UB.U

mindfulness . movement . relaxation

"Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

~ viktor frankl

Mountain biking meets mindfulness

EAGLE — In Eagle this summer, kids are learning that there’s much more to mountain biking than just power in their pedals. 

Developed by Mike McCormack, the Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy MTB 101 program is a camp created in partnership with the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, with a fundamental goal to develop lifelong sport habits, while educating a new generation of land and trail stewards. 

In its second year, the camp is six days, with two separate sessions, held on three Tuesdays and three Thursdays in June, and the same schedule breakdown in July. Each session meets at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink and goes from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day. 

This year the sessions have had between 50 and 60 riders, ages 7 to 12, with each session implementing safe riding techniques, basic bike maintenance and trail stewardship, on both singletrack and dirt pathways. Depending on participation, the group is divided into like-minded and like-ability riders. When cold or threatening thunderstorms hit, the kids can use the time to play in the ice rink. 

“Safety for the kids is our biggest priority, and our biggest goal is for the kids to stay mindful of the trails,” said program director and professional mountain biker Karen Jarchow. “Our trails are constantly under potential closure, and unless we can help motivate a new generation of trail users, that’s never gonna change, and we’re just going to continue to lose our lovely trails.” 

It’s these up-and-coming trail stewards who will also be well versed in the techniques they learn at the camp. 

“What we’re really doing is getting kids on bikes,” Jarchow said. “Just having fun, and teaching them how to stay safe and goofy at the same time.” 

This year, the mountain bike camp is collaborating with U.BU, a mindfulness program for youth, designed to help kids initiate greater awareness and acceptance of themselves and others. 

The 45-minute U.BU sessions — one each for the June and July camps — introduce practices on being more present with what’s going on inside and outside of the body, and identifying fear, what it creates physiologically, and how to develop more mindful responses. 

“The idea of mindfulness practice in general is to be able to practice these techniques and these tools in a setting that is safe, peaceful and calm, so that when you get into those situations that maybe aren’t, you’ll be able to access them — so they become habit,” said Emily McCormack, U.BU founding partner and co-owner. 

Camp program manager Laura O’Connor said the emphasis on skills training, stewardship and mindfulness are meant to be informational, but not to diminish the overall “looseness” in the days that make for a camp experience rather than a school experience. 

“We want to develop lifetime riders and show them the required pieces that are key to riding bikes, but without over-structuring the learning environment,” O’Connor said. “We also break into more rider groups now — allowing for a better and more cohesive group riding experience. Kids become friends and really encourage each other on the trail.” 

Jarchow said it’s the people who show up every day for the kids who really make the program successful, including the coaches, volunteers, photographers, mentors and trail crews. 

O’Connor said the program will continue to expand and continue to integrate other sports, such as trail running, as possible extensions to VVASA. She said the potential of the mountain bike camp is still growing, and that will be the focus before more sports are added. 

“In 2015, we doubled our attendance over 2014,” O’Connor said. “We saw many return riders to the camps; witnessing the growth in their abilities and personal satisfaction from the sport really has been an amazing experience — especially when we see transformations in habits and confidence. The riders have been showing us that we are on the right path, with each smile or fit of laughter on those weekly rides.”

New Eagle County UB.U program introduces local students to mindfulness, yoga and relaxation

Sit still. Be quiet. Listen.

There are a lot of demands placed on children, but have we given them the tools to succeed?

The creators of a new program dubbed UB.U, as in “you be you,” don’t think so.

“We haven’t given our kids the tools to understand, process and manage expectations,” said Emily McCormack, one of the founders of UB.U, a program that addresses social emotional learning and character development for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade taking place in 20 classrooms in five Eagle County elementary, middle and high schools. “To them expectations simply equal stress. And they don’t know what that means.”

Those expectations manifest in not-so-positive ways sometimes: temper tantrums, depression, defiance, acting out and even bullying.

The UB.U program has three main components: mindfulness, yoga-based movement and relaxation.

“It helps students recognize the connection between the brain, the body and the breath,” McCormack said. “This awareness introduces life-long tools to regulate stress, improve social-emotional skills and recognize the power of self-esteem.”

UB.U helps kids live in the moment and focus, McCormack said.

“In school, it’s especially difficult,” she said. “They get bored sitting there. It’s hard to keep them focused, especially when asking them to sit for long periods.”

