017: Julie Campilio, Teaching Children Self-Calm in an Anxious World

What if there was a simple and effective tool that could help children who suffer from trauma, kids who put too much pressure on themselves, those with special needs, and perhaps kids who have been bullied.  Something that could help the child while also helping the teacher.

Julie Campilio has created a simple and powerful solution and she has put it into practice for the past 10 years in schools, positively impacting students (3-18), teachers, and parents. (RadiantBeginningsYoga.com)

Julie struggled with an anxiety and attention deficit disorder since she was a child. Yoga and mindfulness helped her overcome years of panic attacks and medication, so she founded Radiant Beginnings Yoga to help others focus naturally and manage stress in their own lives.

While teaching in 2008, she saw an immediate change in students who were having difficulty self-regulating and managing stress. Watching students shift from anxious, impulsive and unfocused to calm and focused is what drove her to share holistic self-coping strategies through yoga and mindfulness. She is using yoga and mindfulness strategies to increase focus, attention, self- awareness and self-regulation.

Quote from a young student:

“After recess, I was really mad at someone in here.  During the video, I looked over at that person and now I just feel calm.  I forgot why I was even mad at that person.”

Learn More at http://www.radiantbeginningsyoga.com

ERH:  I am thrilled to be here today with Julie Campilio, the founder of Radiant Beginnings. Julie, welcome.

Julie Campilio:  Thanks so much for this opportunity. I’m really excited to share and be part of anything that you’re doing.

ERH:  Aw, thank you. So tell me, what are you passionate about, and how did you start Radiant Beginnings? What is that about?

Julie Campilio:   Radiant Beginnings was founded in 2010 in Denver, Colorado. I struggle with an anxiety disorder and also have had ADD in the past. You never have that stuff just disappear so I go back and forth finding different modalities to manage it. It wasn’t until I found yoga and mindfulness that I was able to begin to self-regulate and use these tools to calm myself down in uncomfortable situations, or focus and not be as distracted as I typically am.

I have worked with children my entire life and I just knew that my life’s work was to help children develop a toolkit for stress management that they could carry with them throughout their lives. So that is what I’m doing, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I’m just really excited to be sharing this work with children, and youth in general. I’ve worked with high school and middle schoolers as well, but I’m really trying to get that younger age group before they experience the teen years that we all know are so intense, to say the least.

ERH:  Absolutely. I remember when we were talking about your work and thinking if I had been a teen or adolescent and had some of those tools, it would have been much easier to face some of the challenges of figuring out who you are and who you aren’t, you know, when people begin to have opinions about that.

Julie Campilio:  Absolutely.

ERH:  It’s a beautiful skill to develop. In addition to the children, can you talk a little bit about the impact on parents and teachers as well?

Julie Campilio:  We started working with youths, bringing yoga and mindfulness into schools in the form of enrichment programming, and teacher training as well. After seeing the impact that this had on children, I decided to create videos, five-minute stress management videos, that the teacher and the students could do simultaneously so that the teacher is also a learner as well as the students. So they could take some deep breaths, practice a mindfulness activity, and then have a guided relaxation.

It has been very evident that the deep breathing, mindfulness, and guided relaxation is really helping these children go from stress and kind of reactionary to in control. There’s a difference in the behavior of children after doing just five minutes of practice. We’ve heard from parents and teachers that they’ve seen this huge shift in what’s happening with their students or their children. It’s just been great to see how powerful these tools that we all really have inside us always, we just need to learn how to access them and use them to be the best selves that we can be.

ERH:  That is powerful. Can you give an example?

Julie Campilio:  Sure, yes. I’m a big fan, a huge fan, of belly breathing. A lot of times we’ll breathe into our chest or into our upper lungs, and often times people will also breathe in through their mouth, which is totally fine, but if we can encourage the breath to go in through the nose and then down into the lungs and into the lower lungs, which is kind of like the diaphragm and the belly area, imagining that your belly is filling up like a balloon, so filling that air up and then exhaling all that air out completely.

Doing three to five of those, when you’re feeling your heart beating a little bit faster, your mind racing, even if you’re at a stoplight and you have a moment to pause. The breaths reset the nervous system and allow you to think clearly. If I were to give somebody one piece of advice in the entire world it would be the importance of the deep belly breathing. It’s changed my life.

ERH:  It is true. And it’s interesting because as I’ve been learning more about your work, I think about my entire life I have always been a singer, even when I was a young child, and even though I didn’t have these skills and understand the importance of them, by learning how to sing and project and do that breathing, it really had some of the same effects…that relaxation. It’s interesting that I chose to do it all the time, especially when I was stressed out, so that must be part of it.

Julie Campilio:  Yes, we get a lot of kiddos who will say, “Oh, I’ve done this in music class before,” or, “I did this in chorus,” so it’s just cute to see the correlation between the two.

ERH:  So, can you share a story that has really touched your heart in this work?

Julie Campilio:   I think one that comes to mind right now is, I just started working with LearningWorks,  based in Portland, and I think they have different sites. I had one student in my class, who apparently had some pretty big behavior issues in his classroom. I told the teacher that he has just been this amazing student of mine, he’s been taking these beautiful deep breaths and I’ve just watched him relax. I think he went into class saying, “What is this stuff?” And then he started noticing that it was really helping him.

