the anatomy, making sure that my body was in the right place and that hip goes there and lift your pelvis here, and that kind of thing. And then it didn't really become more... And with that, linking the breath, your spirits kind of starts to come online a little bit more, or maybe that idea of like... that Zen mindfulness starts to come on a little bit more.

Caitlin Lopez: But I had never really been introduced to meditation. I had heard about it and I knew it was good for me or whatever, but I had never really tried it until I did my teacher training actually. I used to journal a lot. The cool thing about my yoga teachers was they were like, "What do you do to process? And then how... Can you think of that as being mindful?" That it's all a part of it. It all works together. So learning a couple of different meditations through my teacher training was really powerful, and that's when I started to meditate.

Caitlin Lopez: But again, still at that point, because they wanted us to meditate... That teacher training was pretty intense. They wanted us to meditate every single day, do a breath practice, which in yoga we call pranayama. We were supposed to do that alongside the meditation and the [inaudible 00:41:51]. We were supposed to do that every single day. So it became something that I had to do, not necessarily something that I looked forward to doing. But it was still like that was... It's only been within the last few years, I would say, that I would... I look forward to my meditation practice. And then like, even the last year or so, and especially the last six months, I've really dived in deep to it.

Caitlin Lopez: What that looks like is... So I started doing this... During the teacher training, we had... our teacher would always say, RPM. "Did you guys RPM? Did you guys RPM?" RPM was rise, pee, meditate. They believed that the best time to meditate was in the morning because your mind is a little bit more... it's a little bit more empty, if you will. You haven't necessarily gone about your day and thought about all the problems, all the things that have happened, all of the interactions that you replay in your head that have happened throughout the day, whether good or bad. So that was something that I gravitated towards, was the RPM method during teacher training.

Caitlin Lopez: Now, I would say when I'm on routine in the school year, I still RPM- rise, pee, meditate. And then I journal after that. I'll do a little bit of reading. I take a couple hours before I go to work. I just like to... For me, that's what works best, to kind of be in that routine. Sometimes I meditate for... Oh, sorry, let me back up. I use Insight Timer, which is a meditation app. I think it's 10 bucks for the initial app, at least it used to be. I've had it for a couple of years now. So I like it because you can put different interval bells on it. They have guided meditations as well, but I usually just do my own thing and use the timer.

Caitlin Lopez: So I will breathe, I'll do a breath practice for the first 10 minutes and then the last 10 to 15 minutes I will just do like a mantra meditation, if you will. Like I'll focus on a thought or a phrase and I'll focus on that for the remaining 10 to 15 minutes. But I do a couple of different breath practices before I get going just because it not only helps wake me up, especially since I rise, pee, meditate, but it also helps center my brain a little bit, gets me focused on the breath, which kind of gets me in a good space. Whereas if I'm just supposed to sit and think about a word or a phrase, I usually think about a lot more other things. So that has been really helpful.

Caitlin Lopez: And then something else that I've really... I tend to be a little bit on the type A side of things, so in years past, and I would say especially this last year, I've been able to lean into this. So in years past, I used to like really beat myself up if my meditation wasn't like inaudible place. But I've been reading a lot of books recently. This last year, I was like, "You know what, I'm going to get into this even more." So yeah, it's a part of my daily routine, but I want two lean into the meditation side of things a little bit more heavily.

Caitlin Lopez: So I've really come to just accept my meditation practice for what it is. I was recently on vacation and I... Before the holidays I was like, "Okay, I want to do 30 days of meditation." So I have just committed to that, whether it's five minutes or 10 minute, and sometimes when you're on vacation and you're out of routine. It's been sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening before I go to bed. So I've just let things be, and I've just noticed like, "Oh wow, my brain was really busy today. Huh, I didn't really settle down, did I?" I've just let it be, versus like beat myself up of, "Oh, you're a terrible yoga teacher. You're a terrible meditation teacher. You can't do this."

Caitlin Lopez: I had a lot of grace for myself in that, and that has really helped kind of catapult me towards having a better... It's catapulted my thinking towards my meditation practice of, "I get to do this, and I look forward to doing this," versus like, "Ah, it's just a part of my day that I have to do." I know it's good for me. Like eating kale, I am somebody who doesn't like to eat kale, but I do because it's supposed to be good for us. So that is a little bit of how my meditation practice has evolved through the years.

