Coloring in Yoga Class: What is a Mandala? - Breathing Space

completed-mandalaEver wondered about the concentric designs your children bring home from camp and occasionally class?
“The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.” – from What is a Mandala?.
Coloring or creating mandalas or circular patterns is part of quite a few religious and spiritual traditions. Many of us think first of Tibetan Buddhism, but but similar circle patterns appear in the Navajo and Aztec traditions, Taoism, and even Christianity. Why does it resonate so?

mandala-coloringWithout fail, our students of all ages love coloring mandalas. The activity is relaxing and focusing, and provides a great opportunity for discussions with older children (they tend to be less self conscious about participating in a discussion while coloring). This a recent article on the Huffington Post talks about the physiological benefits of the practice.

“When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. ‘The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.'”
coloring mandalas mothfestOne of the primary things we are teaching in children’s yoga is tools for the students to trigger their own relaxation response and find a meditative state. Coloring mandalas is only one age-appropriate way that we do that, but it’s also one that’s easy for parents to implement at home.

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