I found out after that he was one of eight kids in his family, and so he’s had a lot going on in his life and obviously, in school, the teacher was saying that it’s not the easiest for him. For him to have some struggles, and then go to yoga class or do our mindfulness together and become the star of the class, because he knows that it’s helping him; it touched my heart. Those are the kids … any kids that have also experienced trauma and they don’t have the tools to really self-regulate, that’s really where my heart is.  It’s about helping people that don’t know where to go, and they’ve tried other things and nothing’s really working. Yeah, that is a recent story that was very touching.

ERH:  And a powerful example of what connects us. I wonder if you might talk about what a parent can do if they’re interested in this work for their child, and their school hasn’t adopted it yet.

Julie Campilio:  Parents can do a couple of things. I am a big fan of guided imagery, so guided relaxations that you can press Play and be guided through body scans, and relaxation techniques. The kids can imagine beautiful places that take their minds out of the stress of where they’re at in that moment to some beautiful place to help them relax. We have created five-minute stress management videos that the parent, the teacher, the facilitator, can just press Play. We guide them through the practice to really help the child and facilitator completely relax and ultimately feel good together.

ERH: Is that on your website? Can you share that address?

Julie Campilio:  Yes, it’s http://www.radiantbeginningsyoga.com and there is a tab titled Video. We’ll host all of our products on that page. And there’s plenty of free stuff as well, so if you’re not looking to pay for something ad you want to try it out, that’s absolutely fine, too. We just want to make it as accessible for people as possible.

ERH:  Thank you! And for a teacher or school administrator who is listening, what is the best way, and what are some of the things that you’ve learned in doing this for seven years in Denver?  How can someone make this happen in their school?

Julie Campilio:  Professional development is a great avenue to get this into the school environment.  Having the teachers trained on, “What are these practices?” “Why do they work?” “What does it do to the brain?” “How can I incorporate it into my classroom?” “It sounds really great, but I’m not a yoga master and I don’t know how to teach yoga.” Our videos teach these simple techniques and break them down into steps. Everything really is about how they function in a simple form.

 So, I would say professional development is a great way to train your staff, and then if the teacher doesn’t feel comfortable facilitating the breathing techniques or the mindfulness or the guided relaxation, that’s exactly why we created the videos, to help support anybody that’s not necessarily comfortable with leading the three different pieces that can really help the kids.

ERH:  That’s great, and I love your term, “Just press Play.”

Julie Campilio:  Just press Play.

ERH:  That’s right, and you’ll be comforted and relaxed.

Julie Campilio:  Yes. We want people to feel safe, and we don’t want it to be “another thing to do”. It’s a helpful tool to create more space in your day with clear focus and just a clear head. We’re definitely in a busy world right now, so any of the tools that can help us function from a mindful place, I am a big advocate for that.

ERH:  Me too, as you know.

Julie Campilio:  Yes, yes.

ERH:  This is also a powerful tool in the business environment, and I use these practices regularly. One of the things that I like about what Julie does is it’s not a list of 1,200 options on an application that you have to choose from, and you can play it on any of your devices.

Julie Campilio:  Yes. I was talking to someone the other day and he was saying, “You’re helping the helper.” So rather than it being an app, where you’re sitting by yourself listening, it’s helping the facilitator have a just press Play model to kick off a meeting, where everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s breathing deeply together, and then you start the meeting. So it was cool to hear that…”Helping the helper.” Yeah, I like that …

ERH:  I like that, too.

Julie Campilio:  … that’s exactly what I was trying to do.

ERH:  That’s fantastic. Before we close, I’d love to just think for a moment about any story, or any thoughts on this topic that we didn’t hit in the first few questions.  Julie, you have many years of wisdom in this space, so anything that you can share?

Julie Campilio:  Let’s see. I guess it’s really the power of this work. I’ve seen kids and adults that have just not had the tools and the resources to access self-care, self-soothing mechanisms, anything like that. Having access to and learning about these simple and effective tools that we all have inside of us is just so powerful.

I have a quick story, too. One of the school social workers who is using our videos said that there was a boy in his school that had crippling panic attacks; they were just so devastating to even watch, and he played a couple of the videos and the boy said that he hadn’t felt that safe in weeks. I was trying not to cry after hearing that because it makes you realize these poor kids are just looking for and needing these resources.

ERH:  Yes.

Julie Campilio:  I am so passionate about trying to figure out how to spread this to as many people as possible. You know, it’s just five minutes. That was our whole thing …we don’t want to rush mindfulness by any means, it’s not meant to be a race or to rush through it, but putting pieces together in a lesson plan structure; we’ve seen that work for the last seven, almost eight years. If I can spread that to people who can really benefit then I feel like I’m living my life’s work. This is the work that I am put on this earth to do. And seeing the impact that it has made in my life, too… I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning the holistic healing side of things.

ERH:  I’m so glad that this is your life’s work, Julie.

Julie Campilio:  Thank you, Elizabeth.

ERH: Thank you for joining The Art of the Break, and we will be back with you in a couple of weeks. You can learn more about Julie Campilio and the life-changing work she is doing with Radiant Beginnings http://www.radiantbeginningsyoga.com