Caitlin Lopez: Something else that I really enjoy doing that has become a mindful activity for me as well is cooking. I really, really, really love to play with flavors, and I think cooking and food is such a great mindfulness activity because you use all five senses. So whether... My husband knows. Like I'm in the kitchen, I'm doing my own thing, he'll sometimes come and play his guitar next to me or whatever. But I am like in the zone in the kitchen, whether it's chopping, and like it's just kind of... All I'm doing is focusing on that. My phone is nowhere near, the TV is not on, and I really enjoy just kind of diving in and watching how he changes the food or how chopping kind of releases the smells of the food and then also the eating aspect of the food and taking it all the flavors as far as that goes too.

Caitlin Lopez: So really, mindfulness can be any activity you want it to be. My definition of it is just kind of that one pointed focus. So if you're cooking, you're focused on just that one point of preparing the food. So that has been something that has been helpful for me. Walks can be really great. You're focused on your walk, you're focused on your surroundings. So those are the things that I dive into. My inaudible practice, it used to be really strong. So the yoga poses, it used to be really strong. And then over the last couple of years, I have definitely not had... Like, I would say my practice is stronger in terms of like, I'm doing what I need to do, not necessarily like all the hand stands, all the arm balances, all the strong...

Caitlin Lopez: So when I like... It used to be really strong in terms of like the poses, very intense poses, and now it's become just kind of this retreat for me where sometimes I will do a handstand or some arm balances if I have the energy. But a lot of times, I'm just kind of moving and breathing through my body and stretching what needs to be stretched and working what needs to be worked, but then also finding that rest in whatever it needs to be rested too. I don't think there's any right or wrong way to that. There are definitely days where you need to work hard and do that, and there's definitely days where you need to be in Shavasana or child's pose the whole time. So finding that balance, I think, is really powerful. So that's where I'm at with all of it. I'm definitely a lot... How do I say this? It's funny, I feel a lot stronger in my mindfulness practice, but I would say from the outside looking in, it probably looks a lot more type B, even though I feel like now it's all encompassing, if that makes sense.

Marisha: Okay. That does make sense. I so appreciate all of the examples. Like, we talked about before, a lot of SLPs are feeling like well... I don't know, they've probably tried like one of the meditation apps and they were like... I don't know, that can be hard to... For some people, that's easy to just jump in and they are able to get through that, but like for me, I tried starting with the meditation app and it was just like... it was just too much to start with. So I love that you shared different ideas, whether it's taking a walk before you go into work or going for a walk during your lunch time and just doing that. Because you called it the noticing walk, so just taking like a five minute walk as a way to start, or having a gratitude list or taking a couple of breaths before you walk into school. There's just a lot of little things that we can do to get started, it doesn't have to be, like you said, a 30 minute meditation or going to yoga every day.

Caitlin Lopez: Absolutely.

Marisha: Just kind of exploring and seeing what makes sense for you and something that is approachable.

Caitlin Lopez: Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:51:32].

Marisha: Because it's supposed to help you crosstalk and not make you feel more stressed up.

Caitlin Lopez: crosstalk teachers that I really, really love, Jackie crosstalk and Mary Beth LaRue. In their teaching, they talk about this concept of trying on. So they have a podcast called Rock Your Bliss, and it's more on this... Excuse me. It's more on this mindfulness journey. But I love the idea of trying on. There's something really valuable in finding community and talking about these things with your friends or... whether you join some sort of online community or something, because what might work for one person will not work for the other person. But then when we all share, it's like, "Oh yeah, I hate sitting quietly and meditating, but I can totally cook dinner and be focused on that."

Caitlin Lopez: So it's this idea of trying on different practices and seeing what works for us and what doesn't. There have been lots of things that I've tried that I've been like, "No." A guided meditation is not my jam at all. I am like, "Well, why are you talking so much? I just want to chill." But then there are times where a guided meditation is exactly what I need because my brain can't chill. So yeah, I like that idea of trying on different things and seeing what works for you and then being okay if something doesn't work for you and just letting that go.

Marisha: I love what you said about... because this has definitely been the case. When I first started exploring, meditation just felt like excruciating. Sometimes it works, sometimes it... Sometimes it feels great, sometimes it doesn't feel so great, and just meeting ourselves where we are and going from there, I think, is incredibly powerful. So yeah, I love this. And then you already mentioned the Insight Timer. I'll share links to these different resources in the show notes as well at SLPNow.com/39. So you mentioned Insight Timer, which is an-

Caitlin Lopez: Absolutely.