Anne-Marie Desmond and Rachel DeLong initially started the program through the Youth Foundation’s Girl PowHER program last year. McCormack joined the women and the program has since morphed into UB.U.

“Now the program is offered to all kids, both genders. We’re trying to get into all the Eagle County schools,” McCormack said. “This is the true pilot year. We’re rolling out the program the way we want to introduce it for years to come.”

Proceeds from this weekend’s Eagle YogaFest, as well as all funds from Glow Yoga, a yoga party under black lights complete with a DJ and glow sticks that takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, will go to UB.U.

“We’re so honored to be part of a festival that carries such an important message: that you’ll be accepted here and that it’s OK to be who you are,” Desmond said. “We provide kids with tools to promote self-awareness, resilience and thoughtful response. Yoga is a lifelong journey of self-discovery and Eagle YogaFest represents one incredible opportunity for growth along that road.”

‘WIRED TO BE IN MOTION’

DeLong teaches most of the middle and high school classes. McCormack has been working with kindergarteners and first graders at Eagle Valley Elementary School, as well as fourth graders at Gypsum Creek.

At a class for kindergarteners and first graders at Eagle Valley Elementary earlier this month, McCormack began with a mindful listening exercise. She asked the kids to sit cross-legged, spines straight, close their eyes and listen.

“No moving, no thinking, no giggling, no twitching, itching or tapping. This is a tough exercise for many adults, so you can only imagine how the kids fare,” McCormack wrote in a blog post about the experience for the YogaFest website.

“Kids’ bodies are biologically wired to be in motion,” McCormack continued. “And yet we, as adults, ask kids to be still and listen. A lot. I can hear myself ask it of my own children and I cringe. But in our society, this is sometimes a necessity —in school, for instance. Yet, we haven’t provided our kids with the tools to listen and be still.”

McCormack asked the kids to “open their ears” and then she rang some bells.

“We tried the bells a second time; this time I asked the kids to raise their hands when the bells stopped singing,” McCormack wrote. “We practiced with the bells a third time, this time with eyes closed so our sense of hearing could be even stronger.”

The room grew quiet. The kids closed their eyes and listened intently.

“I was awestruck by the pure wonder packaged in these tiny bodies,” McCormack wrote.

Next up, the kid’s practiced several rounds of “Yogi Says,” UB.U’s version of Simon Says, which incorporates yoga-based movements.

‘MAGIC’ BREATH’: A LIFELONG TOOL

Finally, the session ended with McCormack teaching the kids “magic breath.” She instructed the kids to breathe into their bellies.

This “acts as a counter to our sympathetic nervous system’s fight, flight, freeze response,” she wrote. “Belly — or diaphragmatic — breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve running from the base of the brain to the tummy, which is responsible for mediating nervous system response.”

In essence, this type of breathing calms your mind and helps you focus. Try it for a minute or two and see how you feel.

“Scientists and researchers are discovering more benefits, like increased brain size, lower blood pressure and heart rate (helping to prevent stroke and lower risk of cerebral aneurysm) and even changes in genetic expression (immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion). Magic breath is a great tool and it’s just challenging enough to keep even the antsiest kids focused. And when they’ve mastered magic breath, they can call upon it whenever they need it for as long as they live.”

Each session ends with the kids lying comfortably on yoga mats for quiet time. It’s easy for some kids and quite challenging for others. But either way, nearly all the kids who participate in the program cite the same thing as their favorite part of UB.U: quiet time.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2984.

UB.U to the rescue…we’ve got the tools!

The beginning of the new school year also was the start of our UB.U pilot program for 2014-2015. It’s been a whirlwind and we’re thrilled to be teaching mindfulness, movement and relaxation in 17 classrooms in Eagle County, from kindergarten through high school.

Last week, I got to spend time with kinder and first grade students at Eagle Valley Elementary School (EVES). Since this was the first time many of the kindergarteners had experienced a UB.U lesson we kicked things off with the basics: mindful listening.

Imagine being five or six years old and sitting mindfully – criss-cross-applesauce – with eyes gently closed, just listening. No moving, no thinking, no giggling, no twitching, itching or tapping. This is a tough exercise for many adults, so you can only imagine how the kids fare. So much for basic, right?

