Life Lessons Learned

Mindful practices help people for a lifetime
Emerald Coast Sean Murphy Photo Kenzie 0421138799
Photo by Sean Murphy / RPI File Photo

From birth forward, we breathe involuntarily. Only later in life, if we are fortunate, do we discover the benefits of intentional breathing.

We may learn, for example, that by deepening the inhale and lengthening the exhale for as little as two minutes, we can reduce anxiety and stress levels. Such deliberate exercises can also help us sleep better and become more focused.

I have been a fitness instructor for about 15 years. A few months ago, I launched kid’s yoga classes in an effort to provide children with helpful techniques and tools that they can carry with them into adulthood. I firmly believe that these practices improve lives and that the sooner we expose young people to them, the better off the world will be.

Research shows children experience more stress and pressure today than ever before due to factors including social media, limited in-person interaction and the increasingly early onset of puberty. An estimated one in five young people will develop depression or other types of mental illness by the time they are 24.

My first three-month kid’s yoga class was made up, quite by chance, exclusively of 6-year-old boys. At the outset, I never could have imagined the impact these children would have on me. With them, I felt totally free to be myself. I was impressed by the speed at which their minds and bodies grew stronger and by the wisdom they inherently possess.

One afternoon during class, one of the boys had to go to the bathroom. When he didn’t return after a couple of minutes, I asked the other boys to join me and check on him. They reported that he had locked the door and couldn’t unlock it.

I told the boy through the door to “use your yoga breath just like we do in class and let the breath guide you to keep you calm.”

While waiting for the landlord to arrive with a master key, the other boys and I meditated and shared stories. I prayed that this experience wouldn’t weaken a boy who I had hoped to make stronger. 

From inside the restroom, he assured me that I had nothing really to worry about.

“I am breathing just like I am in class, and it is working,” he said.

When the door was opened, the boy was calm and proud of himself, rightfully so. And I was newly convinced of the value of my teachings.

We were only a couple of weeks into the class when the incident occurred. The boy would continue to grow mentally and physically in the remaining weeks. His confidence and ability to control his emotions will serve him and others for the rest of his life.

Breathe in, breathe out. So simple, so profound.


McKenzie Burleigh,
Associate Publisher

Categories: Associate Publisher’s Letter