Marisha: ... app.

Caitlin Lopez: So if you-

Marisha: Do you have other-

Caitlin Lopez: ... are a teacher-

Marisha: ... meditation apps crosstalk that you would recommend in case people are interested in that?

Caitlin Lopez: ... I would definitely check them out. They are a favorite. I have lots of friends that are not teachers that pay for it. They are guided meditations and they're relatively short. But if you're a teacher, you just use your school email to sign up. They even have some for kids, which is really awesome. I haven't used them in therapy simply because they are a little bit longer than... You try it on if you think that works for you. I haven't tried it on yet. So that's a really good one. And then if you are interested, miniyogis.com is the kid's website or the kid's yoga website. YouTube is also really great. There are meditations on YouTube, there are tons of great yoga classes on YouTube, and that's free and so I would recommend that.

Caitlin Lopez: Another really popular meditation timer or meditation app is Headspace. Andy Puddicombe, I think, is the one who does that one. He has a really great accent and so that can be fun to listen to if you haven't done that already. I think they have like a 10 day free trial, which is like an intro to meditation that is pretty decent. I've done that one before, but I hadn't paid for it. They have a bunch of like class packs that you can pay for and get if you're interested in that. That's something that you try on and you like. Another website that has online yoga... it's an online yoga studio, it's glow.com. I think it's only 18 bucks a month, and they have tons of different world-class teachers that I have really enjoyed studying with, whether in person or through the website, tons and tons.

Caitlin Lopez: The cool thing about glow.com is that they also have different class times. So I know a lot of us are busy and we can't commit to the commute time to a yoga studio and then taking the full hour and a half class or whatever your local studio offers and then the commute time home. What's great about Glow is they have like five minute classes, 15 minute classes, an hour and a half classes. They have a lot of different class times that I have found really fun to do, and they have a bunch of different programs. Like I said, some of the teachers on there are amazing, amazing teachers. Like, Annie Carpenter is probably my all time favorite teacher and she has classes on there. So I would definitely check that out.

Caitlin Lopez: Again, you can try on... They have teachers from all different lineages and so it's kind of fun to try on some of those things and see what... the style you resonate with, if that's something you're interested in. And then I also have a blog at radiatekind.com, where I talk about a lot of different mindfulness activities and journal prompts and I put up affirmations and things like that that you can check out, and again, just simply try on and see what works for you and what doesn't. I'm looking to start some kind of conversation there as far as others helping each other out. I find community to be really, really helpful in this mindfulness journey. I've learned some things through friends who do different practices, some of them I don't necessarily resonate with, but then others are kind of fun to try on and see like, "Oh, that did work, or maybe if I tweak it this way, it works for me." So going to your local yoga studio is a really great way to build that community and to make friends who are in that same journey.

Marisha: Awesome. Thank you for all of those amazing resources. And then you're also putting together-

Caitlin Lopez: Yes, yes.

Marisha: ... a little-

Caitlin Lopez: I will put together-

Marisha: ... like a sheet with some ideas-

Caitlin Lopez: ... a bunch of different-

Marisha: ... for activities that we can use with kids too.

Caitlin Lopez: ... I recommend... With the list, I know that we talk about this a lot whenever you take CEUs is like you can't implement everything all right away. Sorry, excuse me. But maybe you try one thing a week or you try one thing with one group and you know that that absolutely won't work with another group. It's something simply to try on. It's not like they have to or you get like you have to do them all or whatever. It's just simply ideas that you can try and see what works for you, or maybe you tweak them and you make them work for you.

Marisha: Awesome. I'll link to all of those resources, again, at SLPNow.com/39, in case you want to check them out. Definitely keep us posted on what you end up trying and how it goes. We'd love to hear from you. And then Caitlin, thank you so much for sharing your stories-

Caitlin Lopez: Thank you.

Marisha: ... and amazing knowledge with us. I so appreciate you and thank you for your time.

 

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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  1. Lindsay says

    Good morning,
    My player keeps playing podcast #38 instead of this episode on mindfulness…is #39 in fact uploaded? Thanks in advance!

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