An Enchanting Mindfulness Book for Children with Neha Swaminathan
Posted by Bijal Shah on
Q: The Flip and Flow meditations and mantra flipbook, that you aptly call "Once Upon A Breath....In A Magical Forest", is such a genius idea. With its gorgeous illustrations, thoughtful prompts for breath and mindfulness for little children and the clever 'calendar-flip' design - I am curious as to what led you to creating it and what you would like young children to get out of it?
A: Thank you so much for your kind words - we really do believe every detail matters, so the Flip & Flow you see today is an evolution of concepts driven by heart-centred design. We spent 18 months exploring, playing, testing and iterating our ideas - but the essence has always been to bring a little “luxurious tranquility” to your bedside table - and spark mindful, wellbeing rituals that have lifelong ripple effects.
We both love art and science - so we consciously created this magic blend - we wanted to give you something you want to see before you sleep - and you feel happy waking up to…something to treasure, that helps you find that mindful moment when you need one.
With my Mum hat on - I knew it had to be playful - and yet practical! I had a few mindfulness card decks and papers - and many lost under the bed or with corners chewed off - and I was determined to create something different.
We both understood the importance of self-agency - and how stories are a powerful tool for learning - so we set out to design “create-your-own” mini meditations, mantras and poems that were built around our 3 pillars of breathwork, imaginative stories and neuroscience.
With our debut edition - our mission is to help children have a safe, welcoming space that guides them to explore their inner emotional landscape; learn how to express themselves and develop a growth mindset. Being able to self-regulate is a superpower - and it all starts with a breath…
We’re really proud to have just won a Bronze Junior Design Award for Best designed children’s book!
Q: You met your co-founder, Tina, on a Seth Godin workshop on creativity - you describe that meeting as one of chance that led to this wonderful creation. She is based in the US and you here in the UK. How did you guys collaborate on this wonderful project and what was the book creation process like? Would love to learn about your journey including the highs and lows of the process.
Yes it’s quite crazy actually, how we feel like we’ve known each other forever, but we’ve not met in person yet! I met Tina in a virtual 100 day Creatives workshop led by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin in 2020… I took a leap of faith signing up to that - I was feeling quite lost (having left my corporate career in Investment Banking and becoming a mother to 3 children within 3 years!) so I followed my heart which was seeking direction, clarity and motivation to really act on the million ideas I had in my head!
Tina had come along a totally different path of her own in the US - a curious and multi-passionate wanderer like me, and I still remember the first time I heard her voice teaching the Ocean breathing technique to our group… I felt like she spoke to my soul!
I was just forming my first venture - Little Zen Rebels - curating and creating Mindful Toolkits for children - and Tina had launched her own Breathwork coaching business Luna Zen - so I asked her if she’d like to collaborate and make something that helps teach kids how breathing can be their superpower… The synergy was amazing - we just started spinning this web of ideas that kept growing, and over zoom calls and spreadsheets we wrote our book! We are both creative problem solvers - we relish in the challenge of bringing something to life - and that passion and slight rebelliousness is what kept us going amongst the countless rejections from manufacturers. We were told not to pursue our design idea, and by a publisher that “it won’t work - we need things to fit neatly into a category”. We tried looking into hybrid publishing too, but nothing seemed to support our vision in bringing this unique, hybrid flipbook to life. We tested it with children, and we could see the sparkle in their eyes as they got to turn the cards and create new scenes… THAT was far more important to us than what a publisher said - so we took the plunge to self-publish it, and fund the production ourselves.
It is extremely tricky navigating the publishing world alone - and across two totally different countries - so we are each like a “one-man-band” in our own regions… We have to often remind ourselves that there is only so much we can do alone, so we have to be patient and take one step at a time. We’ve had demand from many other countries, but as of now logistics and distribution is complicated and expensive… we will get there one day!
Despite other responsibilities, we remain dedicated to our passion project - and often have to resort to whatsapp voice notes to communicate with each other, as we can’t seem to sync up in real time as much any more. But where there is a will, there is a way…
Q: You are also a certified breathing coach - can you tell us a little more about what that entails?
Yes so I certified as a Breath Coach after being fascinated by the power of breathing exercises for years, and feeling compelled to dive deeper into the science and physiology so that I can further empower others.
Driven by a deep curiosity into neuroscience and the nervous system - I can now teach 3 different categories of breathing exercises, that use the rate and rhythm of every inhaled and exhaled breath to create optimal states in the mind and body:
I explain them as follows
- Revitalise - boost metabolism, increase focus, clarity and energy.
- Rebalance - bring you back to a calm, centered state.
- Relax - help your mind and body to release tension and go into a restorative, restful state.
I love finding ways to help people - and especially children - practise breathing and calming somatic practises in the busyness of everyday life.
I like the way James Nestor calls breathing - “the science of a lost art”
Q: You are a mum of three - how do you use the Once Upon A Breath....In A Magical Forest flip book with your kids? Have you noticed any changes in them since they have been using the book?
The book has become part of our bedtime ritual - we have always read books at bedtime (it’s my favorite part of the day!) but this is different. The Flip & Flow sparks mindful conversations and brings us all together in a harmonious way.
My daughter is now 7, and the twins are 4 - and we take turns to flip a card each to create a sequence. It’s really nice that we get to build something together and everyone feels like they have a part to play. This idea of self-agency is intrinsic to our design, and is linked to connection and cooperation, which are ultimately the pillars of finding calm! But this is not about getting them “to be quiet” by any means. It’s actually about helping them to open up and learn self-awareness, expression and self-regulation.
Sometimes my daughter likes to do it on her own and she uses it to journal or doodle.
We often end up talking about happy memories (especially with the golden sunset card) and negative experiences. Both are a crucial part of integrating the left and right sides of the brain as children grow.
I find bedtime can be really tricky with all three. The Flip & Flow book helps us to find that happy connection point, guiding our conversations and mood towards positivity and calm.
Thank you Neha for sharing your story, it's truly inspiring and powerful and we can already see how impactful it is with little readers, especially my own kids, four-year-old Roshan and five-year-old Arianna. We are now looking forward to the family editions for adults and teenagers!
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