Kids’ bodies are biologically wired to be in motion. And yet we, as adults, ask kids to be still and listen. A lot. I can hear myself ask it of my own children and I cringe. But, in our society, this is sometimes a necessity (in school, for instance). Yet, we haven’t provided our kids with the tools to listen and be still.

UB.U to the rescue…we’ve got the tools!

We begin with mindful listening. First, I taught the kinders and first graders how to put on their mindful bodies (criss- cross-applesauce, straight spine, attentive and peaceful in their seats), which allowed calm and quiet to fill the room. We practiced the difference between mindful bodies and crazy, lazy bodies for a few moments, and then I introduced yoga bells. The kids LOVE the bells. I asked them to put on their mindful bodies and open their ears. And then I rang the bells. The kids listened and let big, bright smiles light up their faces as the bells sang.

We tried the bells a second time; this time I asked the kids to raise their hands when the bells stopped singing. We practiced with the bells a third time, this time with eyes closed so our sense of hearing could be even stronger. I was awestruck by the pure wonder packaged in these tiny bodies. The kids, again, put on mindful bodies and the room grew quiet. They closed their eyes and prepared to listen. They smiled and raised their hands when the bells stopped singing.

And, after all of that sitting and listening they were ready to move. And, move we did. We played several rounds of “Yogi Says” – UB.U’s version of “Simon Says,” which incorporates yoga-based movement and teaches presence, awareness, honesty, respect and non-judgment. It also helps kids prepare for breathing and relaxation. Before we ended our session we focused our attention on our breath, another basic tool that packs a big punch. I taught the kids “magic breath,” guiding them to focus on breathing into their bellies, which acts as a counter to our sympathetic nervous system’s fight, flight, freeze response. Belly – or diaphragmatic – breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve running from the base of the brain to the tummy, which is responsible for mediating nervous system response. In layman’s terms this increases focus, calms the mind and helps us pause before we act or respond. And the ‘magic’ keeps manifesting.

Scientists and researchers are discovering more benefits, like increased brain size, lower blood pressure and heart rate (helping to prevent stroke and lower risk of cerebral aneurysm) and even changes in genetic expression (immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion). Magic breath is a great tool and it’s just challenging enough to keep even the antsiest kids focused. And when they’ve mastered magic breath, they can call upon it whenever they need it for as long as they live.

Finally, I asked the kids to take a comfortable position on their mats – lying on their backs, bellies or sides – for Quiet Time, a chance to quiet their brains and focus on guided or silent relaxation. This is immediately easy for some and more challenging for others. But, when the semester-long class is over, kids cite Quiet Time as their favorite aspect of class – almost to the child. I have my own theories about this outcome, but would like to leave you with that thought to contemplate. Mindfully, of course.

Emily McCormack, Founding Partner, UB.U

"I have been blessed to witness some of these results in action."

UB.U is an incredibly special class we attend on ‘Wondrous Wednesdays’.  I have personally had the privilege of experiencing UB.U with some of the moderate needs children I work with at Eagle Valley Elementary.  This being said, it is also one of our favorite times too.  One of the qualities UB.U nurtures within the kiddos is a keen awareness of their emotions in relationship to others. They acknowledge not only the easy, comfortable feelings like happiness and success but the less favorable ones- frustration and anger. The women with UB.U embrace these feelings and teach our students invaluable tools used to self-regulate and reduce stress that is conducive to increasing attention span within the classroom setting while creating strong connections with teachers, and lasting friendships.  I have been blessed to witness some of these results in action in my students and will personally continue to glean from UB.U technique as well from the instructors’ experience and knowledge.  I am grateful to the creators of UB.U for their efforts. 

- Carrie Devlin, Moderate Needs Paraprofessional

Eagle Valley Elementary School

"...there is tremendous value in teaching kids how to monitor their own body awareness."

I will gladly endorse the Mindful Movement program!! I think there is tremendous value in teaching kids how to monitor their own body awareness.  It increases their ability to listen and focus as well as helps them to monitor their own breathe.  Understanding that breathing helps with relaxation, patience, and more effective listening is something that takes instruction and practice.  As a yogi myself, I still struggle to breathe and meditate and truly let go of judgment as I'm doing yoga, so I know personally the power that yoga movement has on my overall well-being.

 

 - Alyssa Boddy, 3rd Grade Teacher

Brush Creek Elementary

UB.U
Eagle, Colorado