We caught up with Emma Hughes, the author of ‘Striker, Slow Down!‘ to discuss her new book and her motivations for writing it.
What motivated you to write Striker, Slow Down!?
My 7 year old son has always been a busy boy; keen to move onto the next exciting thing! I wanted to create something that would inspire him to take time out, and to feel ok about that. We have 4 cats at home, so it was only natural that the characters were a cat family!
When did you first start being interested in yoga?
I was born in the 70s, to hippy parents. Our home was scattered with Indian statues, with my mum often proclaiming India was her spiritual home. M y interest in Indian culture was always meant to be. My mum (and even her mum), practiced yoga. I began my personal practice in my late teens. Other fitness and lifestyle trends have come and gone for me – but yoga is a constant, in varying formats and intensities.
What do you think it is about yoga and mindfulness that has the power to calm children in particular?
When we practice physical yoga – asanas – we become present. We focus on our bodies and how they are feeling in that moment, without the distractions daily life delivers. We begin to tune in, to understand and accept.
When I describe mindfulness, I often say, “Its back to basics”, thinking about what we’re doing at that moment. If you’re walking along the street, mindfully, you’re not planning what you’re doing next, thinking about what happened earlier that day; you’re just walking down the street – moving your body and enjoying a view of some sorts.
A tell-tale sign that my mind is not being present is clumsiness; this often happens when we’re trying to do too many things at once, or our minds are distracted.
Children are used to seeing people with their phones attached to them – walking and typing messages, commenting on social media pages whilst in the middle of other tasks. Often, we believe we’re being efficient, but at what cost to our mental and physical wellbeing, which are intrinsically connected.
Are there any challenges you have encountered when teaching children about yoga and mindfulness?
Children get it, more easily so than adults exploring yoga and mindfulness later in life. Children are naturally capable of many advanced yoga poses and their colourful imaginations enjoy the creative way in which yoga is taught to them.
I’ve encountered children fearing that if they’re not doing the next exciting thing, that they’re missing out. It can be tricky to explain that it can be beneficial to sit peacefully for a few minutes, focusing on the breath as it moves through the body, especially long term. But like us adults, they often need proof and instant results.
Teaching yoga and mindfulness to children is about planting a seed, with the hope that this seed will blossom into a deeper interest in yoga, mindfulness and meditation – even if children don’t label these tools in this way.
Why do you think it is important for children to find an outlet to manage their emotions?
My teaching is about feeling and acknowledging the emotion, then perhaps trying to understand why it’s there. Sometimes there’s an answer, sometimes there’s not, and that’s ok.
Uncomfortable emotions can easily gain momentum as our mind takes over and bombards it with reasons we should feel this way.
Sometimes we just need to cry/sulk/stomp our feet and the moment passes. Other times, we can use the breath to bring ourselves back to the present moment and just focus on one thing, breathing and being.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope that young (and older!) readers will identify with Striker and understand that it’s ok to take time out just to sit and be; in fact, it’s good for you!